Abstinence or Moderation?


Alcoholism or Abuse?

The ongoing debate over whether alcoholics can moderate their drinking or if abstinence is the only solution is not a new debate. Alcoholism treatment arose decades ago as a reaction to alcoholics failing to moderate their drinking. Psychologists and counselors have worked with alcoholics for a long time trying to teach alcoholics to moderate their with disastrous results. Abstinence or moderation? It’s a false choice for alcoholics.

I won’t post any research findings, because I don’t want to give the impression I support the research, but you can find research on Google that suggests some alcoholics can moderate their drinking. The results of the polls are questionable, because they usually rely on self reporting which is unreliable. The alcoholics who are surveyed have been told they can drink moderately, and the alcoholics likely want badly to drink moderately, so their responses are surely tainted by denial and minimization. Denial and minimization are common among alcoholics. To put it nicely, alcoholics aren’t always 100% truthful.

Also, a lot of these studies start from a false premise, that treatment professionals and AA tell all drinkers, alcoholics or temporary alcohol abusers, that abstinence is the only answer. This is not true. If there are not enough signs and symptoms to suspect alcoholism, most treatment professionals will counsel the alcohol abuser on better ways to deal with stress, or whatever triggered the temporary abuse. I don’t know of anyone in AA or the addiction treatment field who tells everyone who drinks who has any problem at all associated with alcohol that they need to stop drinking forever. So the premise of some of these studies is false.

Telling someone, with no history of alcoholic symptoms, who abuses alcohol for a period of time after a painful divorce that they can deal with the divorce and most likely drink moderately in the future is not dangerous. A healthcare professional telling an alcoholic they can drink moderately is malpractice. There’s a mountain of evidence regarding alcoholics attempting to drink moderately who’ve failed and died early deaths. There might a relative handful of reported cases in which an alcoholic drinks “moderately”, but how reliable is this information? How long are the alcoholics followed? Are the responses to the surveys corroborated by family, employer and friends? Is the “alcoholic” someone who simply abused alcohol for a short period of time?

Go the alcoholic ward at a local VA and spend a couple of days, then tell me if you would suggest to any of these alcoholics in late stage alcoholism that they try to drink moderately. When professionals manipulate research to prove one of their pet theories, they have to realize that what they put out there erroneously as scientific research can do a lot of harm if it’s not based on solid evidence and facts.

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