Do Moderation Management programs work? Benefits & Risks – Surely
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Do Moderation Management programs work? Benefits & Risks

Do Moderation Management programs work? Benefits & Risks

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Moderation management programs give heavy drinkers an alternative to quitting drinking altogether. They help individuals reduce the frequency of drinking using a step-by-step process. This offers a level of flexibility you might not find in abstinence-based programs.

Do moderation management programs work? In some situations, moderation management can work, but it’s not for everyone.

In this article, we describe the moderation management approach and philosophy. You’ll also learn how to determine if moderation management is right for you.

What is “moderation management”?

Moderation management is a method you can use to address excessive drinking and manage drinking behaviors.

Living the teetotal life by abstaining from alcohol may not work for everyone. Moderation management programs allow responsible drinking while focusing on managing problematic episodes.

Moderation management programs can help heavy drinkers overcome the harm excessive drinking causes. A 2012 study found that moderation management strategies can reduce consumption and problematic drinking while fostering positive behavioral changes.

Does moderation work for addicts? Moderation management doesn’t work for individuals who are addicted to alcohol. It challenges traditional methods, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), by allowing participants to determine the most effective path for their unique needs.

The moderation management philosophy highlights the importance of taking an individualized approach to a complex issue like alcohol consumption. It’s kind of like a more serious version of the Sober Curious movement.

Moderation Management, the Organization

Moderation Management is a non-profit organization that helps members prevent the harm that excessive drinking can cause. It is the most well-known program using moderation management as an alternative to abstinence.

The organization offers a supportive community for anyone looking to make positive behavioral changes related to their drinking habits. Participants can follow the steps of the program while having the support and accountability of others.

Audrey Kishline founded Moderation Management in 1994 as an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other recovery programs. She believed that cognitive behavioral therapy principles could help drinkers who did not identify as alcoholics.

Kishline developed the Moderation Management program after consulting with alcohol addiction treatment professionals. The organization also supports members who choose abstinence when necessary.

But Kishline’s story took a tragic turn.

She struggled with the moderation management approach and returned to an abstinence program. She soon relapsed and was involved in a drunk-driving accident that killed a man and his twelve-year-old daughter.

After her release from prison, Kishline eventually died by suicide. Her story highlights the importance of seeking the right kind of treatment for excessive drinking.

In its twenty-year history, Moderation Management has helped thousands of people through peer-run support groups. But the organization knows that the MM program may not be appropriate for all heavy drinkers.

Moderation Management, the Philosophy

The Moderation Management philosophy distinguishes between alcoholics and non-dependent problem drinkers. It views problem drinkers as individuals who have habits they can control.

The philosophy does not rely on spiritual teachings or require members to surrender their power over alcohol. It seeks to empower members to manage their drinking, as well as the factors that lead to high-risk behaviors.

Moderation Management recognizes the need for an individualized approach. Each person’s relationship with drinking is unique. Controlled drinking can help a person reduce their alcohol intake or eliminate it completely.

The Moderation Management philosophy encourages individuals to develop their own solutions. They can set goals and boundaries that help them reduce or eliminate their drinking.

This approach gives individuals the power of choice in determining how to address their heavy drinking. It also emphasizes the importance of addressing it early for best results.

The goal of Moderation Management’s philosophy is to teach MM members how to make better choices, instead of using a treatment program that isn’t right for them. Harm reduction is the primary goal of Moderation Management.

Moderation can also be the first step towards abstinence. This helps drinkers who are resistant to cold turkey abstinence-based programs.

The following are 4 key principles of the moderation management philosophy:

  1. Personal responsibility for one’s behavior and recovery
  2. Helping others in the organization
  3. Self-help and management 
  4. Self-esteem

Treating others with dignity and respect is what matters most to them. Rethinking drinking and smart recovery are their ultimate goals.

Read Next: Here are the best 16 ways to say “no” to alcohol [sans awkwardness]

The Moderation Management Plan

The Moderation Management plan follows the organization’s “Steps of Change”:

  1. Monitor current drinking using a diary.
  2. Identify moderate drinking limits.
  3. Decide if moderation or abstinence is best for you.
  4. Make a list of previous challenges, as well as the potential benefits of moderation.
  5. Practice abstinence for 30 days.
  6. Reintroduce drinking with caution.
  7. If things go wrong, identify the causes.

Can I learn to drink in moderation? You can learn to drink in moderation by following the Moderation Management guidelines.

Starting with a diary to monitor drinking behavior helps you recognize the causes of drinking problems. It starts the process of self-reflection and creates awareness of the factors and behaviors that you can change.

Moderate drinking requires specific practices and beliefs. Identifying some of the best practices that have worked for others gives MM members a better idea of the goals of moderation management.

MM members can then decide if moderation or abstinence is right for them. They can take a self-test to determine how severe their alcohol problems are and make an informed choice between moderation management vs. AA or other abstinence-based programs.

Members are encouraged to list the problems that alcohol has caused in their lives and their loved ones’ lives. This process involves considering the benefits they can gain from moderation. This step is an essential part of committing to behavioral change.

The initial 30-day abstinence period teaches participants how to navigate social settings and abstain from alcohol when coming face-to-face with common triggers. They use this time to develop boundaries and limits to support them as they move through the MM program.

When you quit drinking for thirty days, you can enjoy the health benefits of not drinking alcohol.

Many people have participated in Dry January or Sober October activities. This has become a popular way for people to take a break from alcohol and set new health goals.

Introducing alcohol after thirty days of abstinence allows MM members to increase MM awareness, telling people to practice caution when drinking.

Face-to-face and online support MM meetings are available for members to receive and give support.

The Moderation Management plan sets drinking limits. Men should not exceed four drinks in one sitting or a total of fourteen drinks in one week. The limit for women is three drinks in one sitting and nine drinks in one week.

Read Next: How to Cook With Non-Alcoholic Wine

Is moderation management safe for alcoholics?

Moderation management is not safe for alcoholics. Alcohol use disorder is a chronic disease, and individuals suffering from alcoholism can relapse.

Also, withdrawal symptoms need to be carefully monitored when an individual dealing with alcoholism abstains from drinking. In some cases, these withdrawal symptoms can be fatal.

Moderation management programs are only for individuals who do not have an alcohol-dependent disorder. Reducing alcohol intake is more difficult for an alcoholic than for a person struggling with less severe problematic drinking episodes.

Treatment from a professional is an appropriate option for alcoholics. Anyone struggling with alcohol dependence or substance abuse should consult with a qualified professional such as a doctor or a therapist.

The right guidance is critical to addressing alcohol-related problems. Abstinence may be more effective for some, while moderation helps others begin addressing problem drinking.

What does AA say about moderation? Alcoholics Anonymous and other abstinence-based programs view moderation management as too flexible to provide lasting benefits. AA says that alcoholics should seek proper treatment and be aware of the risks that moderation management approaches can present.

Problem drinking can turn into alcohol addiction. The physiological and cognitive factors related to alcohol require appropriate treatment methods.

How To Know If Moderation Management Is For You

There are signs to look for if you want to know if moderation management is right for you.

For instance, a person who experiences withdrawal symptoms when abstaining from alcohol will have difficulty with controlled drinking. Moderation management might not work if the withdrawal symptoms require medical supervision.

A history of relapsing is another indication that moderation management may or may not be the best solution. The severity of alcohol dependence will determine the risk of future relapses.

Some pregnant women might think that moderation management is a way for them to consume alcohol. But drinking alcohol during pregnancy is not safe.

Below are signs that moderation management can work for you:

  • You have a network of friends, family, and others to support you.
  • You have stability in your personal and professional life.
  • You have been able to moderate your alcohol intake successfully in the past.

Moderation management programs can also help individuals who have resisted abstinence-based treatment. It can provide a lower barrier of entry, giving family members and others a resource to help loved ones struggling with alcohol.

Can binge drinkers learn to moderate? Yes, binge drinkers can learn to moderate their alcohol intake. Having a clear and achievable plan can help binge drinkers recognize the factors that cause binge drinking and develop new habits.

Mental Health Interventions & Moderation Management

Therapy and mental health are essential to the moderation management process. The ability to control your drinking starts with your beliefs and commitment to making behavioral changes.

You must be confident that you can drink in moderation while setting realistic long-term goals. Moderation management programs teach participants to set their own goals, which makes them more likely to reach them.

Mental health interventions like psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) can support anyone who wants to practice moderation or abstinence.

These approaches allow you to work with a mental health professional who can help you address challenges with alcohol. Psychotherapy can help you understand your struggles with alcohol.

CBT focuses on identifying the thoughts and behaviors contributing to problematic episodes. A CBT therapist can help heavy drinkers establish new beliefs and behaviors that support their goals.

A review of 30 studies published in 2020 found that combining CBT with medical drug treatment for alcohol use disorders and substance abuse provided increased benefits.

DBT involves focusing on managing emotions, improving communication, and living in the present. It can help you make positive changes and balance your emotions. These and other factors can support your moderation or abstinence goals.

Moderation increases a person’s awareness of their own harmful behaviors. It combines self-reflection and self-help while participants continue to reflect on their journey towards better health and wellbeing.

Sober curious? Try this alcohol-free wine.

Non-alcoholic products are available for the sober curious drinkers looking to try moderation or an abstinence-based approach. Non-alcoholic wines are an excellent solution for anyone looking to make positive changes without sacrificing their enjoyment.

There are plenty of celebrities and regular people alike who practice sobriety and were never alcoholics. For many, it’s a way of life that aligns with their values and health goals.

Surely produces its non-alcoholic wine using natural ingredients. They partnered with California winemakers to create a wine using traditional methods, and then they removed the alcohol.

The growing number of sober-curious people and the popularity of sober bars have led to demand for great-tasting and high-quality non-alcoholic drinks.

Moderation management can help heavy drinkers consume alcohol more consciously and responsibly. This approach may not work for everyone. But for the sober-curious drinker, it can be the first step toward a healthier way of life.


  1. and Moderation Management: Outcomes of a randomized clinical trial with non-dependent problem drinkers
  2. Combined Pharmacotherapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adults With Alcohol or Substance Use Disorders

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