Cold Turkey Isn’t the Only Route

While this article is originally published in 2014, the contents are still relevant today. Thank you Gabrielle Glaser for bringing awareness to alternative methods to cold turkey!

Jan. 1, 2014. Originally posted in the New York Times’ Opinions Section by an Op-Ed Contributor, Gabrielle Glaser, available here.

An excerpt:

In reporting my book on women and drinking, I found that many women were successful in changing their drinking habits by using Moderation Management, a free nonprofit support group for nondependent problem drinkers who want to control their consumption. Using the techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy, M.M. encourages members to take “personal responsibility for choosing and maintaining their own path, whether moderation or abstinence.” It instructs drinkers to abstain for 30 days, reintroduce alcohol while evaluating the effects of drinking, and then stick within limits (for women, that’s nine drinks a week, no more than three on any day).

This approach isn’t for severely dependent drinkers, for whom abstinence might be best. But it’s been empirically shown to work for those on the more moderate end of the spectrum who outnumber dependent drinkers by about four to one — including the majority of women who drink too much. While the ratio of men to women in A.A. is roughly 2:1, that figure is reversed among users of an evidence-based Internet application at moderatedrinking.com. The website helps drinkers set limits, self-monitor while they’re drinking, get feedback on their progress and identify and manage triggers to overdrinking. Reid K. Hester, director of research at Behavior Therapy Associates, which designed the program, says heavy drinkers are more likely to be honest about their consumption when they know they won’t be reproached.

Few master these skills overnight, Mr. Hester says, but most learn healthier habits within six months. And mistakes can be lessons, not failures.

We don’t treat cancer, depression or asthma with the same tools we used in 1935. We need to get away from the one-size-fits-all approach to drinking problems.

Gabrielle Glaser is the author, most recently, of “Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink — and How They Can Regain Control.”

A version of this article appears in print on Jan. 2, 2014, Section A, Page 19 of the New York edition with the headline: Cold Turkey Isn’t the Only Route. 

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