Half of Addiction Counselors Say It’s OK for Some Patients to Drink Occasionally

A survey of addiction counselors finds almost half say it is acceptable for at least some of their patients to drink from time to time. The survey included 913 members of the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Counselors.

About half of the counselors said they would not object if some of their clients who abuse alcohol wanted to limit their drinking, but not totally abstain, PsychCentral.com reports. That is double the number of counselors in a 1994 survey who said moderate drinking was acceptable for some clients.

The new survey found about half of counselors said moderate drug use was acceptable as an intermediate goal, while one-third said it was adequate as a final goal.

“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,” the researchers from Bowling Green State University noted in a press release.

Counselors were less accepting of occasional substance use for clients diagnosed with alcohol or drug dependence, which is considered more severe than alcohol or drug abuse. At least three-fourths of the counselors said they would not approve of limited or moderate consumption for these clients.

“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,” said researcher Harold Rosenberg, PhD.

The study was published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

16 Responses

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    Romeo A. Blackmar

    November 14, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    Thank God my substance abuse counselor didn’t subscribe to this belief. Had I been told I could continue to drink on a limited basis, I more than likely would have ended up in a treatment facility, jail, badly injured or dead. This kind of advice given by professionals in the field of addiction/substance abuse is very dangerous and could lead to more accidents, more pain and suffering for the the addict and their families.

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    Richard Solomon

    November 11, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    With more than 30 years of experience in the field of addiction treatment I am VERY concerned about the implications of counselor who condone periodic drinking by those who meet the criteria for dependence. It is by definition a condition in which an individual CANNOT control his/her intake. Telling these individuals that it is okay for them to drink occasionally is at best foolish. At worst, it is colluding with their denial and potentially destructive. Do NOT forget that some people DIE from consequences of their addictions!! Anyone who takes this stance in regards to his/her clients is being irresponsible, in my opinion.

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    November 9, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    just don’t call it recreational drinking!

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    November 9, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    as abuser has not lost “control” of their drinking and/or drug use, then moderation is ok.

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    Jamie Matter

    November 9, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    The result allows for a lot of interpretation. One possibility: counselors would prefer the client to try the experiment of controlled drinking or using and report back in treatment, rather than driving the client away from treatment by a rigid atttude. In many cases, the clients will do it anyway, so why not keep them engaged in treatment? If it works, good. If it doesn’t (as is frequently the case), then they’re still engaed in treatment and can work on new goals.

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