Trusted Content

Can You Drink Alcohol in Moderation After Treatment?

Dr. Anna Pickering

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Anna Pickering

April 3, 2019

Many people believe that remaining abstinent from alcohol is the only way to overcome an alcohol problem. However, there are programs that center around helping people drink in moderation that have had great success.

Most alcohol addiction treatment facilities center around abstinence when it comes to drinking. For many years, the only way to control problem drinking or to address an alcohol use disorder was to completely give up alcohol. In fact, abstinence is the backbone for alcohol addiction support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery.

However, in recent years, moderate drinking has been examined and experimented with by researchers and alcoholics alike. There are even programs that center around learning how to drink moderately. But how do you know if moderate drinking is right for you?

What Is Moderation?

Moderation, when it comes to drinking, means that a person limits or controls his or her drinking. Moderate drinking for people with an alcohol use disorder can mean that instead of being completely abstinent, the person is closely monitoring his or her drinking and reporting and alcoholic consumption.

Moderation is most beneficial and successful for those who have not yet developed a dependence to alcohol. For example, a problem drinker may drink excessively and often, but is not yet physically dependent on alcohol and does not experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

virtual care

Get treatment when
and how you need it.

Programs For Moderate Drinking

There a few different types of programs specifically designed to help individuals learn how to drinking moderately. These programs help people look realistically at their drinking habits and why they began to problem drink in the first place. They also require people to look at all of the problems alcohol has created in their lives, putting into perspective the need to learn how to control their drinking.

Moderation Management (MM)

This program offers an alternative to the more popular alcohol-related programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous that promote complete abstinence from alcohol. Moderation Management (MM) acknowledges that alcohol can cause problems in someone’s life and be addictive, but doesn’t require members to admit complete powerless over alcohol. Instead, MM works to empower members to learn how to drink in moderation. This program is especially useful for those who don’t identify as an “alcoholic.”

Moderation Management uses something called Steps of Change, which takes on a similar model to the 12 steps of Alcoholic’s Anonymous. The Steps of Change work to help people address the ways that alcohol has influenced their lives and learn to control their drinking and manage problems related to drinking. Individuals are asked to keep a chart of their drinking and make note of the problems that alcohol has caused and is causing in their lives. By doing this, people can take an honest look at the effects of alcohol on their daily lives and the problems it may be causing.

Additionally, MM sets drinking limits for people to follow. Men are not allowed to have more than four drinks in one sitting, with a maximum of 14 drinks per week. Women cannot have more than three drinks per sitting and no more than nine a week.

When a person commits to Moderation Management, he or she will begin the program by going 30 days without drinking alcohol. During this period of time, people are supposed to work on controlling their triggers to drink and how to replace drinking with other meaningful activities. Once this 30 day is over, members are able to gradually add alcohol back into their lives or continue on with their abstinence.

Moderate Drinking

Moderate Drinking is an online-based program that is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). This program works to help people learn to control their drinking as well as the problems it may be causing in their lives. It’s a subscription-based program that is only available online and provides structure and guidance. Many people have found much success using Moderate Drinking and MM together.

Moderate Drinking offers a number of different tools to assess an individual’s drinking as well as to determine if the program is right for someone. They also offer personalized guidance and suggestions to get a person where they want to be as far as moderate drinking goes. A few of the many aspects of the program include building self-confidence, setting goals and limits for drinking, and managing cravings and triggers.

Does Moderation Work?

Both of these programs are evidence-based and backed by research to prove their successfulness. Of course, not everyone who attempts to drinking moderately will succeed. Moderation management programs have shown to be the most successful for those who are not dependent on alcohol. For those with a more severe form of alcohol use disorder, it’s recommended that they seek more help than just a moderation program.

Studies have found that heavy drinkers who participated in moderation management programs were able to significantly reduce the amount they drink over a 12-month time span. Those who used Moderation Management combined with Moderate Drinking were able to reduce their drinking more than those who only used the MM program.

How Do You Know If Moderate Drinking Is Right For You?

As mentioned above, moderation programs are ideal for those who do not have an alcohol dependence. Being physically dependent on alcohol can make it extremely hard to control your drinking. In most cases, moderate drinking programs are not going to be enough to help a dependent person overcome their problems with alcohol.

As with any other form of treatment, the type of approach a person takes to his or her alcohol problems must be individualized for the best results. For some people, this may mean remaining completely abstinent from alcohol. For others, it may mean learning how to control their drinking.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - HOME

Moderate Drinking - What is moderate drinking?

The Guardian - The next AA? Welcome to Moderation Management, where abstinence from alcohol isn't the answer

Shatter Proof - Moderation: An Evidence-Based Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Want to get help, but not ready to talk?

You can receive 24/7 text support right away and at your convenience. There is no obligation to enter treatment and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support to receive:

✅ Resources about addiction and recovery

✅ Info about our treatment process

"*" indicates required fields


Let Regard Healthcare walk you through the treatment process. We're here to help.
For 24/7 Treatment Help
100% Free and Confidential. Call 888-341-4325

For 24/7 Treatment Help Call:


For Immediate Treatment Help Call:
(888) 979-9592