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Recovery After Rehab: Moderation or Abstinence?

Many individuals with an alcohol use disorder that wish to change their drinking, however, have a goal of moderation – sometimes referred to as “harm reduction” – rather than complete abstinence. Indeed, moderation appears to be a viable pathway to alcohol use disorder remission for some. Identifying who will be most likely to respond to these moderation-focused alcohol treatments will be key to clinical recommendations and policies related to moderation versus abstinence. More people than ever are recognizing the negative effects of drinking alcohol and re-evaluating how it shows up in their life. As a physician on the Monument platform, I speak with patients every day who are looking to change their drinking habits in order to improve their health and happiness.

alcohol abstinence vs moderation

On the other hand, upon cutting back on drinking, many heavy drinkers experience improvements in sleep, cognitive function, weight loss, productivity, interpersonal relationships, energy, and overall mental health. Your specific health goals, health risks, and medical history may play a role in your choice to either moderate or abstain from alcohol. This is especially true if you suffer from specific health conditions or are cutting back to avoid increased risk of specific health consequences. If you’re not sure where to start with your drug and alcohol recovery journey, a good place to begin is with a 30 day period of sobriety to “reset” your relationship with drugs and alcohol and start on your journey with a clean slate. Whether you want to quit completely or moderate your use, starting with a 30 day period of abstinence can help you clarify your goals, your self control, and will give you a baseline from which you can explore other approaches to recovery if you like.

Abstinence vs. Drinking in Moderation: Which is Right for You?

Some treatments try to help you quit alcohol and find ways to establish a healthy recovery. Others may not promote abstinence, and look to reduce addictive behaviors and related health risks. I’m a big supporter of the idea that improvements in quality of life, in addition to or instead of measures of abstinence, need to be incorporated broadly into addiction treatment research. The way I see it, our goal in treating addiction is to help a client improve their functioning, which is often being hampered by substance abuse but that is not necessarily completely dependent on it. In general, risks exceed benefits until middle age, when cardiovascular disease begins to account for an increasingly large share of the burden of disease and death. These individuals may be naturally finding ways in their environment to help them reduce or abstain (e.g., seeking social support), for example, or automatically using cognitive strategies to help them stick to limits on days they drink.

  • Throughout the 10,000 or so years that humans have been drinking fermented beverages, they’ve also been arguing about their merits and demerits.
  • Goals are flexible, and any step towards a healthier relationship with alcohol is an incredible act of self-care.
  • Sooner or later, the pressure will build up and the volcano will explode—or you will relapse.
  • It is clear from looking at the research that if you want to increase your odds of success, abstinence is the way to go.
  • They’ve already been dealing with mild to severe alcoholism for years—the DSM was just slow to catch on.

Harm reduction and abstinence are two different approaches to creating a healthier relationship with alcohol. The main distinction is that harm reduction is an effort to reduce intake, while abstinence is the goal to stop drinking altogether. Finding which approach works for each individual has largely to do with what “success” looks like to them, and which goal works best for their own specific needs. Both approaches aim to return someone to a higher level of functioning, give them a more stable mood, and reduce negative consequences they may be facing. All of these outcomes will improve overall wellness and quality of life. Today, there’s a wide range of resources for those looking to achieve total sobriety.

Research shows that moderate drinking can work for those who abuse alcohol.

People who went through non-abstinence programs reported a lower quality of life compared to people who went through abstinence programs, according to one study. Harm reduction programs focus on the motivating factors behind a patient’s treatment. Some patients want to reduce their alcohol https://ecosoberhouse.com/ consumption slightly, but not completely. Others want to reduce risks related to drinking, such as driving drunk or engaging in risky behavior. Following that logic, it makes a lot of sense to me to include the idea of moderation as another option in the addiction treatment arsenal.

Heavy drinking is a major cause of preventable death in most countries. In the U.S., alcohol is implicated in about half of fatal traffic accidents. [1] Heavy drinking can damage the liver and heart, harm an unborn child, increase the chances of developing breast and some other cancers, contribute to depression and violence, and interfere with relationships. Throughout the 10,000 alcohol abstinence vs moderation or so years that humans have been drinking fermented beverages, they’ve also been arguing about their merits and demerits. The debate still simmers today, with a lively back-and-forth over whether alcohol is good for you or bad for you. Whether you carry a physical card in your wallet or use your smartphone, try tracking your drinks to get a better handle on your consumption.

What is harm reduction?

A sober lifestyle is something to be proud of, and the team at Monument is here to provide answers and encouragement throughout your journey. Symptoms of withdrawal can include anxiety, confusion, heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, shaking and tremors, and insomnia. These symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening, so it is imperative to understand your relationship with alcohol to avoid withdrawal. As someone who drinks moderately, it would be absolutely wonderful if I could quaff a beer each night without any negatives. Alcohol is almost certainly bad for you, no matter how much you drink. Alcohol moderation programs are endorsed as an effective option by organizations like the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

alcohol abstinence vs moderation

There are some populations where abstinence is recommended, such as those managing liver disease, bipolar disorder, abnormal heart rhythms, and those who find they cannot moderate their drinking over time. Still, harm reduction can serve as an entry point for anyone looking to begin their journey. It’s for this reason that it’s not always a question of harm reduction vs. abstinence.

Recovery starts with getting honest.

You’ll need further treatment and support to help you in the long term. You must not drive if you’re taking medication to help ease your withdrawal symptoms. You need to tell the DVLA if you have an alcohol problem – failure to do so could result in a fine of up to £1,000.

  • Most facilities, like inpatient rehabs, use a zero-tolerance approach, meaning that no use of any substance is allowed.
  • Abstinence, otherwise known as sobriety, means eliminating all alcohol consumption from your life.
  • As a depressant, alcohol can also improve your social life and mood in moderation.
  • There is no matter what type of substance abuse treatment or method is used to achieve sobriety.
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