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The Genetics of Alcohol Dependence Critical Essay

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Updated: Jun 28th, 2019


Though alcohol consumers are aware of the dangers associated with alcoholism, many embrace alcohol as a tolerable agent for reducing anxiety, simplifying social communication, and instigating congenial feelings. The conflicting perceptions about alcohol have instigated a relentless debate about whether individuals with weaknesses in consuming this dangerous but acceptable beverage can use it in moderation.

Over the past years, the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has been considered as the solution for people with drinking weaknesses. Even though the AA suggests abstinence, some people still feel that individuals with drinking weaknesses can also use moderation.

This paper tackles the issue of whether abstinence is the solitary goal for assisting people with drinking problems or whether moderation can also help. This analysis will be done through critically comparing the opinions and facts provided by Owen and Marlatt (2011) and Fletcher (2002).

The least two facts presented by each side of the critical issue

Psychologist Patricia Owen, who supports abstinence, notes that studies have disclosed that 50 per cent of people who go for treatment successfully attain abstinence.

Another fact presented by Owen and Marlatt (2001) is the research on neuroadaptation, which shows that the brain’s adaption to constant consumption of alcohol leads to loss of control. Loss of control refers to a situation where a person cannot quit from drinking soon after consuming the first drink.

Fletcher (2002) who opposes the AA philosophy also provides a number of facts to back his position. First, Fletcher states that research shows that individuals who use moderate approaches at the outset heal faster than those who are introduced to abstinence-focused methodologies.

Fletcher uses the examples of two psychologists who conducted experiments on chronic drinkers who were told choose between moderate drinking and abstinence. Individuals who chose moderation recovered more than those who chose abstinence.

Another fact presented by Fletcher is that alcohol research professionals suggest that many individuals would have an alternative option for their drinking weakness at an earlier stage if they were given a choice between abstinence and controlled drinking (Witbrodt & Kaskutas, 2005).

The least two opinions presented by each side of the critical issue

Owen claims that abstinence is sensible as a treatment goal for people with drinking problems since it is the most direct tactic. Furthermore, it is hard to convince an individual who is addicted to alcohol to take moderated amount of liquor.

On the other side, Fletcher holds that compelling all individuals with alcohol problems to abstinence overlooks the reality that drinking occurs in serious and minor circumstances. Moreover, an individual can effectively moderate his or her character if s/he gets proficient assistance as well as guidelines to monitor his or her improvement.

Some of the strengths associated with the pro side of the issue and some of the weaknesses

A strong argument for the pro side is the issue of moderation over drinking. Owen argues that a person who is already addicted to alcohol will find it very challenging to start moderating his or her drinks. Through the study of neuroadaptation, Owen explains clearly that one may go through preoccupation if s/he attempts to control his or her drinks while s/he is already addicted.

Owen states that an alcohol addict will be unable to control his or her drinking because of the pleasing properties of alcohol and the powerful coercion to drink. Furthermore, Owen uses several scientific researches to support his position making it easy for one to consider his argument credible.

On the other sides, the writer agrees that moderation can be applicable to some drinkers. This opinion implies that she also believes that abstinence is not the solitary goal for treating drinking problems. Furthermore, the fact that she states that there is no biological evidence to show that certain types of drinkers can moderate their alcohol intake weakens her positions.

If the opposing side provides valid evidence that there are individuals who can regulate their alcohol consumption, abstinence will cease to be the solitary goal of treating harmful alcohol intake (Myers & Isralowitz, 2011).

Some of the strengths associated with the Con side of the issue and some of the weaknesses

Fletcher’s main strength is how he structures his points. He begins his arguments with a testimony of an individual who was formally a drug addict, but reformed to a moderate drinker. Furthermore, he also agrees with Owen that not everyone can use moderation and mentions the kind of people who can control how they drink.

According to Fletcher, people who are learned, sane, have a job, and believe in moderation are the ones who can control the amount of alcohol they consume. Fletcher scores highly by nothing that the argument that everyone should abstain overlooks the fact that people have disparate rate of problems when it comes to drinking.

However, the weakness of Fletcher’s sentiments is displayed when he gives a contradictory statement that most individuals always want a method that can help them stop alcoholism.

He states that even alcohol-reliant people are likely to choose abstinence and leave moderation and after abstaining for a month, they are willing to live without alcohol. This opinion suggests that he also believes that abstinence is more effective than moderation (Wilson, 2012).

Authors’ credibility and an explanation

Both Fletcher and Owen offer strong arguments that are occasionally contradictory, but Owen’s arguments are more credible than Fletcher’s assertions. For instance, Owen argues that the best way of solving a problem is to eliminate it. A person suffering from alcoholism should be trained on how to stop the behavior.

Moreover, Owen argues that once one is addicted to alcohol, s/he will remain addicted to alcohol, and this argument is practical in real life. Owen’s argument overshadows Fletcher’s sentiment that a person who is already addicted to alcohol can start consuming it in small portions and feel comfortable with the new behavior.

Fletcher’s argument is not practical because the more one gets addicted to a certain substance, the more s/he will hanker for the substance. If a person can transform from a drunkard to a moderate drinker, then it is only sensible that s/he should not have been an addict in the first place ((Dick & Bierut, 2006).

The author I agree with and why

I agree with Patricia Owen. She gives logical and practical reasons. The effects of alcohol to the consumer and the community are detrimental. The little pleasures that it brings to the drinkers should not overshadow the harmful effects it causes to the consumers. The best way of assisting addicts is through elimination of the problem and not allowing moderate consumption.

Moderate drinking does not prevent one from getting the alcohol toxins, unlike in abstinence (Myers & Isralowitz, 2011). Patricia Owen proves that AA philosophy is sensible, possible, and simpler than sustaining moderation. The author exhausts various studies and scientific evidence to prove that an addict cannot start controlling the amount he or she consumes because of the compulsion the alcohol brings.

Owen admits that some types of individuals can regulate how they drink, but there is no substantial evidence to prove the credibility of this aspect. Abstinence remains the most effective goal of alcohol treatment. The quality of life indicators such as health, family relations and work output steadily increases with abstinence (Witbrodt & Kaskutas, 2005).

The side that contemporary research supports with specific examples

Recent studies show that abstinence is still the goal for treating people with drinking problems. However, studies also show that moderated drinking is attainable if the patient has not shown persistent pattern of excess alcohol consumption or negative results of drinking. The goal is to assist alcohol consumers to set a boundary for their drinking habit before they get addicted (Fowler, 2011).

Unfortunately, moderation will certainly fail where a person is already reliant on alcohol. For instance, a research done to monitor the outcomes of alcohol consumers for eight years after completing behavioral self-control teaching, a therapy crafted to impart moderate drinking habits showed a notable fact.

The study revealed that, as gravity of reliance in alcohol escalates, the probability of patients to lower their drinking to normal levels and maintain those levels drops drastically. Therefore, for the heavy drinkers, the only realistic option is abstinence (Family Health Guide, 2009).


Moderate alcohol consumption plays a significant role in treating alcohol patients. Moderate drinking and abstinence is a relevant goal for most consumers who are not yet alcoholic.

Fletcher and Owen share their opinions about this issue and their sentiments should be put into consideration whenever an alcohol consumer seeks treatment. Though many individuals have managed to lower their alcohol consumption using moderation or abstinence, most people having drinking problems see abstinence as the only feasible solution.


Dick, D., & Bierut, L. (2006). The genetics of alcohol dependence. Current psychiatry reports, 8(2): 151–7.

Family Health Guide. (2009). Alcohol abstinence vs. Moderation. Retrieved from

Fletcher, A., M. (2002). Sober for Good: New Solutions for Drinking Problems – Advice From those who have Succeeded. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Fowler, R. (2011). Moderation vs. Abstinence: What’s More Effective? Retrieved from

Myers, P., & Isralowitz, R. (2011). Alcohol. California, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Owen, P., & Marlatt, A. (2001). Should abstinence be the goal for alcohol treatment? The American Journal on Addictions, 10, 289-295.

Wilson, D. (2012). Alcohol dependence – what actually works? Continuing Medical Education Journal, 30(4), 122-126.

Witbrodt, J., & Kaskutas, L. (2005). Does Diagnosis Matter? Differential Effects of 12- Step Participation and Social Networks on Abstinence. American Journal of Drug & Alcohol Abuse, 31(4), 685-707.

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