Moderation in Addiction: It is an Effective Intervention?

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Moderation refers to a person’s ability to engage in a potentially addictive behavior, such as drinking or gambling, without falling into the downward spiral of addiction.

In the world of addictions treatment and recovery, a total abstinence approach seems to be the prevailing philosophy. Recent studies have shown, however, that moderation can be an effective way to decrease problematic patterns in people with an addiction.

If you’re considering a career in the addictions field, read on to find out under what circumstances moderation could be an effective treatment method, and learn more about the results of recent studies on moderation.

When is Moderation a Possible Treatment for Addiction?

In order to understand when moderation could work as an effective tool to combat an addiction, it’s important to consider the wide range of behaviors and substances that can become addictive in themselves.

During the course of your addictions worker training, you’ll learn that different addictions can have separate sets of dynamics. A person who is addicted to using their cell phone, for example, would face a very different set of consequences than someone who injects heroin.

It’s clear that some addictions affect a person’s ability to function more than others. Therefore, moderation management is not a universal cure, but offers a treatment approach that can work in certain cases.

Imagine that after graduating from an outreach worker training program, you decide to pursue work in a rehabilitation facility. A client who’s had some problematic drinking episodes in recent months has the goal of becoming a “normal drinker,” able to drink moderately like most of the population and has no history of chronic alcoholism. For cases such as this, moderation management offers an alternative to the complete, total abstinence approach that’s commonly used in most treatment facilities where one drink is considered a relapse.

Moderation in Action: A Case Study in Addiction

A recent study, led by Dr. Adi Jaffe, assessed the effectiveness of the moderation management approach using an interactive website that helps heavy drinkers regulate their drinking and make changes towards moderation.

The group that participated in the study consisted of 80 volunteers around the age of 50 years old. These participants were consuming alcohol at a much higher than average rate. They were all consuming an average of 5-10 drinks per day. The average time the group went without drinking was about 5 days per month, although many were daily drinkers.

The researchers did an initial assessment of each participant, following up at 3, 6, and 12 months. There was no counselling or any form of inpatient treatment involved, just use of the moderation management website, and in some cases a web app. All of the information was submitted by the participants as well as their loved ones.

All of the participants were able to decrease their drinking little by little over the course of the study. The majority of the group were able to decrease their abstinence days from 16% to 40%, and on days where they did drink, were able to reduce their blood alcohol content (BAC) by 50%. It’s important to note that none of the participants had previously been admitted to drug or alcohol treatment or have experienced severe alcohol withdrawal such as delirium tremens at any point in their life. The study concluded that in certain cases of problematic drinking, abstinence isn’t the only option out there.

Are you interested in learning more by enrolling in a mental health worker program? Visit Stenberg for more information or to speak with an advisor.

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