Is Moderation An Effective Way To Treat Alcoholism?
When you want to have a healthier relationship with alcohol without having to abstain altogether, moderation treatment might be your ticket to success.
Abstaining from alcohol altogether isn’t usually a viable option for those looking to decrease their alcohol intake. Aside from those who may be in denial about their consumption, some people simply don’t want to give it up entirely.
The term “alcoholism” has recently been reconceptualized by the DSM into the new and improved “Alcohol Use Disorder”. Though the new conceptualization may just seem like semantics, at least it acknowledges what doctors and addiction specialists have understood for years, that alcoholism happens on a continuum with varying degrees of seriousness; mild, moderate, and severe.
What are the differences between these varying degrees? How might their differences impact their receptiveness to varying treatments? By looking at everything from health to depression, anxiety, emotional well-being, family issues, and employment status, one can determine who moderation will work best for.
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What Does the Research Conclude About Moderation?
Compared to those receiving abstinence-only treatment, moderation treatment clients improve more when it comes to positive emotions and psychiatric well-being.
Bottom line, moderation treatment reduces alcohol consumption which benefits everyone. With the decrease in consumption, clients’ depressive and anxious thoughts also decrease, thus giving them a self-reported higher quality of life.
According to research by Jaffe, Molnar, Gabbert, Tornquist & Todd in 2015, when clients were monitored by a mobile breathalyzer, their average Maximum BrAC (Breath Alcohol Content) was below the legal driving limit and their average BrAC for each reading was less than .002 (with only about 1.5% of tests coming back positive.)
What does that mean exactly?
Moderation clients reported feeling “more good” when reflecting on their emotional well-being, from the beginning to the end of treatment. Abstinence clients, however, just reported feeling “less bad”. The difference may not seem significant, but in fact, it is. Most clients drink to diminish negative feelings, not because they are genetically predisposed to alcohol. Therefore, positive emotions become imperative in the alcohol reduction process. If a client maintains positive emotions, they’ll be less likely to fall back into their heavier drinking habits. In other words, if they feel good, they won’t feel the urge to drink themselves to happiness.
Does moderation really help those struggling with addiction?
Those who struggle with alcohol abuse no longer just have two options; become abstinent or stay an alcoholic. While abstinence-only programs may work for some, it’s not a one size fits all solution. It’s important to iterate that those who seek moderation often reach similar if not better results than the abstinence seekers. Bottom line, yes moderation treatment works.
The addiction treatment field needs to accept moderation as a viable option for those seeking to cut back on their consumption. If you are struggling with addiction and feel that abstinence isn’t the right solution, continue your search until you seek the treatment that is right for you, such as moderation. With the aid of medications like naltrexone, you can experience significant improvements in your relationship with alcohol even if you don’t achieve total abstinence.
As long as abstinence remains the be-all-end-all solution to alcohol abuse, millions of people will resist seeking the help they need. If more people learn about moderation treatment, and it helps one person make the step towards recovery, however, then we can all agree that it’s worth challenging the status quo.