Is harm reduction appropriate for problem drinking?

Is harm reduction appropriate for problem drinking? Is controlled drinking possible for an alcoholic?

What if you are concerned about how much you've been drinking but you don't want to cut alcohol completely out of your life? If you've heard of the zero-tolerance abstinence model for alcohol, but you don't feel you need to go that far, then harm-reduction may be an option for you.

The concept of harm reduction was developed with the understanding that any steps taken to reduce harm are worthwhile goals. When we practice drinking in moderation, we reduce not only the physical damage on the body but also the chances of engaging in risky behavior that can occur with heavy drinking.

Moderation programs are unlike the traditional approaches based on the "all or nothing" 12-step AA model. The 12-step view is based on the premise that abstinence is the only way to overcome a drinking problem. Rather than demanding abstinence, a harm reduction approach accepts that each person has a right to choose how they approach their drinking problem. Some people prefer to cut down rather than completely stop drinking.

A model backed by research

Dozens of studies have provided support that harm reduction and moderate drinking approaches are effective. Studies conducted in the U.S. and abroad have demonstrated that proper guidance and support can help non-alcoholic individuals learn how to reduce their alcohol consumption. The strategies that have been developed allow drinkers to set safer limits and stay within them.

Moderate drinking strategies are based on a variety of self-control control behavior techniques. These techniques are designed to help drinkers manage when, where, how much, and how quickly they consume alcohol. The strategy may also include with whom they drink.

Moderate drinking programs like the one offered in my practice in New York City and Princeton New Jersey, offer confidential help for high-functioning men and women who do not want or need to give up drinking completely. Our Alcohol Moderation Program offers a practical, sensible, empowering approach that can help you regain control over your drinking and improve your health.

About the author: Dr. Washton is a widely recognized addiction psychologist with offices in New York and Princeton. He provides discreet treatment and will design a personalized treatment plan to meet your individual needs.

Click here for a list of addiction psychologists in your area.

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