Why Cant Alcoholics Drink in Moderation 1

Why Can’t Alcoholics Drink in Moderation?

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When a person first admits they have an alcohol addiction problem and need treatment, one of the most frightening thoughts is that they must live the rest of their lives without a drink. Even loved ones of the alcoholic don’t always understand why the person can’t drink in moderation after alcohol rehab.

There’s a big difference between someone who is temporarily overusing alcohol and someone with alcohol use disorder (AUD). People with AUD, or alcoholism, are no longer able to control their consumption of alcohol no matter how many negative consequences drinking causes in their lives.

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcoholism is a chronic disease that meets specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). To be diagnosed with AUD, a person must meet any two of the points below within a period of 12 months:

  • Uses alcohol for more extended periods or in higher amounts than intended
  • Cannot cut down on alcohol despite the desire to do so
  • Spends a lot of time finding, using, or recovering from the effects of alcohol
  • Has strong cravings for alcohol
  • Is unable to fulfill home, work, or school responsibilities because of alcohol use
  • Continues abusing alcohol despite adverse consequences
  • Gives up activities they once enjoyed in preference for alcohol use
  • Uses alcohol in dangerous situations, such as when driving
  • Continues to abuse alcohol despite physical or psychological problems
  • Has a strong tolerance for alcohol, needs large, frequent amounts to achieve the desired effect
  • Experiences withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using alcohol

“Normal” drinkers don’t obsess over when they get to drink again. A normal drinker might overindulge occasionally, but they have no problem abstaining from or enjoying a single drink now and then.

People with alcohol use disorder can also stop drinking for a while. Still, they experience emotional, physical, and psychological withdrawal symptoms that may change their demeanor, making it difficult to be around them.

The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

If you or someone you know experiences any of the following symptoms when they stop drinking, it may be time to discuss the need for alcohol rehab:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feeling jumpy, nervous
  • Mood swings
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Shaking

This is only a partial list of withdrawal symptoms. If you feel any physical or psychological discomfort when you stop drinking alcohol, you may have developed an alcohol addiction.

Alcohol Addiction and the Brain

It is often said that addiction is a disease of the brain. As it turns out, that statement is biologically accurate. Addiction changes the function of the brain. Alcohol and other substances directly affect the brain’s reward center and alter the nerve pathways that connect areas of the brain.

Alcohol interacts with the limbic system and produces those “feel-good” emotions that addicted people seek. In time, the brain becomes unable to produce those feel-good chemicals on its own and must rely on alcohol to make them instead. Eventually, alcoholics must drink just to feel normal.  

Why Drinking in Moderation Doesn’t Work for Alcoholics.

Without the support of an alcohol rehab program, many people with AUD work hard to convince themselves and others that they can control their drinking. Some addicted people can abstain for weeks or even months, but when they try drinking alcohol again, it doesn’t take long for their drinking to spin out of control.

The Moderation Management program that began in the 1990s has been (mostly incorrectly) used as an argument against the idea that total abstinence is necessary for a healthy, addiction-free life.

The Moderation Management program states that participants should abstain from alcohol for 30 days before attempting to drink in moderation. A return to abstinence is recommended if they cannot maintain moderate drinking.

AUD rarely occurs as a stand-alone problem. Co-occurring mental disorders, health issues, social problems, employment, housing challenges, and broken relationships are all part of the package of addiction. Addressing these issues requires the therapies and support that come with an alcohol rehab program.

Don’t Risk Attempting to Drink in Moderation. Find Help for Alcohol Addiction at Desert Cove Recovery

At Desert Cove Recovery, we offer a comprehensive, holistic treatment program for those struggling with alcohol addiction. Recovery is about more than simply not drinking. It’s a multilayered process that helps our patients live the full life they deserve and desire.

Call us today to learn more about our facility and treatment options.