Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Font Size

Can Alcoholics Learn to Drink Less?

WebMD Health News

July 21, 2000 -- Must heavy drinkers "admit powerlessness over alcohol" -- the first of Alcoholics Anonymous' 12 steps -- and strive for abstinence, or can they, through force of will and pharmaceuticals, learn to "moderate" their drinking? Although moderation is an accepted treatment goal in Europe, the approach is generally viewed with a skepticism approaching rancor by much of the U.S. medical establishment.

The long-standing debate returned to the fore this month, when two heavy-hitters from the world of addiction treatment made headlines.

First, Audrey Kishline, founder of alcohol treatment organization Moderation Management (MM), pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide after killing a man and his 12-year-old daughter while driving drunk. The accident occurred shortly after Kishline renounced MM's controlled-drinking approach and began attending AA.

Also, Alex DeLuca, MD, former director of New York's renowned Smithers Addiction Treatment and Research Center, which has treated such celebrities as Truman Capote, resigned his post after the St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital governing body rejected his appeal to adopt MM as a "kinder, gentler" alternative to the center's abstinence-based approach.

Though unrelated, the incidents underscore the seriousness of the controversy, "at the crux of which is ignorance of or refusal to accept that problem drinkers differ from alcoholics," says National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) spokeswoman Ann Bradley. "The press has lumped them together," fueling the controversy, she says.

To clarify, "alcohol abuse is a constellation of problems related to alcohol use that stop short of ... addiction, [whereas] alcoholism entails dependence [or addiction]," Bradley says. "In this country, most doctors believe that abstinence is the appropriate treatment for alcohol dependence," while extensive data indicate that "for alcohol abusers, cutting back is a reasonable goal," she says.

"We in Moderation Management agree fully with that statement," says Marc Kern, PhD, member of MM's board of directors, and founder and director of Addiction Alternatives in Los Angeles. "I don't know if it's the Puritan ethic or what," he says, "but there is a fundamentalist view of alcohol treatment in this country." Those who are "up in arms about this have preconceived notions that we're prescribing [moderation] for everyone, which is not the case," he tells WebMD.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

child ignored by parents
prescription pain pills
Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms
Teen girl huddled outside house
Man with glass of scotch
overturned shot glass
assortment of medication
Depressed and hurting