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5 Reasons Moderate Drinking May Be a Better Goal than Abstinence

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Alcohol abuse affects millions of people, a lot of whom want to change their drinking habits. But if you look around, you’ll find that most treatment programs—like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and rehab facilities—only promote complete abstinence. What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that, thanks to scientific breakthroughs of the last few decades and programs like Ria Health, they can choose to drink moderately. Here are five reasons why moderate drinking may be a better option than total abstinence for people who want to regain control over their relationship with alcohol.  

1. Not Everyone Has the Same Type of Drinking Problem 

Moderate drinking may be a better and more attainable goal than abstinence
Photo by Kevin Curtis on Unsplash

Everyone is unique both physically and emotionally, and each person’s experience with and reaction to alcohol is also different. According to annual government surveys, while about 5 percent of the U.S. population drinks heavily quite often, about 20 percent binge drink only once a month. And not all of that 20 percent of people binges frequently enough that they physically depend on alcohol. Standard alcohol programs that strive for abstinence will not likely be a good fit for many of these individuals.

Some people drink so much that they have to start and end their day with alcohol in order to get by. Others might only binge drink occasionally, and yet their drinking may be causing difficulties with their employment or personal relationships. A lot of people fall somewhere in between. For all sorts of drinkers, total abstinence can feel impossible to achieve. But—thanks to scientific research and modern medication—moderation is attainable.

2. Moderation Can Be Motivating

Promising yourself a rich dessert after several days of eating healthy can help keep your diet on track. In the same way, being able to limit yourself to just one or two glasses of wine after a long day at work can motivate you to drink responsibly. You may be more likely to cut back on your drinking if you know you won’t have to give it up entirely.

When people deny themselves their favorite foods, they often end up overindulging at a later point. Similarly, alcohol relapse rates after undergoing traditional treatment like rehab or Alcoholics Anonymous are often extremely high. Many people spend years cycling in and out of rehab several times. But if an individual using medication-assisted treatment knows they can enjoy a moderate amount of alcohol without completely relapsing, then they may be more likely to overcome excessive drinking.

3. Underlying Reasons for Excessive Drinking Can Be Addressed

The reasons people drink too much vary extensively from person to person. According to the American Psychological Association, alcohol abuse can have many different underlying causes. Your genetic makeup, your unique psychology and physiology, your social circle—these can all play a role in your drinking habits. You may drink more than you should because of a bad relationship or stress at work; some people overindulge because they’re simply following the drinking patterns of their friends.

A variety of mental or emotional issues may be the driving force behind uncontrolled drinking. But you can identify and control those forces, especially with the help of cognitive behavioral therapy. If you find that your job, personal relationships, or social situations are making you drink more, and you change those circumstances, then you may find it much easier to drink in moderation.

4. Other Addictions Can Be Moderated—Why Not Alcohol Addiction?

Chances are, over the course of human history, someone has found themselves addicted to or excessively using almost anything. They’ve also found ways to overcome those addictions—without necessarily eradicating the source of the addiction from their lives. People who overeat have found ways to eat moderately. People addicted to sex or technology have also found ways to overcome their dependencies without completely abstaining from either one. Why should alcohol addiction be any different?

In the same way that other behaviors can be moderated, alcohol use can also be moderated and maintained in a responsible manner. After working to resolve the underlying reasons why you may be drinking too much, therapeutic techniques that help people overcome things like food or sex addictions may also be used to restrain alcohol use.

5. Research Supports Moderation

Several studies support the idea that those who have abused alcohol can learn to drink in moderation. According to the Recovery Research Institute, a nonprofit research center at Massachusetts General Hospital, individuals that are confident and motivated to reduce their drinking are likely to do well in a moderation-based program. Recovery coaching, mobile apps, and other types of telemedicine may be able to help those struggling with an alcohol use disorder, or AUD, to reduce their drinking.

You may be one of many people who struggle to keep drinking under control but aren’t technically an alcoholic. Moderate drinking may be an option for you. Ria Health can help you find an individualized plan to either minimize or eliminate alcohol consumption in your life. We provide a personalized alternative to many of the standard alcohol programs now available. Learn more about how our program works, or get started today.

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