Who Answers?
This site is authored by American Addiction Centers - a specialist in drug and alcohol addiction treatment. If you are interested in learning more about our options for drug and alcohol rehabilitation, please call 888-480-1703 to speak with an admissions navigator.
Call 888-480-1703

Moderation vs. Abstinence: No Clear Consensus Among Drug Counselors


According to a significant number of addiction counselors, it is acceptable for their substance abuse patients to have an occasional drink, whether it is part of an intermediate recovery goal or final treatment goal.

In a new study published by the American Psychological Association, experts questioned over 900 individuals from the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Counselors.  The participants were located all over the United States.  Half of them thought that it was acceptable for some of their alcohol abuse patients to moderate their alcohol intake, known as controlled drinking, rather than give up drinking entirely.

Similarly, they were asked if moderate drug use was acceptable for drug abuse clients.  Approximately 50 percent said they thought it was okay as an intermediate goal and one-third believed it was okay for a final treatment goal.

The co-authors of the study, Alan K. David, MA and Harold Rosenburg, PhD, are part of the Department of Psychology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.  Addressing the results that were published after their study, they said: “Individuals with alcohol and drug problems who avoid treatment because they are ambivalent about abstinence should know that- depending on the severity of their condition, the finality of their outcome goal, and their drug if choice- their interest in moderating their consumption will be acceptable to many addiction professional working in outpatient and independent practice settings.”

The counselors did share the same views when they discussed more serious clients.  “Drug dependent” clients were not believed by the trained professionals to benefit from moderate drinking or drug use.  Most of them felt that the people who fell into this category should commit to discontinuing use altogether, or total abstention.  Three-quarters of the respondents said they would never allow their patients who fell into this category limited or moderate drug use.

According to the DSM-IV, alcoholism and drug addiction is a disease that can cause problems at home, damage relationships, affect work, and put a person’s physical health at risk.

When U.S. counselors were asked why they did not approve of any consumption at all, they responded that condoning or encouraging drug use at any level would not be an effective treatment method.  It would send the wrong message to clients and the treatment would be sporadic rather than constant.

What this says to me is that  AA is not the end all be all solution to addiction.  Therefore, total abstinence from all mind-altering substances in not mandatory for recovery, according to the majority of these experts polled.  According to this study, not all addicts need to obstain from everything inorder to recover from their addiction, which offers a dose of much needed “reality” that AA and NA deny, a celebratory drink is perfectly acceptable. This d

The respondents also said that it is important to consider a client’s age, emotional well-being, drug or drugs of choice, and overall health in order to determine the very best treatment plan.

This concept of limited or moderate use is less accepted in the U.S. than in other countries.  A similar survey or British drug experts found that 86 percent thought that intermediate drug use was acceptable, and 81 percent even thought it was okay as a final goal if their clients had history with alcohol abuse.  Whoa…really?

You mean if your client has a history of being an alcoholic then it’s okay for him to finish treatment with a little coke habit?  I don’t think so!  This shows that British experts may have a conflict of interest, or maybe just want to stay in business.  Either way, they view drug usage, even on a continued basis, in a decidedly different light than we do here in the United States.



Christine Kearney. “Moderate Consumption is Acceptable for Some Alcohol Abusers.” Medical News             Today. MediLexicon, Intl.,3 Nov. 2012. Web. 5 Nov. 2012.


Related posts:

Written by

Filed under: Addiction, Research, Treatment · Tags: AA, abstinence, Addiction, Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholism, American Psychological Association, cold turkey, drug addiction, drug counselors, drug treatment, DSM-IV, NA, narcotics anonymous, National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Counselors, recovering addicts, Recovery, sober, sobriety, substance abuse, Treatment is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
Learn more about what this means here
© 2019 All Rights ReservedPrivacy Policy | Terms Of Use is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, INC.
An American Addiction Centers Resource