Addiction Counselors and Abstinence

November 6, 2013

The American Psychological Association released a recent study in their journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors showing that up to half of addiction counselors deem it acceptable to allow alcohol abusing clients to have an occasional drink. This is a significant increase from about twenty years ago when a similar survey showed only one quarter of counselors willing to allow some alcohol use. With drugs of abuse, a similar number of counselors believed it was acceptable to allow moderate drug use as a step toward their ultimate treatment goal.

It is important to note that when counselors were asked if they would condone some drug or alcohol use in those diagnosed with dependence issues, far fewer did.

It may seem shocking that such a high proportion of counselors believe that some drug or alcohol use during treatment is acceptable, but there are many and varied treatment philosophies employed across the country and the world. Indeed, the level of openness to moderate substance use during treatment was much higher in some other countries around the world including the UK.

Read the APA’s press release here: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2012/11/alcohol-drug-abuse.aspx

Our take: Abstinence is of course the best outcome for anyone who may be considering abusing, abusing or dependent on a substance of abuse. There are many philosophies that vary widely in our industry – a product of treatment plans and philosophies that are as diverse as the clients we treat. This study did not measure the ultimate results and effectiveness of treatment when total abstinence versus moderate use is employed. Anyone can relapse and as a result the jury will be out for a long time to come. Clients and families should and must understand that this is one of the many questions to be asked of a center before treatment begins.

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