Moderation Management: What It Is and What to Know

“Everything in moderation,” or so goes the well-known saying. It may be easier said than done. Whether your weakness is poppy cock or spiked eggnog, “moderation” can be elusive— especially during the holiday season.

Of course, healthy balance and moderation are a lifestyle choice, not a one-time check of the box. For positive health effects to be felt and experienced, there needs to be self-discipline, commitment, and daily practice.

What Moderation Management Is

For those whose weakness is alcohol, there is an actual program for moderation. “Moderation management” is an official lifestyle and harm reduction program. It aims to help people curb their drinking and control their intake.

The program is a mix of self-help and guidance, including meetings and an online support community. Its premise is that total sobriety may not be achievable in every case of heavy drinking and that less drinking is better than more.

How exactly does the program work to help people moderate their drinking? It first offers guidelines for what constitutes “moderate drinking.” They are as follows:

  • for women, not more than three drinks on one occasion and no more than nine drinks per week
  • for men, not more than four drinks on one occasion and no more than 14 drinks per week
  • for both men and women, not drinking on more than 3-4 days per week

“Small, manageable steps of change” are the second main feature of moderation management. The program encourages things like keeping a diary regarding alcohol intake, abstaining from alcohol for the first 30 days, and learning skills for controlling drinking and avoiding it (depending on the day).

What to Know 

The prospect of being able to control one’s own drinking without outside help is only naturally appealing to many— and, ironically, perhaps the most appealing to those with a severe alcohol problem. However, for this population, suddenly stopping drinking (such as in the form of 30 days of sobriety) can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms like seizures. In fact, if you’ve tried unsuccessfully to stop drinking before, that may be because of symptoms of alcohol withdrawal or other medical or psychiatric issues that have triggered the drinking.

In such cases, the best way toward better health is to get help from medical professionals who specialize in treating alcohol use disorders and who can supervise detox and withdrawal. A quality provider will take an integrated approach: They will treat the alcohol problem as well as co-occurring medical and psychiatric issues that may be contributing to the problem.

If you’re struggling with an alcohol problem, it can be reassuring to know you have options. The next step is choosing which is best for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and reach out for more information.

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