How Does Drinking Alcohol in Moderation Differ From Abstaining?

Support groups based on sobriety, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), find success through fellowship. AA works on social interaction where members give each other emotional support and practical tips to refrain from drinking. Research even suggests that fellowship can help more people achieve sobriety than therapy. This is because not only is it beneficial to be surrounded by those who share a similar goal to you, but it can also be validating to witness others’ struggles that mirror your own.

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alcohol abstinence vs moderation

But they agreed that alcohol is a major public health challenge, not only in the U.S. but around the world. There are 140,000 alcohol-related deaths in this country each year, Rahman said, and there were 2.8 million deaths globally in 2016, according to the Lancet paper. Symptoms of withdrawal can include anxiety, confusion, heart palpitations, alcohol abstinence vs moderation 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. Though sobriety has a clear definition, you may still be asking yourself, what is sobriety, and what will it mean to me?

alcohol abstinence vs moderation

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This idea is so pervasive that most addiction treatment providers actually expel clients for relapsing, a notion that makes no sense to me especially if you believe in the idea that addiction is a chronic disease. In fact, even most research institutions and well-informed providers use total abstinence as the marker for addiction treatment success. It’s considered that those without a physical dependence on alcohol, such as mild to moderate use disorder are more likely able to reduce their intake to safer levels and move forward to live happier lives. If moderation is your chosen objective, then I would suggest you try it and see how you get on, you wont know if it’s possible until you commit to a structured approach, track your journey towards moderate drinking and review your progress. A 2018 review paper in The Lancet, including more than 1,200 studies worldwide, found that while light drinking offers some protection from heart disease, the harmful effects of alcohol on health start with even low-volume drinking.

When is moderation a better strategy for alcohol consumption?

alcohol abstinence vs moderation

One research study on Veterans suggested that both models can decrease alcohol use to a degree, but those striving for abstinence were far more successful than those drinking in moderation. Of those who were engaged in non-problem drinking a year after the study began, only 48% reported non-problem drinking or abstinence at later follow-ups. At our Ohio residential treatment center, we understand that relapse is often a part of recovery and are here to help you wherever you may be in the recovery journey.

They might practice sobriety regularly with interspersed episodes of moderation. Or, they may have decided on sobriety as a permanent change in their lifestyle. Abstinence is not the only solution for recovering from alcohol use disorders, but it is one of the most studied and successful methods for recovering from alcohol use disorders. No matter what journey you choose in your recovery, getting support so you don’t have to do it alone is essential.

  • It’s also important to remember that it’s not a permanent line between “moderate drinkers” and “abstainers.” You can always reevaluate your relationship with alcohol and revisit your goals.
  • Alcohol had taken its toll—her job, friends, family, and health had all suffered—and she wanted it out of her life.
  • Total abstinence is not the only option when changing your relationship with alcohol.
  • If you are having life threatening, relationship ending or otherwise serious consequences that you need to get a handle on immediately, then perhaps abstinence is the only route for you.
  • Interestingly, they also found that over a lifetime 30 per cent of adults will experience an Alcohol Use Disorder, yet 70 per cent of those people will transition to safe drinking patterns over time.

MM asks participants to take a realistic look at their drinking patterns and reasons for drinking. There are many paths to wellness, and it is for the individual to choose the right goal for them. The likelihood of successful moderation does depend on the severity of the alcohol use disorder, with evidence suggesting that those who have a mild to moderate use disorder have the best chances of cutting down. Most people in the population who have alcohol issues fall into this category and with structured support can bring their drinking down to safer levels.

  • Most facilities, like inpatient rehabs, use a zero-tolerance approach, meaning that no use of any substance is allowed.
  • Take our free, 5-minute substance use self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance use.
  • The paper also found a significant interaction between the age of study subjects and their mortality risk.
  • Abstinence may be the answer if moderation and harm-reduction approaches are not sustainable.

What are Some Benefits of Moderation vs. Abstinence?

Here’s how we can face our triggers with less reactivity so that we can get on with our lives. It is clear from looking at the research that if you want to increase your odds of success, abstinence is the way to go. And while neither path is easy, the abstinence road seems to offer less resistance. A study conducted at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden found that the Reagans of the world are more successful in treatment than the Saras.

  • Moderation can be a more difficult approach than abstinence because you have to work in the grey area between unrestricted use and stopping completely.
  • Quitting alcohol for good is a life-changing decision with countless benefits that will make you wonder why you didn’t quit sooner.
  • Of those who were engaged in non-problem drinking a year after the study began, only 48% reported non-problem drinking or abstinence at later follow-ups.
  • You might find yourself constantly preoccupied with thoughts about when you’ll have your next drink or whether you’re staying within your limits – this constant monitoring can create stress and mental exhaustion over time.
  • When people aiming for abstinence make a mistake, they may feel like quitting is impossible and give up entirely.
  • These influences may include family dynamics, workplace culture, friendships, strained relationships, and lifestyle elements.

Drawbacks With Moderating Drinking

These medications minimize the endorphin release in the brain that usually accompanies drinking. Because this makes drinking less pleasurable, people are less likely to crave alcohol. With the Sinclair Method, Revia or Vivitrol must be taken one hour before drinking alcohol. It’s normal for people to resist the idea of stopping drinking completely when they begin to realize that jobs, health or relationships are jeopardized due to a drinking problem.

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Another, older study concludes that men who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have a higher life expectancy than individuals who drink alcohol occasionally or heavily. One reason that might explain the link between moderate drinking and lower mortality risk seen in some studies, the authors said, is that light and moderate drinkers tend to be healthier than abstainers. On average, they have a better diet, exercise more often, and have better dental hygiene than people who don’t drink at all. Expert opinions on safety and levels of alcohol consumption have generally varied over the years, with some studies even citing the potential benefits of an occasional cocktail or glass of wine. Learning to drink in moderation can be the goal, or it can be a way station on the way to abstinence.