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Half of addiction counselors don't believe in abstinence

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No, you didn't read that wrong.

It's true--about half of addiction counselors say it's OK for some of their patients to practice moderation with their drug of choice.

The idea flips traditional 12-step theory on its head, which suggests that complete avoidance of alcohol and drugs is the only way to maintain a state of recovery.

A new kind of recovery

But the findings come from a study that is hard to poke holes in. Researchers surveyed 913 practitioners from the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Counselors. About 50 percent said it would be "acceptable" for some of their clients who abuse alcohol to drink alcohol in moderation. The numbers were the same for counselors asked about patients with a history of drug abuse.

The important thing to note, however, is the distinction between what the counselors said about patients who were "dependent," and those who simply abused drugs or alcohol. When asked whether it would be acceptable for the former group to use in moderation, about three-quarters of the counselors surveyed said no.

Individuals with alcohol and drug problems who avoid treatment because they are ambivalent about abstinence should know that--depending on the severity of their condition, the finality of their outcome goal, and their drug of choice--their interest in moderating their consumption will be acceptable to many addiction professionals working in outpatient and independent practice settings,” said study co-authors Alan K. Davis, M.A., and Harold Rosenberg, Ph.D., both from the Department of Psychology at Bowling Green State University.

Abstinence isn't for everyone?

Counselors interviewed in the survey also said that a variety of factors are important to consider when determining the safety of moderate drug or alcohol use, such as the person's drug of choice, emotional stability, age and state of health.

The US appears to be less open to the idea of moderate use as an end-goal for treating patients with drug or alcohol abuse. In a nationwide British survey, about 81 percent of counselors said it was an acceptable goal.

Rosenberg says the findings support a different model of intervention--one that is less strict and more based on realistic outcomes:

“In light of this study, we suggest that clients ask about their counselor’s openness to limited or moderate consumption as an outcome goal, and that agencies acknowledge their policy regarding negotiation of outcome goals as part of informed consent.”

Source: Psych Central