Drinking in Moderation vs. Abstinence

Drinking in Moderation vs Abstinence

Written By: Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
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Geraldine. "Drinking in Moderation vs. Abstinence." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Last updated Sep 21, 2020 at 3:03PM | Published on Apr 25, 2020, https://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/moderation-vs-abstinence/.

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Last updated Sep 21, 2020 at 3:03PM | Published on Apr 25, 2020 | Alcohol Addiction, Drug Addiction

Most people enjoy a drink from time to time. Alcohol consumption is so ingrained in society that the majority of people experiment with alcohol before they reach legal age. However, when it comes to drinking in moderation vs. abstinence, there’s a heated debate that might not have a definitive answer. 

There’s no scientific evidence that guarantees someone who drinks moderately will develop an alcohol addiction. The same applies to those who drink excessively or engage in binge drinking episodes. Although these might be at higher risk. However, in a society that sometimes pressures people to drink, is abstinence a realistic approach to prevention?

Understanding the Types of Drinkers

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (the main piece of literature utilized by 12-step fellowships across the globe), states that there are three main types of drinkers.

The Normal Drinker

There is a normal drinker who can enjoy alcohol in a social setting and very rarely (if ever) experiences consequences as a direct result of his or her drinking. Consequences mean experiencing mild withdrawal symptoms, such as the so-called hangover, for example. 

The Problem Drinker

There is the problem drinker, who drinks too much quite frequently. This individual enjoys the effect produced by alcohol – just as the alcoholic does. However, once this individual begins to experience consequences as a result of his or her drinking, they have no issue putting down the drink altogether. For example, if a loved one expresses concern and gives an ultimatum, the drinker will successfully quit and not look back.

The Alcoholic

The alcoholic, on the other hand, will not be able to quit despite consequences successfully. They will not likely be able to put down the drink for an extended period without professional intervention. These are individuals who know alcohol affects their personal and professional life directly, but they can’t stop drinking. 

Drinking in Moderation vs. Abstinence — Is One Better?

Moderate consumption is one to two alcohol drinks per day for men and one for women. Some alcoholics commit to Moderation Management (MM) programs to learn strategies that help them control their addiction. The goal of the program is to help patients look at their drinking patterns, reasons for drinking, and hopefully replace these activities for healthier behaviors instead. 

For many, a moderation approach to drinking is a more realistic one because it shows people how to learn to drink in moderation. However, anyone recovering from an alcohol use disorder knows how challenging moderation can be. After all, most of their triggers revolve around alcohol consumption, and having the possibility of relapse is too much of a burden. 

Some reasons why moderate drinking might not be the best option:

  • The possibility of withdrawal symptoms when people try to reduce their alcohol consumption. 
  • Some people might forget the downside of drinking. 
  • Once people start drinking again, it’s impossible to predict or even control how much alcohol you’ll end up consuming.

Is Abstinence The Best Option?

While achieving moderation is possible, the reality is that most recovering alcoholics will choose the abstinence route. Staying away from alcohol entirely is one of the best ways to prevent a relapse. Maintaining abstinence and focusing on building relapse prevention skills are vital strategies to sustain long-term sobriety. 

Sometimes, people without related drug addictions might inquire about naltrexone, a drug that can help block the pleasurable effects of alcohol and help reduce alcohol cravings. These types of medication-assisted treatments can help people achieve abstinence and eventually maintain their sobriety. 

Choosing total abstinence means you’ll encounter many social situations in which you’ll need to turn down a drink. It’s paramount that you have a “saying no to drinks” script that’s quick, polite, and convincing. Don’t be afraid of proudly reminding those around you that you’re a recovering alcoholic, and you won’t be drinking. There’s no shame in your recovery process. 

However, in the end, almost 30% of those who start a Moderation Management program move toward a complete abstinence program to manage their alcohol addiction. 

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options

Sadly, alcohol detox is rarely enough to help someone achieve long-lasting recovery. Most people need to seek help from treatment facilities to find the right treatment. Treating alcohol withdrawal and abuse problems will depend on the severity of their addiction, a specialist might recommend either an inpatient or outpatient setting. Other modalities will include individual counseling and support groups to encourage recovery. 

Treatment Programs

Inpatient Programs: These offer a temptation-free environment that’s designed to help people in recovery. In this case, people check into a living drug rehab facility, and they attend meetings and therapy sessions while remaining in a supervised environment. 

Outpatient Programs: For those with a mild addiction, an outpatient rehab program might be an option. In this case, they have a more flexible program that allows them to maintain their daily schedule and responsibilities like attending school, work, or caring for their family. 

Aftercare Programs: Addiction isn’t one thing people can shove under the rug. The remnants of addiction often stay with them for the rest of their life. To help users find happiness and purpose in their lives, aftercare programs offer relapse prevention classes, life skills, and other essential tools for a successful life after treatment. 

Treatment Styles

Individual Therapy: Beyond the detox process, it’s paramount to tackle the addiction. Through individual therapy, people can understand what drives addictive behavior and see if there’s an underlying cause of addiction. 

Group Therapy: Building a healthy and sober support team is a critical element of addiction recovery. By attending group meetings or 12-step programs, individuals can continue their sober life and continue to learn relapse prevention techniques, even months after detox. 

Finding Substance Abuse Treatment

If you or someone you know is struggling with a drinking problem, don’t wait any longer. Countless treatment options can help them conquer their addiction and manage any withdrawal symptoms. Remember, quitting potent drugs alone can be life-threatening. It’s essential to have the support and supervision of drug addiction specialists by your side. 

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we believe in offering customized alcohol abuse treatment plans for those struggling with drug abuse. We look at each program on a case-by-case basis to cater to whatever your needs are to get better and walk towards recovery. From detoxification programs to group meetings and more, everyone in our team is committed to helping you win the struggle with addiction. 

🛈 This page’s content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek your physician’s advice or another qualified health provider with any medical condition questions—full medical disclaimer.

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