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Moderation vs Abstinence: Should You Cut Back, or Quit Drinking?

Over the past few decades, research has demonstrated that complete abstinence isn’t always the most effective approach for treating alcohol abuse. While total abstinence is necessary in some cases, in other cases people are able to reduce their drinking to moderate levels without needing to abstain totally. For people who have not been able to maintain sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or other 12-step programs, they may wish to consider if moderation may be a more effective path for them to take. There are people who develop abusive behaviors toward alcohol for a time but do not fully develop alcoholism. Such people may choose to remain abstinent after staying abstinent out of necessity for a period of time. However, they have not develop a chemical dependency on alcohol to the extent others have.

Read more information about this on trustworthy websites like Detox To Rehab. The truth is, various studies have shown that both of these treatment methods can work. In the end, it largely depends on the individual, getting a correct diagnosis of his or her problem and following through with the treatment plan. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (the main piece of literature utilized by 12-step fellowships across the globe) states three main types of drinkers. Thrivalist Founder Lucy Quick created an 8-week online sobriety course for women, to help them free themselves from the alcohol trap. There are also support groups dedicated to abstinence, including the most famous support group of all, Alcoholics Anonymous.

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It can also lead to liver disease, high blood pressure, and other health problems. Studies that recognize the potential benefits of moderation programs also see its risks. 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. For other drinkers, moderation can prevent the terrible sinkhole that is dependency on alcohol.

Which Is Better: Alcohol Moderation or Abstinence?

And even if you don’t plan to quit, you may find that you lose interest in alcohol after practicing moderation. Some people aren’t ready to quit alcohol completely, and are more likely to succeed if they cut back instead. In this case, moderation serves as a harm reduction strategy that minimizes the negative consequences of drinking. It’s a healthy step in a positive direction, and is often achievable with medication.

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First, let’s dive into the difference between abstinence (AKA sobriety) and moderation. Setting up personal guidelines and expectations—and tracking results—can make maintaining moderation easier. You will keep track of what was accomplished and what still needs work. Drinking is often a coping strategy subconsciously used to avoid having to deal with uncomfortable or painful issues. Moderated drinking could give you the space to address those issues you’ve been pushing aside.

  • There are bountiful resources available to you if you are considering treatment, a support group, or even tips on how to moderate or abstain from alcohol.
  • Abstinence can have many benefits, including improved mental and physical health.
  • In this case, abstinence is the best way forward for your health and safety.
  • Even if you think you will only have a little bit of alcohol, the act of drinking can be a trigger for your mind, and you may end up drinking heavily without planning to.
  • You also don’t need to have a clear understanding of your goal to start making progress.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) undertook research in 1996 with 1,490 heavy but non-dependent drinkers at ten differing locations across the world who had each received a short intervention relating to alcohol.

This idea does not suggest that recovery is as simple as “mind-over-matter,” but Peele believes that people can set an intention to quit in line with their values without the need for inpatient or outpatient treatments. Some people find it’s still too overwhelming to be around alcohol, and it’s too hard to change their habits. If one drink still leads to several more, attempting moderation isn’t the safest choice. People who have a more severe drinking problem and find moderation difficult to maintain often do better with abstinence. If you don’t consider yourself an alcoholic or don’t feel comfortable labeling yourself one, practicing moderation helps you avoid having that discussion when you’re not in the mood.

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According to Harvard University Medical School, moderate drinking is successful only for people who haven’t yet developed a serious dependence or who haven’t yet experienced serious consequences as a result of drinking. Learning moderate drinking can help people set goals and make better decisions before they cross the line to alcoholism. These health risks can be severe, and some even contribute to alcohol-related mortality rates. On the other hand, upon cutting controlled drinking vs abstinence 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.

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