Alcoholics Can Recover from Alcoholism & Drink in Moderation 1

More than one-third (35.9 percent) of U.S. adults with alcohol dependence (alcoholism) that began more than one year ago are now in full recovery, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

The fully recovered individuals show symptoms of neither alcohol dependence nor alcohol abuse. They either abstain or drink at levels below those known to increase relapse risk. They include roughly equal proportions of abstainers (18.2 percent) and low-risk drinkers (17.7 percent).

The analysis is based on data from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a project of NIAAA. Based on a representative sample of 43,000 U.S. adults aged 18 years and older, the NESARC is the largest survey ever conducted of the co-occurrence of alcohol and drug use disorders and related psychiatric conditions. The NESARC defines alcohol use disorders and their remission according to the most recent clinical criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association.

One-quarter (25.0 percent) of individuals with alcohol dependence that began more than one year ago now are still dependent and 27.3 percent are in partial remission (that is, exhibit some symptoms of alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse). About twelve percent (11.8%) are drinkers with no symptoms but whose consumption increases their chances of relapse (for men, more than 14 drinks per week or more than four drinks on any day; for women, more than 7 drinks per week or more than three drinks on any day).

These research findings are summarized below.

Pie Chart: Current status of adults with alcohol dependence that began more than one year ago

Lead author Deborah Dawson, Ph.D. and her colleagues in the Laboratory of Biometry and Epidemiology in NIAAA's intramural research program released the latest NESARC analysis in an article in Addiction entitled "Recovery From DSM-IV Alcohol Dependence: United States, 2001-2002."

Research has produced evidence for decades that some alcoholics could return to moderate or controlled drinking. However, Alcoholics Anonymous and other influential and powerful groups have tended to define an alcoholic as a person who can never drink in moderation. Thus, their conceptions and definitions have caused them to reject this mounting evidence. For example, they tend to argue that if researchers identify alcoholics who can now drink in moderation, that simply means that the alcoholics were falsely diagnosed and really weren’t alcoholics or they wouldn’t have been able to drink in moderation.

Go to the Readings section to find a list of publications such as:

Crandell, J. S. Controlled Drinking Can Help Alcoholics Recover. In: Cozic, C. P., and Swisher, K. (Ed.). Chemical Dependency. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1991. Pp. 218-224.

Heather, N., and Robertson, I. Controlled Drinking. London, England: Methuen, 1983.

Miller, W. R., and Munoz, R. F. How to Control Your Drinking. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 1990.

Vogler, R. E., and Bartz, W. R. The Better Way to Drink: Moderation and Control of Problem Drinking. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.

This web site does not provide medical opinion or advice and none should be inferred.

References

  • 1. Adapted from NIH/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2001-2002 Survey Finds That Many Recover From Alcoholism: Researchers Identify Factors Associated with Abstinent and Non-Abstinent Recovery. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism press release, January 19, 2005.

Readings

  • Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.
  • Brodsky, A., and Peele, S. AA's Tactics are Harmful. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 93-103.
  • Brown, D. Medication May Help Alcoholics Stay Sober. In: Barbour, S. (Ed.). Alcohol. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998. Pp. 144-148.
  • Bufe, C. Studies Show Alcoholics Anonymous Is Ineffective. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 72-81.
  • Burman, S. All-Women Groups Can Help Female Alcoholics. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 220-229.
  • Carr, N. J. Alcoholics Anonymous is Effective. In: Barbour, S. (Ed.). Alcohol. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998. Pp. 113-119.
  • Christopher, J. Secular Organizations for Sobriety is an Effective Self-Help Program. In: Barbour, S. (Ed.). Alcohol. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998. Pp. 128-134.
  • Christopher, J. How to Stay Sober: Recovery Without Religion. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, l988.
  • Crandell, J. S. Controlled Drinking Can Help Alcoholics Recover. In: Cozic, C. P., and Swisher, K. (Ed.). Chemical Dependency. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1991. Pp. 218-224.
  • Dorsman, J. How to Quit Drinking Without AA: A Complete Self-Help Guide. Newark, DE: New Dawn, 1993.
  • Ellis, A., and Velten, E. When AA Doesn't Work for You: Rational Steps to Quitting Alcohol. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade, 1992.
  • Fingarette, H. Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease. Berkeley: University OS California Press, 1988.
  • FitzGerald, K. W. Alcoholism is a Disease. In: Cozic, C. P., and Swisher, K. (Eds.). Chemical Dependency. San Diego: Greenhaven, 199I. Pp. 96-100.
  • Fox, V. Alcoholics Anonymous is Ineffective. In: Barbour, S. Alcohol. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998. Pp. 120-127.
  • Fox, V. Addiction: Change and Choice: The New View of Alcoholism. Tucson, AZ: See Sharp, 1993.
  • Galanter, M. Psychotherapy Can Help Alcoholics. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 202-210.
  • Gorski, T. T. Alcoholism Should be Treated as a Disease. In: Barbour, S. (Ed.). Alcohol. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998. Pp. 98-104.
  • Gorshi, T. T. Alcoholics Anonymous Is the Most Effective Treatment for Alcoholism. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 64-60.
  • Granfield, R. Coming Clean: Overcoming Addictions without Treatment. New York: New York University Press, 1999.
  • Heather, N., and Robertson, I. Controlled Drinking. London, England: Methuen, 1983.
  • House Committee on Health and Long-Time Care. Treatment Designed for Elderly Alcoholics Could be Effective. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 230-237.
  • Jellinek, E. M. The Disease Concept of Alcoholism. New Haven, CT: Hillhouse, 1960.
  • Johnson, V. E. I'll Quit Tomorrow: A Practical Guide to Alcoholism Treatment. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980.
  • Kishline, A. Alcoholism Should Not be Treated as a Disease. In: Barbour, S. (Ed.). Alcohol. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998. Pp. 105-112.
  • Kishline, A. A toast to moderation. Psychology Today, January/February, 1996.
  • Kissir, S. Nutritional Therapy Can Help Alcoholics. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 194-198.
  • Kurtz, E. Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous. Center City, MN: Hazelden, 1979.
  • Lolli, G. Social Drinking: How to Enjoy Drinking without Being Hurt by It. New York: World Publishing, 1960.
  • Marlatt, G. A., and Gordon, J. R. (Eds.). Relapse Prevention. New York: Guilford, 1985.
  • Miller, N. S., and Mahler, J. C. Treatment Centers Effectively Use Twelve-Step Programs to Help Alcoholics. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 61-68.
  • Miller, W. R., and Munoz, R. F. How to Control Your Drinking. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 1990.
  • Parker, C. B. When Someone You Love Drinks Too Much. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.
  • Patton, P. Buddhism Can Help Alcoholics Stay Sober. In: Barbour, S. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998. Pp. 149-156.
  • Peele, S. et al. The Truth about Alcohol and Recovery. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.
  • Roberts, M. The Spirituality of AA Helps Alcoholics. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 69-71.
  • Sanchez-Craig, M. Saying When: How to Quit Drinking or Cut Down. Toronto, Canada: Addiction Research Foundation. 1993.
  • Schlesinger, S. E., and Horberg, L. K. Alcoholics Anonymous Can Help Alcoholics Recover. In: Cozic, C. P., and Swisher, K. (Ed.). Chemical Dependency. San Diego: Greenhaven, 199 1. Pp. 212-217.
  • Shockley, M. Acupuncture Is an Effective Treatment for Alcoholism. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 199-201. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 216-219.
  • Schuckit, M. A. Antidepressants May be Effective in Treating Alcoholism. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 216-2 19.
  • Sobell, M. B., and Sobell, L. C. Problem Drinkers: Guided Self-Change Treatment. New York: Guilford, 1993.
  • Trimpey, J. Rational Recovery is an Effective Self-Help Program. In: Barbour, S. (Ed.). Alcohol. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998. Pp. 135-143.
  • Trimpey, J. AA's Focus on Spirituality Is Harmful and Unnecessary. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 82-92.
  • Trimpey, J. The Small Book: A Revolutionary Alternative for Overcoming Alcohol and Drug Dependence. New York: Delacorte, 1992.
  • Turk, M. For problem drinkers: A moderate proposal. Business Week, October 23, 1995.
  • Vogler, R. E., and Bartz, W. R. The Better Way to Drink: Moderation and Control of Problem Drinking. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.
  • Walsh, D. C., et al. Physicians' Warnings Can Motivate Alcoholics to Seek Treatment. In: Wekesser, C (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 2 I I-2 15.
  • Weinstein, C. Forcing Alcoholic Prisoners to Join AA is Ineffective. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 104- 108.
  • Wright, B., and Wright, D. G. Due to Confront! How to Intervene when Someone You Care About Has an Alcohol or Drug Problem. New York: Master-Media, 1990.

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