Can An Alcoholic Ever Drink Again?

Because of the chronic and relapsing nature of Alcohol Use Disorder, recovering alcoholics should abstain from drinking, even in moderation.

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For individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD), the goal of treatment is typically abstinence from alcohol to maintain recovery.

This is because alcoholism is a chronic condition characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over drinking, and negative consequences.

What Is An Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition characterized by problematic patterns of alcohol consumption that lead to significant life impairment.

The disorder is diagnosed based on specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Some common signs and symptoms of AUD include:

  • a strong desire or urge to consume alcohol
  • inability to limit alcohol consumption, leading to heavy drinking
  • development of tolerance for alcohol
  • needing to drink more alcohol to achieve the desired effects
  • experiencing withdrawal symptoms when quitting alcohol
  • continued use despite negative consequences
  • spending a significant amount of time drinking or recovering from the effects of alcohol
  • giving up or reducing social or recreational activities due to alcohol use

The severity of a person’s drinking problem is classified as mild, moderate, or severe based on the number of criteria met.

AUD is a chronic, relapsing condition that can have serious consequences for physical health, mental health, and overall well-being.

How Does The CDC Define Moderate Alcohol Use?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

This definition is based on standard drink sizes in the United States, which typically contain about 14 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol.

For example, the CDC defines a standard drink as:

  • 12 ounces of beer (about five percent alcohol content, or one beer)
  • 5 ounces of wine (about 12 percent alcohol content, or one glass of wine)
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits or liquor (about 40 percent alcohol content)

Factors such as weight, overall health, and individual tolerance to alcohol can influence how alcohol affects an individual.

The Risks Of Using Alcohol In Addiction Recovery

Using alcohol after receiving addiction treatment can undermine the recovery process.

Some of the risks associated with alcohol use in addiction recovery include relapse, treatment interference, and negative health consequences.

Triggering Relapse

For people recovering from alcohol addiction, even moderate alcohol consumption can trigger cravings and lead to a return to problematic drinking patterns.

Using alcohol can reignite the cycle of addiction, making it challenging to maintain sobriety and achieve long-term recovery goals.

Impaired Judgment And Decision-Making

Alcohol impairs cognitive function, judgment, and decision-making abilities, making it more difficult for people in recovery to make healthy choices and resist urges to use substances.

Impaired judgment can increase the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors and relapse triggers.

Negative Health Consequences

Alcohol use can have detrimental effects on physical health, including liver damage, cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal issues, and neurological impairments.

People in addiction recovery may already be vulnerable to health complications due to substance misuse, and using alcohol can exacerbate these risks.

Interference With Treatment

Alcohol use can interfere with the effectiveness of addiction treatment and recovery efforts.

It can diminish the therapeutic benefits of counseling, behavioral therapies, and support groups by impairing emotional regulation and disrupting the healing process.

Psychological And Emotional Impact

Using alcohol can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues commonly experienced by people in addiction recovery.

Alcohol use may worsen mood disturbances, undermine coping mechanisms, and increase the risk of co-occurring mental health disorders.

Social Consequences

Alcohol use can strain relationships with family members, friends, and peers who may be supportive of the recovery process.

It can also lead to conflicts, hindering the establishment of a sober support network that’s essential for long-term recovery.

Expert Debates On Moderate Alcohol Use In Recovery

In expert debates on moderate alcohol use in addiction recovery, there’s often an idealized view of abstinence as the safest approach for individuals with a history of alcohol abuse or addiction.

However, the reality for many people in recovery is more nuanced, with some people struggling to maintain long-term abstinence, especially in social situations.

In response to this reality, experts may employ harm reduction strategies to reduce the risk of recurring alcohol abuse while acknowledging that complete abstinence may not be achievable for everyone.

Harm reduction approaches focus on minimizing the negative consequences of alcohol use rather than demanding a lifetime of total abstinence.

This can involve setting realistic goals for alcohol consumption, avoiding high-risk situations, and learning strategies to cope with cravings.

Learn About Treatment For Alcohol Abuse And Problem Drinking

If you or a loved one is experiencing alcohol addiction, professional alcohol treatment programs can make a difference. Contact Bedrock Recovery Center today to learn more.

  1. Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF)
  2. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),on%20a%20day%20for%20men.
  4. Mayo Clinic
  5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
  6. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
  7. National Library of Medicine: PubMed

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: March 6, 2024

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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