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What is Moderation Management (MM)?

Moderation Management (MM) is an alcohol consumption management program. It offers both guidance regarding alcohol consumption and a network of peer support for people interested in changing their drinking behavior. 

Moderation Management was the first moderation-based addiction treatment program and offers assistance to people who struggle with alcohol whether they want to embrace abstinence or moderation and they acknowledge that for many, moderation is more easily achievable than abstinence. 

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It offers a supportive environment that encourages members to cut back or stop drinking before an addiction develops or before they have a severe drinking problem. It is a nine-step program that offers information, guidelines, exercises, goal-setting assistance, and self-management strategies to help people practice controlled drinking. 

The goal is to help members find balance and moderation in all areas of their life, including alcohol consumption.

What is Considered Moderate Alcohol Consumption?

Many health experts believe it is possible to consume limited amounts of alcohol safely. According to their recommendations, moderate alcohol consumption is two drinks per day or less for men and one drink or less per day for women. 

However, an increasing amount of research has shown that not drinking is better than drinking. Moderation guidelines are not intended to encourage non-drinkers to drink one or two drinkers per day. Instead, they are meant to say “if you drink, don’t drink more than this.”

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The Philosophy of Alcohol Moderation Management Programs

The philosophy of Moderation Management programs is that people can change their behavior to avoid alcohol use and prevent dependence. Moderation Management programs are based on use (not dependence) as a habit and not a disease.

The program acknowledges that heavy drinkers suffer many mild to moderate to severe programs because of alcohol, but if done at the early stages, taking a moderate approach is an option. 

Moderation management encourages personal responsibility instead of turning over control to something external. Members seek help from other members and offer help to other members. The program acknowledges that self-management and self-esteem are essential parts of recovery. Members are treated with dignity and respect.

The program assumes:

  • Problem drinkers deserve a choice of behavioral change goals
  • Addressing habits at an early stage prevents them from becoming severe
  • Education and shared experiences help members make informed choices about moderation and abstinence
  • Harm reduction is beneficial when abstinence is not realistic
  • Forced change is unproductive 

Moderation programs spend a shorter period determining if moderation is a workable solution. Instead, it provides specific guidelines about moderation and considers it a natural part of the process. It doesn’t matter if abstinence or moderation is the final goal. 

How Does Moderation Management Work?

Moderation Management is a nine-step program. It promotes abstinence for the first 30 days of the program. After that, it encourages moderation. Members can choose to abstain from alcohol or set limits based on their personal needs and desires.

Moderation Management members have access to peer support and education.

Moderation Management Approaches 

Moderation Management is based on the approaches that:

  • “Problem drinking” and alcoholism are different and that far more people misusing alcohol do not qualify as full-blown alcoholics who have a physical dependence
  • People need an alternative to AA and its requirement of a commitment to abstinence
  • It’s possible to help more people with a moderate approach
  • Viewing problem drinking as a disease over which you are powerless to control isn’t productive. In part, this is because that disempowering approach isn’t helpful for people victimized or disenfranchised by society.
  • Harm reduction is better than no harm reduction.

Abstinence-based programs are right for some people. Some MM participants might eventually opt to participate in an abstinence program.

MM members follow nine-steps, including:

  1. Attend meetings online or in-person and learn about the program of Moderation Management.
  2. Abstain from alcohol consumption for 30 days and complete steps three through six during this time.
  3. Examine how drinking has affected their lives.
  4. Put their life priorities in writing.
  5. Examine how much, how often, and under what circumstances they’ve been drinking.
  6. Learn the MM guidelines and limits for moderate drinking.
  7. Set moderate drinking limits and start weekly “small steps.” The goal is to work toward balance and moderation in all areas of life.
  8. Review progress and update goals.
  9. Continue to make positive lifestyle changes and attend meetings when in need of ongoing support or to help newcomers.

Who is Moderation Management For?

Moderation Management is for those who want to change their drinking behaviors but do not have an alcohol use disorder. It allows members to determine their ultimate goal, be it abstinence of moderation.

The program offers guidelines members can choose to follow or not. In addition to the drink limits, MM also suggests:

  • Not drinking and driving
  • Not drinking in situations that pose a risk to anyone
  • Having “no alcohol days” or abstaining from drinking three to four days per week

Moderation Management is not for everyone and the program acknowledges that. It accepts that there are numerous solutions to dealing with alcohol use. People should find the best solution for themselves.

It’s also possible for someone to try Moderation Management and if ineffective, members can opt for a more intensive treatment program.

What is Moderate Drinking (MD)?

Moderate Drinking (MD) is a confidential program that helps people achieve and maintain moderation. The program is for people who would like to cut back or stop drinking alcohol.

The program bases its alcohol consumption guidelines on the widely accepted belief that moderate drinking is as follows:

  • No more than 3-4 standard drinks per drinking episode 
  • No more than 9 drinks per week for women and 12-14 for men.

Moderate Drinking (MD) vs. Moderation Management (MM)

Moderate Drinking (MD) and Moderation Management (MM) are similar programs. Some people use both programs. Both programs offer support and guidance for heavy drinkers who do not have alcohol use disorder. The goal is to help people reduce consumption of alcohol before it becomes a problem.

Moderate Drinking is a behavioral self-control training program. It includes four elements:

  • Goal setting
  • Self-monitoring
  • Controlling drinking
  • Tracking progress

Moderation Management is a support network. It includes:

  • Peer support
  • Self-help tools
  • Recommended alcohol consumption guidelines 

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) vs. Moderation Management (MM)

Both Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Moderation Management (MM) are designed to help people improve their health as it relates to alcohol consumption. However, the programs have very different approaches.

The primary difference is how the programs view abstinence. AA requires a commitment to abstinence, whereas Moderation Management encourages moderation and allows the member to determine if abstinence is possible and/or preferred.

Both programs offer face-to-face and online support group meetings. There are other tools, as well, including online forums, books, and one-on-one peer support.

How to Attend a Moderation Management Meeting

Moderation Management meetings are available in-person and online.

Attendees should abstain from alcohol for 30 days before MM meetings. They also complete up to six steps of the nine-step program. During this time, they examine the effect of alcohol on their life. They should record their priorities and assess when, where, why, and how much they drink.

Members set moderate drinking limits once they are in the program and take small steps weekly to practice responsible drinking. The goal is to achieve balance and moderation in all areas of life. They frequently review their progress and update their goals as needed.

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Resources

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“What Is Moderation Management? – Moderation Management Public Hub.” Members.moderation.org, https://www.members.moderation.org/what-is-moderation-management/. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021.

Girvan, Amy. “The next AA? Welcome to Moderation Management, Where Abstinence from Alcohol Isn’t the Answer.” The Guardian, 16 Mar. 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/mar/16/the-next-aa-moderation-management-abstinence-alcohol-isnt-the-answer.

“Moderation Management Non-Profit for Self-Managed Alcohol Moderation.” Moderation ManagementTM, https://www.moderation.org/.

Harvard Health Publishing. “Alcohol Abstinence vs. Moderation - Harvard Health.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health, 2009, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/alcohol-abstinence-vs-moderation.

Harvard Health Publishing. “Alcohol Abuse - Harvard Health.” Harvard Health, 5 Dec. 2014, https://www.health.harvard.edu/addiction/alcohol-abuse.

CDC - Fact Sheets- Moderate Drinking - Alcohol. 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm.

“Alcohol Use Disorder | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).” www.niaaa.nih.gov, http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-use-disorder.

“How to Moderate Your Drinking: An Online Program | CheckUp & Choices.” CheckUp and Choices, https://www.checkupandchoices.com/moderatedrinking/.

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