moderation app

New to Drinker's Helper: Profiles, Matches, and Programs, oh my!

We wanted to share a bit more context on some recent updates we’ve made to Drinker’s Helper, the companion app for people who are cutting back or quitting drinking.

There are three new things you’ve probably noticed if you’ve gone into the latest version of the app:

  1. Profiles: a simple, anonymous profile to introduce yourself to your Group

  2. Matches: introductions to others in your Group who share similar specific challenges

  3. Programs: organized courses of exercises

So why did we make these changes? Well, it’s all about what’s right for you (figuratively speaking).

We believe that being understood is critical in getting meaningful support. While in some broad sense everyone using Drinker’s Helper is trying to do the same thing (cut back or quit drinking), in another sense each person’s challenge is quite unique.

For example, some people work as bartenders, or in the wine industry. Wow. That’s a hard one. Imagine how hard it is cutting back or quitting drinking when you’re surrounded by the stuff and constantly offered free drinks!

Some people are better suited to supporting one another because they have specific challenges like that in common and can share tips. But there are more basic examples, too. Someone who primarily drinks when celebrating with their hard-partying social circle is going to have a harder time connecting with someone who primarily drinks at home alone when feeling depressed.

That’s why we created both Profiles and Matches - to help you meet people in your Group who can offer the right support to you based on what you’re dealing with. We hope you make deeper, faster connections as a result of talking with your Matches.

The same simple core insight led us to create Programs: that each of us has unique challenges in cutting back or quitting drinking. There are over 100 exercises in the Drinker’s Helper library, and it is important that we pick the right ones for you based on the support you need.

Some people need to shore up their motivation to change their drinking; others are plenty motivated and simply need some mental tricks to change how they think about alcohol. Programs allow us to tailor a set of courses to your situation.

We hope you give Profiles, Matches and Programs a try in the Drinker’s Helper app!

A mockup of a Match

A mockup of a Match

Book review: How to Change Your Drinking

We spend a lot of time researching programs that help people cut back or quit drinking, and this week we read the main book behind the Harm Reduction approach: How to Change Your Drinking, by Kenneth Anderson (see here).

It was fascinating to learn more about a program that accommodates even more goals than Drinker’s Helper. (For clarity, we help people quit drinking or achieve moderate drinking goals, but Harm Reduction also supports people pursuing goals of Safer Drinking or even Reduced Drinking that may not be moderate drinking).

Here’s what we liked and didn’t like about what we read. Overall, there’s a lot to like in the philosophy, even though we do take a firmer stance on what a desirable outcome is.

Here’s what we liked about their approach and book:

  1. Their approach emphasizes the need to give people the facts, and let them choose their own goals. We love this emphasis on the truth, as you risk rapidly lose credibility with people if you over-emphasize the severity or likelihood of health risks from drinking. We also believe people have to choose to change on their own; there is no changing someone else or insisting on a particular goal by force. It’s hard to either go sober or achieve moderation, and it requires strong internal motivation on the part of the person pursuing that goal.

  2. We love the section on confronting partners from a place of empathy. Partly for the reason above, we love that the book encourages partners to elicit their SOs’ desire to change with questions, rather than pushing hard for a specific goal. We think this is dead on. It’s nearly impossible to convince someone else to change, and you may even accidentally spur them to further drinking if they feel attacked or ashamed. Questions, empathy and understanding are easier to respond to.

  3. It emphasizes the pros as well as the cons of drinking and changing drinking. We love that the approach emphasizes the need to be honest about why drinking is appealing, and consider all the factors in choosing your course. We emphasize the same in the exercise “Roadblocks to Change.” This is important because it can severely hamper your motivation if you try to force yourself to forget or look away from the benefits of drinking for you. Instead, by acknowledging those benefits head on, and weighing them agains the costs, you can convince yourself, again and again, that sobriety or moderation is best for you, without any lingering doubt.

  4. It’s fantastic that it normalizes slips. We agree that it’s perfectly OK to go for months without drinking and then decide to have a drink on a given day to see how you feel. The book makes it perfectly clear that a slip like that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to have 20 drinks later on. It doesn’t mean you’ve relapsed and must resume your old bad habits. You can get back on track right away, and continue to feel proud of your progress. If you have been taught, on the other hand, feel as though you’ve relapsed or almost committed a crime against yourself by drinking, you may end up drinking even more.

With a lot to love, what could we possibly dislike? Well, here are our key differences of opinion.

  1. We think you need to assess why you want to get drunk. If it’s all just fun and games, that’s one thing. And for many of us, in college or graduate school, the heavy drinking is all just for fun, with no deeper meaning. But if this behavior continues after graduation, we think it’s worth examining the reason for this desire to get drunk.  It may suggest we’re trying to escape from something or cope with something. Why? Are there healthier ways to escape? Or, is there something we should change about the way we live our lives, so that we no longer want to escape by drinking? If you simply say “I like drinking,” and choose to continue, you may not learn from the reasons you drink.

  2. We don’t think safer drinking is good enough. This isn’t a matter of judgment, of course. We mean it’s not good enough as a goal for the very people who choose it, because we think they deserve better. If you’re choosing to drink, we don’t think you’re doing something immoral (unless you injure others; don’t drink and drive - ever). However, we don’t wish to make the elements of safer drinking (don’t drive drunk, don’t have unprotected sex with strangers you just met, don’t leave the house if you intend to black out and might get lost) seem optional by celebrating them as a choice. Those should always be a part of everyone’s plan. What is optional, difficult, and should be celebrated is pursuing and achieving moderation or sobriety. And, of course, it’s what we recommend to our members: either sobriety, or drinking at a low-risk level (moderation).

  3. We don’t think the book does enough to acknowledge how amazing sobriety or moderation can be. For anyone who has been addicted, achieving real freedom from craving is an amazing feeling. The balance of images we’re given by society weighs so heavily on the side of drinking, drinking heavily, and drinking for all occasions and all reasons, that we think it’s the job of programs like ours to make sure people ALSO have a good sense of the alternative. Sobriety sounds dull, but it means really feeling in control, becoming radically productive and creative, and developing a new internal strength you never knew was possible, to handle life’s battles head on. All we’re saying is give sobriety a chance!

And of course, if you have decided to give sobriety or moderation a chance, we hope we can help! We offer exercises, support groups, tracking and insights to help people cut back or quit drinking. Check out the app today!

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What we believe about drinking

Today, we were thinking about the variety of viewpoints we have seen (in books, in articles, etc.) on drinking and the right way to resolve a problem with excessive drinking.

There’s a lot more debate now than it seems like there used to be about questions like “can moderation work?” and “what is an alcoholic vs. a normal drinker?”

We decided to summarize three of our core beliefs about drinking here. Let us know what you think!

  1. We believe that drinking nothing is better than drinking moderately, but drinking moderately is better than drinking to excess. If you drink moderately (within the NIAAA guidelines, which we also share in the Drinker’s Helper app), you’re far less likely to suffer from an addiction to alcohol, which is one of the worst downsides of excessive drinking. You also won’t put yourself at risk of injuring yourself or others via accidents, or making poor judgment calls after one too many. However, if you drink moderately, you are still exposing yourself to some health risk, as recent studies have shown (see previous blog posts).

  2. We believe that there is a social stigma associated with changing your drinking behavior that should not exist. Partly this is down to an underlying desire to maintain a firm red line between “normal drinkers” and “alcoholics,” so that as a society we can avoid recognizing that alcohol is addictive, and that anyone who drinks at a certain level will likely get addicted. We believe this stigma results in people not making changes to their drinking until they’ve really messed up, and we’d all be better off if it was a more common, socially acceptable thing to do to take a break from drinking for a while. We believe most people who feel concerned about their own drinking levels will, if they carefully look at the evidence from their own experience, choose to drink moderately or quit entirely, rather than continue as they are.

  3. We believe that excessive drinking is not a moral failing to be judged, but a behavior that naturally develops when we believe inaccurate things both about alcohol and about sobriety. We believe that as a society we push alcohol so hard, across so many channels and in so many hard-to-detect ways, that it takes real work to re-program ourselves to see faults in it. As a society we train ourselves to drink to escape, relax, or have fun, among other reasons for drinking. Sobriety sounds like dull suffering, by comparison, when in fact it’s one of the best feelings there is. The work of changing those thoughts is what we try to do in the exercises in Drinker’s Helper.

If you’ve decided to cut back or quit drinking, we’d love to offer a helping hand. Drinker’s Helper offers a library of motivational exercises, support groups made up of peers at the same level of risky drinking, and drink and urge tracking and insights to help you observe your behavior and decide what you want to do.

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The Twelve Steps: Step two

Drinker’s Helper is not a twelve-step based program, but we want to help raise awareness of what the Twelve Steps are, as well as clarify why these steps may be helpful, according to our own understanding of what helps people reduce their drinking.

We’ve done previous posts on Alcoholics Anonymous overall, and on the first step. The second step of the famous “Twelve Steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous is:

“We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

This step is the one that most commonly trips up people like us, who aren’t religious, or people who don’t believe in a God that can change their behavior.

However, there are reasons why it is a helpful step for those who do believe in a higher power.

First, almost any therapy benefits from people believing that it will work (see research on the “placebo effect”). Alcoholics Anonymous is saying that the ultimate power in the universe is on your side, helping you to quit drinking. To be clear: we’re not calling God fake medicine. We’re simply saying that you’re more likely to succeed at any major habit change if you believe you can.

Second, many who work at cutting back or quitting drinking try and fail once (or even multiple times!) before succeeding. It can lead to thinking you’re simply incurable, ruining motivation to try again. One way to escape this mental trap is to believe that something outside of you can help you succeed where you’ve previously failed. This step provides hope that makes the motivation to try again stronger. In some way, you need to believe this attempt is fundamentally different from what you’ve tried before and will address the reasons you continue to drink when it doesn’t make sense on the surface.

Third, it is recognizing, subtly, that the style of drinking to which they’ve become accustomed is crazy. “Restore us to sanity”? It doesn’t just say that this greater power can help them stop drinking. It says it can help them change and behave in ways that make rational sense, unlike what they’re currently doing. That’s why we place so much emphasis on understanding the pros and cons of drinking for you in Drinker’s Helper, so that you can help yourself begin to act in accordance with what you believe is actually good for you long term.

If you’ve decided to cut back or quit drinking, we’d love to help. Drinker’s Helper is an app that provides motivational exercises, drink tracking, and a peer support group to help you along the way. Try it out free today!

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Book review: The Alcohol Experiment

We’re huge fans of Annie Grace at Drinker’s Helper, so it’s no surprised we loved her latest book, The Alcohol Experiment, which condenses much of the content of her flagship book This Naked Mind into a short read intended to be used as a guide to taking a 30-day reprieve from drinking.

That’s right: we think of it as a reprieve, not a break, or a fast, or anything like that, because after all, you’re doing something good for yourself that ultimately ends up being fun and fulfilling!

Here’s what we really like about the book:

  1. She has a broad understanding of the most common beliefs (we refer to them as triggers) that make people want to drink - things like stress relief, dealing with kids, having better sex, etc. Reading either of her books often feels like you’re reading your own innermost thoughts from your time as a heavy drinker. This empathy makes it that much easier to listen to what she says about why these beliefs are based on faulty premises.

  2. We also strongly believe in the importance of self care. That’s why an entire section of exercises in Drinker’s Helper is designed to help people who are experiencing sadness to ward it off with something beside alcohol. This isn’t just about getting massages or taking hot baths; it’s also about watching the way you speak to yourself (she has ample evidence about the importance of this!), not beating yourself up when you make a mistake, and not labeling yourself as weak-willed, such that you handicap your own efforts to cut back or quit.

  3. We share a similar view on moderation, which is that it’s absolutely possible, although we personally found it exhausting and chose sobriety for that reason.

The areas we disagree are few and far between, but I’ll highlight a couple that stood out to me:

  1. It seems we place a bit more emphasis on discovering and enhancing your personal motivation to change your drinking. Her book focuses more on addressing the beliefs and thoughts that lead to drinking, which is closer to cognitive behavioral therapy (which we also use) than motivational enhancement therapy. We use exercises drawn from a combination of both, primarily because we think different people may have very different reasons for changing their drinking, and that it’s important that they find the reasons that work for them. This may be in part related to the other area where our thinking differs…

  2. …which is that we do admit that alcohol has some real benefits (I know, I know, cue screeching record sound!). To be clear, we think the downsides of drinking VASTLY outweigh the benefits. But we think it’s important to acknowledge that drinking in small amounts does lower your inhibitions, making first dates and new social gatherings easier; it does make you feel a happy buzz (again, at low levels of drinking, like below a 0.055 BAC. It can be frustrating to try to deny that those feelings happen as a result of drinking. The problem is that it’s really, really hard, especially over time, to stick to those very low levels of drinking. And if you can’t, well, the risks are enormous. That’s why we also think you need to spend time figuring out your most important reasons for changing your drinking - so you can have the strongest cons to bring to bear against those pros in your decision-making.

All in all, we love the book and think the experiment is well worth doing. If you have decided to quit drinking or pursue moderate drinking, we’d love to be part of your journey! Drinker’s Helper is a moderate drinking app (or quit drinking app) that has exercises, tracking, insights, and a virtual support group to help you along the way. Try it free for seven days!

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How to slow down drinking

A lot of our tips focus on people who are trying to quit drinking. But a good number of those using Drinker’s Helper are simply trying to moderate their drinking, and have seen great success with doing so. We actually started with moderating drinking ourselves, because when we first set out, it was hard to imagine we’d ever quit drinking! (We did).

Here are some of the best tips for moderating drinking we’ve seen - don’t hesitate to add your own in the comments!

  1. Choose drinks that are intense in flavor, so you don’t gulp, but sip them. Things with a sour citrus note, or bitters, could help. The goal is to actually get a better experience out of moderating than drinking quickly!

  2. Nix the shots. This should go without saying, but shots are intended to get you drunk, quickly. Once you’re drunk, it’s much harder to control your impulses and stop at your limits. The goal is to get and remain tipsy, and not to get drunk.

  3. Consume less alcohol per glass. You can achieve this in a few ways. With cocktails, it’s easy - simply put less hard alcohol in each glass with your mixers. But with beer or wine: you can pick one that has a lower percentage alcohol by volume, or achieve the same effect by diluting your drink with water. We used to put ice cubes in our wine as a way of doing this, and before you give us scandalized expressions, the Romans used to do it, and they knew their wine!

  4. Alternate alcoholic drinks with non alcoholic ones. If you’re in for a long day (tailgating, watching March Madness, partying with friends, celebrating a big occasion), it’s hard to go a whole day on just alcoholic drinks and stick to a moderation limit. But if you alternate gin & tonic with just tonic water, chances are you can make it just fine.

  5. Plan ahead for how long each drink has to last you. This helps you know if you’re on pace throughout the night. If the night is 3 hours and you only want to have 2 drinks, either start late or plan to nurse those puppies!

We firmly believe that moderation is possible for many of those who struggle with alcohol abuse.

If you’re thinking of cutting back on drinking, we encourage you to try out Drinker’s Helper, our moderation app that provides tracking, insights, exercises, and support groups to people looking to quit or cut back on drinking. Try it free for a week!

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UK says no more drunk flight passengers

If alcohol just makes you have fun, be free, be yourself, be sexy, etc, why on earth aren’t we all drunk all the time?

Well, one reason is alcohol-fueled violence. If you’re angry, alcohol removes the inhibitions that might otherwise prevent a violent outburst, and makes it much easier to end up in a fight.

Many drinkers are used to drinking when they travel as a way to pass the time in boring airports or in overcrowded planes. Apparently, there have been enough instances of drunk and disorderly airplane passengers that the UK, famous for its wild New Years photos, is taking action. In fact, in 2017 there was a 50% increase over the previous year in passengers being held for their drunken conduct!

This article says, in brief:

  1. All duty free shops will seal alcohol purchases in the UK from now on, so they can’t be opened during the flight

  2. Gatwick airport has ended shots in its bars

Of course, none of this stops you from ordering drinks on board, or smuggling small bottles of alcohol in your luggage (there’s always a way, if you really want to get drunk), but it’s an encouraging sign that the duty free stores and airports want to help airlines avoid these kinds of incidents.

If you’ve had an embarrassing outburst or two (we certainly did, when we drank, although not on board any planes), consider quitting or cutting back. If you do, we’d love to help! Drinker’s Helper is an app to help people moderate their drinking or quit drinking entirely. Check it out today!

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Research says hangovers make you anti-social

Although alcohol is a social lubricant at night, by morning it transforms us into reserved people. A new study showed rats who were hungover were much less social than normal. This is consistent with a subsequent qualitative study of college students.

Here’s the scoop:

  • Younger people, who are better able to cope with hangovers, do not react as badly to them (and the same is true of younger rats!)

  • People bond over being hung over (shared pain does seem like it’s part of the college bonding experience, doesn’t it? Frat hazing, anyone?)

  • As we’ve previously mentioned a few times, this anti-social effect is probably down to the fact that alcohol causes increased anxiety afterward! There is also significant fatigue and of course physical pain (especially for those of us over 30).

Check out the article here, and if you’re interested in quitting drinking (or cutting back), we’d love to help! Drinker’s Helper is an app to help you quit drinking or achieve moderation, and includes exercises, support groups, tracking and stats to help you do it!

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Health risks of even moderate drinking

While most studies agree heavy drinkers are in for it, health-wise, we’re sure you’ve also seen headlines purporting to prove that drinking actually protects the heart (typically, those claims revolve specifically around red wine). Sometimes, these studies showing health benefits from moderate drinking don’t correct for other variables that could explain health differences between non-drinkers and moderate drinkers.

A new study has attempted to correct for some of these variables (age, sex, body mass index, etc.), and found drinking just 7 to 13 drinks a week (within moderation limits recommended by the NIAAA) can increase risk of stage 1 hypertension by 1.5 times. See the full article here.

In Drinker’s Helper, we do support moderation as a goal for those who are concerned about their level of drinking and possible addiction to alcohol. But that endorsement of moderation comes with acknowledging that any drinking at all does have health risks.

Think of it like a sugar addiction. Moderating your sugar intake is good, and probably means you’re beating the addiction, but quitting entirely would be better for your long term health.

Just sharing what we’ve learned! If you’re looking to cut back on drinking, or ultimately looking to quit, try out Drinker’s Helper today!

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How you can track your progress in Drinker's Helper

When quitting or cutting back on drinking, it’s important to set goals and track your progress.

Many apps offer helpful trackers for the purpose of counting days of sobriety. Drinker’s Helper is a little different, primarily because we also support people who are trying to cut back on drinking, in addition to those who quit entirely.

Here’s how we help people quit or cut back with Tracking & Insights.

We help people set and track drinking against their limits:

  1. We guide people to set daily and weekly drinking limits that are in line with what the NIAAA recommends as a healthy drinking limit. Only 2 in 100 people who observe these limits have an alcohol use disorder, according to their research. People can also set a limit of zero, of course, if their goal is total sobriety!

  2. When people track their drinks, they can see whether they are on track or not for the week vs. their goals. If someone has a heavy drinking day, for example, they might be off track for the week, but can catch up if they stay sober the rest of the week.

We help people motivate themselves with signs of progress:

  1. We help people see their streaks over time (how long they’ve stayed within their limits). This is one of the most important ways people can motivate themselves in the app. We let them know when their streak has gotten longer.

  2. People can also set a pledge in the app to stay sober for a certain number of days. This is one way to motivate themselves to complete a short-term stint of sobriety. They can be anywhere from a single day to a full year. We believe this can be one of the best ways to start out using the app!

  3. We also help people compare their progress to others using the app. That way they have a better sense of whether they’re checking in often enough, or doing enough exercises, compared to the community.

We help people understand why they’re drinking:

  1. Our insights give people a better sense of why they’re drinking. When people track a drink, they also track where they were, who they were with, and more. Then they can see over time what their top drinking situations are. It helps people to discover their triggers, so they can plan to deal with them. This helped us out a ton when we were first using the app ourselves.

  2. Finally, we also help people track urges to drink. It’s important to be able to track what gives you urges to drink, even if you don’t give in. This helps you get an even better sense of what triggers make you want a drink.

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How people quit or reduce drinking: Setting goals

We’ve been around for a little while now, and we wanted to start sharing some of what we’re learning from our community of members with you. Of course, we won’t share anything specific to any person or small group - just overall averages and percentages. But we think even this high-level info can be helpful to get a sense for what people do when they set out to quit or cut back on drinking.

Let’s start with setting goals. What does that look like?

Here are just a few things we’ve learned about the goals people set in Drinker’s Helper:

  1. People seek help with just cutting back on drinking, not just staying sober. Only 25% of those using Drinker’s Helper have set weekly drinking goals of 0. It’s often overlooked that people who are cutting back on drinking (not just those who are quitting) still want encouragement, advice, and support. It’s tougher than you might think!

  2. People will generally set a reasonable drinking limit, if you advise them as to what that is. We’ve seen less than 5% of our members set daily drinking limits higher than those recommended by the NIAA, and less than 6% set higher weekly drinking limits. It’s encouraging that given the right information, people will make good choices!

  3. People like to start out with a pledge. Fully half of our members set a pledge on their first day using the app. A pledge is a promise to stay sober for a certain number of days. Making a formal pledge can help to strengthen commitment to change, and staying sober can help a person see what life without alcohol is like, and understand their own level of addiction to it.

  4. People are generally able to stick with their goals. We were delighted to find that 78% of our members who checked in were within their drinking limits. Obviously, for those who don’t check in, we have no way of knowing how they’re doing. But it’s encouraging to see that something - the tracking, the goal-setting, the group, the commitment - appears to be working for them.

We’ll keep coming back to you with more insight on what we’re learning in the Drinker’s Helper app. For now, if you are interested but haven’t explored the app yet, please do check it out! We help people quit or cut back on drinking with a combination of drink and urge tracking, insights, a personalized support group, and our library of exercises.


Apps to help people quit drinking

While we of course hope that you use and love Drinker’s Helper, we also want to be sure you have all the tools at your disposal to quit or cut back on drinking. Many of our members use multiple apps, and we want to let you know about some of ones we’ve heard work well.

The benefit of using an app (or more than one app!)

Here are some of the top rated apps that can help you quit or cut back on drinking:

  1. Sober Grid (rated 4.9 stars): This app is great for finding people near you who are also trying to go sober, and getting encouragement from the community. It also helps you track your progress and feel a sense of accomplishment by hitting particular milestones.

  2. I am Sober (rated 4.8 stars): The core of this app is a sobriety counter that helps you track how long you’ve been sober and celebrates successful attainment of sobriety milestones. People also seem to love the motivational quotes, and the ability to make daily personal pledges to strengthen their commitment to sobriety.

  3. Nomo (rated 4.8 stars): Although it also has a simple sobriety clock, this is one of the most feature-complete apps in terms of offering many different tools to quit or cut back on drinking. They offer games to distract yourself instead of drinking, a journal, community encouragement, milestone celebrations, the ability to find accountability partners and talk to them, and more.

We encourage you to explore the apps that are out there and find what works for you. There are quite a few apps that are designed to help people quit or cut back on drinking. You can see more profiled here on Healthline).

Our app, Drinker’s Helper (rated 4.5 stars), combines three important pieces of the process: support groups, tracking and insights, and motivational exercises.

We have our own unique take on all three. For the support groups, we think it’s important that you talk to people similar to you, so we match you with others who have similar past drinking habits.

For the tracking and insights, we think it’s important not just to track drinking, but also to track urges to drink and the circumstances behind each. That helps you get an idea of what drives you to drink, so you can more effectively fight our urges.

Finally, for the exercises, we drew from two evidence-based therapies: cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational enhancement therapy.

We believe that using the app, you can get valuable support to quit or cut back on drinking. Join today!

Moderation programs

It’s not as common to hear about people working to moderate their drinking (vs. quit drinking entirely), as many of the more prominent programs that help problem drinkers focus on total abstinence from alcohol.

However, cutting back on drinking is a much more palatable goal to many people, and some may avoid seeking help until it’s to late because they don’t want to go fully sober.

Moderation programs can be especially good for people who have not yet developed a dependence on alcohol, but instead merely drink in a risky manner.

While we at Drinker’s Helper always advocate for sobriety (it’s just easier in the long run, in so many ways), we believe moderation can work for a lot of people and setting a moderate drinking goal in our app. We also believe there are a few additional programs out there that do a great job helping people stick to moderation goals:

  1. Moderation Management: We especially love this program because its founder focused heavily on cognitive behavioral therapy in developing their strategies to help people stick to moderation goals. There are online forums as well as in person meetings, online drink tracking, and resources in the form of handbooks to help you quit or cut back.

  2. ModerateDrinking.com: This online, self-directed web app program helps people stick to moderate drinking goals, and has been proven effective in a randomized clinical trial funded by NIH/NIAAA.

Both Moderation Management and Moderate Drinking are included on the SAMHSA National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP), which means they have been shown to be effective for some people to quit or cut back on drinking.

You can use either of these programs in conjunction with Drinker’s Helper, and many of our members try multiple approaches at once to have the best chance of success.

Can moderation work?

There is a widely held belief, in the US especially, that if you have a drinking problem (a ‘real ‘drinking problem, or alcohol abuse disorder) that your only option to get better is to stop drinking alcohol entirely. This is partly because of the prevalence of Alcoholics Anonymous as the only brand name treatment for alcohol abuse disorder - they advocate for abstinence and maintain it is the only possible course of action to resolve a drinking problem.

This belief in the US was strengthened by the death of the founder of Moderation Management, a popular online moderation program, in a drunk driving accident (however, it should be noted that said founder had actually returned to Alcoholics Anonymous and was trying to quit entirely at that point).

While there are benefits to quitting drinking (see our previous post on this topic), there is strong evidence that moderation can work well as a goal, and actually has some additional side benefits.

As for the proof that moderation can work, here are just a few examples of studies showing that programs designed to reduce drinking rather than eliminate drinking can work:

  1. One University of New Mexico study followed people 3 to 8 years after completing moderation-focused goal-setting and self-monitoring therapy for problem drinking, and found 65% were doing better than they were originally. It suggested moderation could work for all but the most heavily addicted to alcohol.

  2. A University of Texas study followed up with people a year after an 8-week drinking reduction program, and found they had reduced their drinking by 64%, and that those who still used the strategies from the program were most likely to be controlling their drinking.

  3. Two surveys published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that of people who resolved their drinking problems on their own, without treatment, 40-60% were successfully moderating their drinking.

Now, for the side benefits:

  1. Better awareness of your problem: If you start moderating your drinking (and tracking it, using an app like Drinker’s Helper), you become more aware of how much you’ve been drinking and how strong your desire to keep going after 1 or 2 drinks is. If you simply quit, you miss the booze, but it’s easier to convince yourself that you might not have had a problem in the first place.

  2. More people getting help. More people are comfortable with the idea of moderating their drinking than quitting entirely (in fact, one study found that when people are given the option, 80% choose moderation over abstinence). If you try to ask for a change as significant as quitting entirely, you may just get a no. But once someone is moderating, it is much easier to then contemplate taking that further step.

The most interesting part is that aside from having a LOWER level of dependence on alcohol, one of the biggest contributing factors to success with moderation is BELIEF that you can do it.

So go forth and do it! We believe you can, and we can help, with Drinker’s Helper.