Most Heavy Drinkers Consume Less over Time: Learn Why Some Don’t

Many people believe that heavy or problem drinking1 leads to alcoholism or alcohol dependence.2  Researchers tested this idea. They found that most heavy drinkers consume less alcohol over time.

drinkers consume lessFirst, researchers identified problem drinkers through random-digit-dial telephone screening northern California. Then they made in-person interviews with 672 people.

The mean age of the sample was 35 years, 61% were male, 71% were white, and 40% were married. Researchers followed participants for a period of 11 years.

Drinking declined on average from four down to two drinks per day among men. It declined from two down to one per day among women. Also, about ten percent became abstainers.

But Some Increased Their Drinking

Any of the following were associated with an increase in alcohol consumption.

Being part of a group of heavy drinkers.

Receiving suggestions to get help for their drinking.

Getting treatment for alcoholism.

Research has widely shown the poor results generally obtained from alcoholism treatment. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) reports a success rate of about 5% with its 12 steps. Doing nothing is usually more effective than attending AA. However, non-12-step programs using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy show high rates of bringing about continuing sobriety.

Other Alternatives for Help

There are also many free or inexpensive non-12-step programs. They include these.

HAMS Harm Reduction for Alcohol & Drugs.


Moderation Management.

Rational Recovery.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS): Save Our Selves.

SMART Recovery: Self-Management and Recovery Training.

Women for Sobriety.

Resources: Heavy Drinkers Consume Less Alcohol over Time


1. Problem drinking was defined as having at least two of the following.

An alcohol-related negative social consequence.

A symptom of alcohol dependence.

Heavy drinking (5 drinks in a day monthly for men or 3 drinks in a day weekly for women).

2. This is a central belief of AA.


Delucchi, K., and Kaskutas, L. Following problem drinkers over eleven years. J Stud Alco Drugs, 2010, 71(6), 831-836.


This website is informational only. Thus, it makes no suggestions about any matter. That includes the finding that most heavy drinkers consume less over time.