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Alcohol Problems and Abstinence Argumentative Essay

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Updated: Jan 10th, 2020

Alcoholism has been a problem since the ancient times. People who abuse alcohol have always found themselves in problematic circumstances in regards to the negative impacts of alcohol (Fletcher, 2001). Whereas a majority of the alcoholics have the desire to quit, the compulsion to continue drinking overpowers them immensely. The solution to every problem lies in understanding the root of the concern.

Abstinence and moderate drinking are the available treatment options for alcoholism. Patricia Owen believes that abstinence should be the ultimate goal in alcoholism treatment.

On the contrary, Anne Fletcher supports moderate drinking in the treatment of alcoholism. This paper critically examines the contrasting position held by the two. In addition, the position supported by contemporary research is also outlined.


According to Patricia Owen, all alcohol drinkers aim at achieving abstinence in the long term. People who opt for controlled drinking always train their systems to stay free of alcohol. Saying ‘No’ to alcohol is not only necessary (Owen, 2001). Rather, it is the most direct approach of ensuring that alcoholics address their problem.

In addition, Owen attests to the fact that moderation is not attainable by all people. People with serious alcohol dependence may find moderate drinking insignificant. Whereas a good percentage is comfortable with controlled drinking, the rest find the approach unsuccessful and impossible.

On the other hand, Anne Fletcher argues that alcoholism is a continuous process that requires professional care. Most alcoholics suffer from mild risks at the initial stages of their drinking experience. Subsequent drinking eventually leads to life threatening risks (Fletcher, 2001).

Abstinence is ignorant of this fact. Fletcher is categorical of the fact that moderate drinking is characterized by physiological stability, proper education and steady employment. People who possess these qualities greatly benefit from moderate drinking.


According to Owen, alcohol dependent people find it problematic to moderate their drinking. This is because of the intense compulsion offered by the brain.

A person finds him/herself in a condition where alcohol becomes a need rather than a liking. Such people find it extremely impossible to desist from drinking temptations. Efforts and programs that advocate for moderation are therefore futile (Owen, 2001).In addition, Owen believes that abstinence is achievable.

The ultimate desire of all alcoholics is usually to quit drinking. Abstinence offers the best treatment for such cases. On the other hand, Fletcher is of the opinion that moderation is best achieved when professional guidance and help are sought. The professionals establish mechanisms to monitor the progress of alcoholics.

The success of controlled drinking does not entirely depend on the decisions made by the professionals (Fletcher, 2001). Rather, the involvement of the alcoholics is vital. Alcoholics need to be aware of the situations to prevent cases of self denial. Consequently, several studies have shown that controlled drinking applied at the onset gave better results than abstinence approaches.

Owen’s Position

Abstinence is a logical approach. It is always correct to assert that the avoidance of causes of misery is the surest way to be safe. Alcohol dependency and addiction are situations that are not experienced by non-drinkers.

Abstinence is usually the ultimate goal for all recovering alcoholics. Avoiding alcohol altogether strategically mitigates all the effects associated with it (Owen, 2001). The fact that abstinence is an ideal condition does not render it impossible.

It is possible to abstain. Through abstinence, emotional health, spousal relationships, job performance, legal and health status are improved. Moderate drinking may lead to “Loss of Control”. This condition results from the intense compulsion generated by the brain.

Owen affirms that a person finds him/herself graduating from the condition of “liking” to that of “wanting”. Several factors are overlooked. Alcoholism is usually a process that requires professional care. Professionals are usually aware of the fact that people with severe neuronal sensitization may find it difficult to abstain.

Owen assumes that abstinence is the best treatment option for all. It is not correct to assert that all the prescriptive rights are vested on the professional. Abstinence may be the treatment goal prescribed by the professional. However, the alcoholic should have a say about his condition.

Fletcher’s Position

Several cases are available to support that moderate drinking is possible. Abstinence should be driven by intrinsic forces and not external forces.

External forces should not be imposed against people recovering from alcoholism (Fletcher, 2001). Nolan changed from being an alcoholic to a non-problematic drinker. Abstinence and moderate drinking work together as posited by Nolan’s story. However, most alcoholics attest to the fact that abstinence is not easy as most people believe.

Moderate drinking is best achieved when one disregards emotions and the drinking environment. Drinking problems are continuously propagated as opposed to the view that they are instantaneous. Enco was of the view that most alcoholics feel more comfortable once introduced to moderate drinking programs (Fletcher, 2001).

Fletcher affirms that involving the alcoholic in the treatment process is important. The alcoholic makes an informed and experimental choice regarding moderation or abstinence. Heather, another alcoholic found out that abstinence was indeed the best option. Moderate drinking was the initial option but later on abstinence became the ultimate goal.

Studies indicate that moderation approach has been successful than abstinence on 3-year treatment programs. Setting drinking limits has worked for most alcoholics who moderate their drinking. Ed Shaw, Pat and Jack are good examples of alcoholics who have moderated their drinking (Fletcher, 2001). Moderation drinking is subjective and discriminatory. It has been found to work well in women and people under 40.

The credibility of the Authors

Owen is inclined towards the views held by Alcohol Anonymous. The group insists that abstinence should be the aim of all professionals. Owen however assumes that alcoholism can be addressed instantaneously.

The effects associated with alcoholism are regarded to end at once in cases where abstinence is applied (Fletcher, 2001). Owen assumes that abstinence can be applied to all people under the influence of alcohol.

This assumption ignores the gradual effects that alcoholics suffer from starting from the initial and advanced stages of their alcoholism. The other weakness posited is the fact that the author fails to validate her position. Lack of possible life examples is questionable. Fletcher is conclusive in her study.

She gives practical life examples to support her position. Her literature review is detailed. She is considerate of all cases of alcoholisms. She appreciates the role played by both professionals and the alcoholics in the treatment process. Her study is conclusive of the fact that moderation drinking is superior to abstinence.

Personal View

Alcoholism is a problem that can either be handled through moderate drinking or abstinence. The choice on which method to adopt solely depends on the condition of the alcoholic.

Abstinence is the ultimate goal in the treatment of alcoholism. However, it is not the only available option. It is ideal and difficult especially for heavy drinkers. It is therefore important to actively incorporate the views of the alcoholics in the treatment programs.

Professionals become aware of how to address specific alcoholism cases. Studies have indicated that indeed treatment programs that are interactive yield positive results. Fletcher uses various cases to validate her position. Heavy drinkers may find it difficult to abstain at once.

Moderate drinking programs may work for such people in the long term. The drinking limits set by the recovering alcoholics aid in the rehabilitation process. It is therefore correct to affirm that abstinence should not be the ultimate goal. Rather, moderate drinking should be advocated for.

Contemporary Research

Total abstinence is usually the best way of treating alcoholism. However, a strong social network and family support are vitally important in the treatment program. Whereas some drinkers find it possible to abstain, the majority affirm that moderation is the best approach to take. In addition, complete alcohol abstinence remains a challenge (Campbell, 2011).

For this reason, it is prudent to advocate for moderate drinking to avert the serious problems associated with alcohol addiction. People should be actively involved in alcohol treatment programs.

Through such a forum, people are able to realize the harms posed by alcohol. Consequently, they can aim at living a sober life. Honesty by family members is usually important in situations where moderate drinking is prescribed. Stanton Peele and Herbert Fingarette have expressed their dissatisfaction with how the USA government compels alcoholics to abstinence (Campbell, 2011).

They are of the view that personal freedom should be sought in regards to alcoholism. A study involving 80 participants showed that indeed moderate drinking was the best mode of treatment.

Most participants attested to the fact that that their abstinence levels had increased from 16% to 20% through moderated drinking (Campbell, 2011). During the 12 month period, the blood alcohol content levels had reduced by 50%.Moderate drinking is therefore superior to abstinence (Campbell, 2011).


Campbell, H. (2011). Moderate Drinking: Outcomes of a Randomized Clinical Trial With Non-Dependent Problem Drinkers. Journal of Counseling and Psychology, 12 (5)

Fletcher, A. (2001). One Drink Does not a Drunk Make: How the Masters Determined whether they could ever drink again. Houghton Mifflin

Owen, P (2001). Should Abstinence be the Goal for Alcohol Treatment? American Journal of Addiction, 289-295.

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