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Should Abstinence Be the Goal for Treating People with Alcohol Problems? Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 3rd, 2019

Many psychologists argue that abstinence should be the ultimate goal for the treatment of people who are addicted to alcohol. It seems to be the safest and most cost effective way of dealing with the problem of alcohol addiction. A lot of money is used in buying alcohol, a substance that not only affects the emotion of a person but also alters the human behavior.

In addition, the society incurs a lot of expenses trying to deal with the impacts of alcohol which include reduced productivity, increased demand for health services, violence, and accidents. According to many psychologists, abstinence seems to be the only feasible way to deal with this problem.

However, some medical practitioners argue that abstinence is not the only way to deal with the problem of alcohol because alcoholics can be encouraged to control their drinking through guidance and professional support.

Through moderate drinking, individuals can be able to deal with the problems that are attributed to alcohol drinking. This paper looks at both sides of the argument; it will look at abstinence as being the safest way to deal with the problems associated with alcoholism and the control of drinking habits.

Facts for Each Side

According to Patricia Owen, abstinence is the most honest goal for treating people who are addicted to alcohol. It seems as the most logical way of dealing with this problem given that most people who are addicted to alcohol find it easy to control their drinking habits. They feel contented with their behaviors. Some may be aware of the negative effects associated with addiction while others may be ignorant of the same.

Most people live in denial of their habits and do not consider their behaviors as being problems rather they concentrate on the positive side of it and ignores the side effects. People do not take heed of the negative effects or the advice given by their peers.

They feel that it is the best thing to do since it gives them self satisfaction. Such people can only be treated from the problem of addiction through abstinence. Owen further observes that more than half of the individuals in need of treatment can be able to abstain from drinking (Owen, 2001).

On the other hand, Fetcher (2001) observes that moderate drinking should be the best treatment for alcohol. She notes that by allowing an individual to take at least one bottle of alcohol per week while providing him with professional counseling will help in reducing the problems of alcohol.

According to her, once a person has identified a particular pattern of behavior he becomes addicted to it and any efforts to discourage him may be in vain. He has already adopted a certain way of life and believes that life should take that course.

If one wants to be successful in influencing a person to leave his behavior then he has to give the person adequate time to think over his behavior. He should allow him time for self analysis and at the same time try to show him the risks associated with such a behavior.

Opinion for Each Side

Owen is of the opinion that abstinence is the best treatment for people with alcohol problems. He notes that if a person is suffering due to alcohol, then the best approach should be to eliminate drinking of alcohol because it is an offending behavior.

According to him an individual seeks treatment as a last resort when all other methods have proved to be futile (Owen, 2001). The same applies to alcohol drinkers who must have tried other ways to stop drinking before opting for treatment. This person is ready to change and should be encouraged to abstain.

Fetcher is of the opinion that as far as it is very hard to convince someone to abstain from drinking, it is good to try and do something other than watch such people get into the addiction. We should try as much as possible to show them what they are getting into before their lives are ruined.

By helping them to control their drinking, they are able to accept their situation and may be willing to abstain from alcohol. She also suggests that people with drinking problems should be provided with the right information to help them overcome their problem.

One characteristic of drunkards is ignorance. Although some may be aware of the negative consequences, there are some who remain in that stage out of ignorance. They are not aware of the consequences and thus choose to remain in the addictive behaviors. If such people are provided with enough information they might choose to change their behavior.

Strengths and Weaknesses

One of the strength of abstinence is that it offers a permanent solution to the problems caused by drinking alcohol. Throughout this treatment, an individual goes through counseling sessions that helps him to stay away from drinking even in later years. One of the weaknesses of abstinence as a method of treatment is that it ignores the fact that drinking patterns differs from one individual to the other.

Some individuals will be satisfied by taking one or two bottles while others have become addicts and can take more than ten bottles at a go. Before treatment has commenced one should take note of the stage of addiction that an individual is in. For instance, a person in the pre contemplation stage lives in self denial and feels that his behavior is normal and should not be a cause of alarm.

One advantage of moderate drinking is that it gives an individual time to reflect on his behavior before deciding which course of action to take. Heather, a former drunkard, admitted that abstinence is a better option to drinking although many people are not ready to make a permanent commitment (Fletcher, 2001).

She further stated that if the therapists who were treating her on moderate drinking would have asked her to abstain; she would not have accepted their treatment. Moderate drinking is normally accompanied by professional counseling which helps an individual to accept his present condition, thus increasing his chances of leading a healthy life.

The major weakness of this form of treatment is that it is only applicable to people with specific characteristics. It would be very hard to control the drinking habits of an alcohol addict because he is already addicted and may not be able to control the amount of alcohol taken.

Credibility and Support

Both options are credible in their own sense. For instance, abstinence offers a permanent solution to alcoholics thereby solving the problems that are associated with drinking, such as, broken marriages and poverty. However, it would not be fair to request a moderate drinker to abstain from drinking. If a person is able to control his drinking habits, then controlled drinking should be the best option.

By comparing both options, I would prefer moderate drinking because we do not expect to have a society where no person takes alcohol. It is true that alcohol is costly and may deprive a family off some necessities but at the same time the sale of alcohol is a major source of revenue in a country.

If people are able to control their drinking habits then we would not have any problem associated with drinking and everyone would live in harmony.

Contemporary Research

Different studies give different results in regard to the ability of an individual to abstain; however, there are no doubts that a majority of people presented for treatment can succeed in achieving abstinence. Furthermore, abstinence improve the quality of life, for instance, it improves the relationship between spouses and increases the productivity level.

Other scholars assert that moderate drinking is not the solution for people with drinking problems. However, this depends with an individual. There are people who are able to control their drinking habits on their own once they realize the negative effects of it while others have to go through vigorous treatment before they succeed in abstaining.

Studies involving these two groups of people have shown that alcohol addicts who are able to moderate their drinking have less drinking problem in future or are able to abstain from alcohol as they grow. However, moderate drinking is only applicable to a specific group of people who are able to understand their situation and are ready to shun it.

Some of the characteristics of these people include but not limited to psychological stability, economic stability, well educated, believe that moderate drinking is possible, and do not see themselves as drunkards.

Conclusion

According to many scholars, abstinence should be the ultimate goal for treatment of alcoholics. However, others hold a different view and argue that moderated drinking is an equally important way of solving the problem of drinking.

Unlike moderate drinking, abstinence offers a guarantee that the individual being treated will be free from drinking. Nevertheless, I would prefer moderated drinking because many people would prefer to take some drinks occasionally.

Reference List

Fletcher, A. M. (2001). From sober for Good. New solutions for drinking- Advice from those who have succeeded. Houghton: Mifflin Company

Owen, P. (2001). Should Abstinence be the goal for Alcohol Treatment? The American Journal of Addiction 10:289-295.

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IvyPanda. (2019, October 3). Should Abstinence Be the Goal for Treating People with Alcohol Problems? Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/should-abstinence-be-the-goal-for-treating-people-with-alcohol-problems/

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"Should Abstinence Be the Goal for Treating People with Alcohol Problems?" IvyPanda, 3 Oct. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/should-abstinence-be-the-goal-for-treating-people-with-alcohol-problems/.

1. IvyPanda. "Should Abstinence Be the Goal for Treating People with Alcohol Problems?" October 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/should-abstinence-be-the-goal-for-treating-people-with-alcohol-problems/.


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IvyPanda. "Should Abstinence Be the Goal for Treating People with Alcohol Problems?" October 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/should-abstinence-be-the-goal-for-treating-people-with-alcohol-problems/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Should Abstinence Be the Goal for Treating People with Alcohol Problems?" October 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/should-abstinence-be-the-goal-for-treating-people-with-alcohol-problems/.

References

IvyPanda. (2019) 'Should Abstinence Be the Goal for Treating People with Alcohol Problems'. 3 October.

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