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  1. Docta
    When it comes to fixing problem drinking, abstinence isn't necessarily the only way. Sometimes there's a middle path: learning healthier drinking habits through a controlled-drinking program.

    ''While Alcoholics Anonymous has been around since the 1930s, the controlled-drinking approach is relatively new, so there's still a perception that it's abstinence or nothing,'' says Bronwyn Hegarty, who organises a controlled-drinking program at the University of Wollongong's Northfields Clinic. ''But studies have found that with the help of controlled drinking, two-thirds of problem drinkers can reduce their alcohol intake to a safe level.
    ''It works on the premise that if you've learnt to drink a certain way then you can also unlearn it. Controlled drinking helps people realise that the habits we set up aren't as rigid as we think.''

    Techniques include learning to be an assertive drinker, which means you can say ''no'' to another drink without feeling like a party-pooper. It also involves keeping a diary to track when and why you drink, and finding ways to change the pattern.

    ''You might have a drink as soon as you get home from work, but maybe you could have a different kind of drink and delay the first alcoholic drink until dinner,'' Hegarty says. ''For many people, drinking too much is simply a habit that's built up slowly over time, partly because alcohol is a big part of our culture. We drink when we're happy, we drink when we're sad, we drink when we catch up with friends, we drink when the team wins and when it loses.''

    Controlled drinking deserves a higher profile, Mark Donovan, clinical supervision co-ordinator at Northfields Clinic, says. ''We have drinking guidelines recommending no more than two standard drinks in a day, but there are no messages telling you where to go for help if you're having eight drinks,'' he says.

    So where do you go? Controlled-drinking programs are offered at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital as well as at Northfields, but the most accessible is the free ''control your drinking'' online program run by the Australian Centre for Addiction Research.
    Since it began in 2005, about 5000 people, 60 per cent of them women, have completed the program, which typically attracts people in their 40s.

    ''We've followed people up after two months and find most make big reductions in the amount they drink - less than 5 per cent don't reduce their drinking,'' Thiagarajan Sitharthan, the centre's director, says. ''They've admitted they have an issue with alcohol; they've continued the program for eight weeks and no one forced them to do it - they're motivated to begin with.''

    ''Most people live in a state of ambivalence about their drinking,'' Donovan says. ''It's fun, but they know it makes them feel terrible the next day; it's fun, but they know it makes them do stupid things. But often something happens that tips the balance so they realise drinking is becoming a problem.
    ''You might be getting snappy with the kids because you've had a few drinks or you feel a bit dusty in the morning at work and then you realise you're hanging out for a drink at the end of the day. Or perhaps your blood pressure's too high - or you've been charged with drink-driving.''

    Still, controlled drinking isn't for everyone. ''Someone whose life has become dominated by alcohol is likely to need help to stay abstinent, especially if there's little structure in their life or no family support,'' Donovan says. ''But if you're still functioning well, holding down a job and have a family, the chances are you have a mild dependence on alcohol, and controlled drinking is more likely to work.''

    Paula Goodyer |August 10, 2013



  1. headfull0fstars
    Thanks for sharing this. It's very interesting. I have heard of moderation based programs before but I had never heard that they claim that 2/3 of alcoholics can control their drinking. That's a much higher success rate than the 3-5% that abstinence based programs like AA have.

    I wonder how this would work if applied to other drugs. Alcohol is just like any other drug really except for it's legal and stigma free status. I know it's been the dream of many a junkie to moderate their heroin use. I would be really interested to hear if the success rates for people with drug problems on moderation programs.
  2. RichInMethadonia
    I have actually controlled my alcohol consumption in pretty much the same way. I was up to drinking #2 1.75 liter bottles of Gin or Vodka every 6 days, I would buy two to last me a "week" but on the seventh day I would always buy 2 more and start on them so they lasted 6 days per 2 bottles that were 1.75 liters.

    Now I have cut out liquor completely, I am not saying I don't drink a lot of alcohol still but I definatly drink less than before and I don't blackout every night like I used to..... When I was drinking the 2 1.75 liter bottles a week I would wake up and forget what I watched on TV and ate for dinner every night, even when I cooked it myself..........

    Now I drink between 1-3 12oz Budlights, #2 16 oz Steel Reserves 8.1% alcohol, and either 1-2 16 oz Bud Light Lime-a-rita cans (bubble margarita cans that are 8% alcohol) or if Iam not having the margaritas I drink 2-3 glasses of wine and that is it, I get a nice buzz but I don't get drunk from it unless I drink it extremely fast on an empty stomach and usually when I do that I fall asleep which never happened to me while drinking liquor.

    I think the thought/prospect of quitting all that liquor all at once was too much for me to bear so now I just drink less strong beverages and drink less of them but still get a buzz and feel good, I just don't gt blackout drunk every night like I used to which is good because I never have told anybody this but when I drink that much liquor every week I would wake up with moderate pain on my side every day (where my liver is).

    I think this can work for people who drink a lot and they can take it down a step at a time instead of quitting at once which makes it seem very overwhelming and hard to do. This makes it so you can wean youralcohol consumption down over time.

    But, some alcoholics cant control their drinking and will always drink until they blackout or pass out and those are the ones who need moderation the most.

    I haven't got down to a "safe" level yet, but iam doing A LOT BETTER than before, so that is all that matters to me.
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