NuView Treatment Center Logo
Nuview Treatment Center Logo

Los Angeles IOP Drug Rehab for Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

Can Alcoholics Ever Go Back to Casual Drinking?

Table of Contents

Is it possible to ever drink casually when you’re an alcoholic? Can they learn how to drink in moderation? While it is a tempting thought, the answer is not very straightforward. The reality is that alcoholism is a lifelong disease that can never truly be cured.

It can, however, be managed with the right treatment and support.

In this article, we will explore the topic of quitting drinking and whether alcoholics can ever go back to casual drinking. We will delve into the nature of alcoholism and what it means to be an alcoholic. We will also discuss the potential risks and consequences of recovering alcoholics trying to return to casual drinking, as well as the strategies and tools that can help individuals manage their addiction.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism also called alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a long-term, progressive disease marked by a pattern of drinking alcohol in a way that causes problems or a lot of stress. People with alcoholism may find it hard to control how much alcohol they drink, have strong cravings for alcohol, and keep drinking even though it makes their lives worse.

Alcoholism can cause a wide range of physical, mental, and social problems, such as liver disease, depression, anxiety, problems with personal relationships, legal problems, and money problems.

Remember that alcohol use disorder is a medical condition. If you suspect yourself or someone you love of alcoholism, make sure to seek support from medical professionals or alcohol rehab to help manage your condition effectively.

What is Casual Drinking?

Casual drinking refers to the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages in social settings or during leisure time, without developing problematic patterns or bad habits of alcohol use or dependence. It generally involves drinking in moderation, which means limiting alcohol intake to a drinking level that is not harmful to the body or mind.

For men, this means no more than four drinks per day, and for women, no more than three drinks per day. Casual drinking is often associated with socializing, relaxing, and celebrating, and can be a part of a healthy lifestyle for those who can consume alcohol in moderation.

However, it is important to remember that excessive drinking or binge drinking, even on a casual basis, can be harmful to health and can lead to the development of alcohol use disorder or other alcohol-related health problems too.

It is also worth noting that not everyone can handle alcohol in the same way. Some people may have a lower tolerance for beer or hard liquor or be more prone to addiction, making it more challenging to drink alcohol in moderation.

What Is the Difference Between Casual Drinking and Alcohol Addiction?

Casual drinking and addiction are two vastly different things. Casual drinking in moderation usually means drinking a moderate amount of alcohol without any negative consequences related to alcohol and substance use disorders. Non-alcoholics who engage in casual drinking can generally maintain control over how much or how often they drink.

Alcohol addiction, on the other hand, is a chronic disease. People with alcohol addiction can experience can find it hard to quit drinking despite the negative effects it may cause their lives.

Most times, they may not even see that their drinking problem is causing an issue. However, alcoholics tend to experience a range of observable symptoms including:

  • loss of control over drinking
  • continued use of alcohol despite negative consequences
  • tolerance to alcohol
  • withdrawal symptoms when not drinking.

Do note that alcohol consumption varies from person to person and can fall into different categories depending on the frequency and quantity of alcohol consumed, as well as the person’s relationship with alcohol.

With that said, alcohol consumption can fall on a spectrum and not everyone falls neatly into one of these categories. A person’s drinking pattern may also change over time in response to different factors such as stress or life events.

Just remember that if you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use, seeking professional help can be an important step towards managing the issue effectively.

How Can I Tell If Alcohol Has Become a Problem?

Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that can have devastating effects on the person and their loved ones. There are millions of people all over the world who struggle with it daily.

As common as it is, it can be challenging to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse or alcoholism, especially in yourself or your loved ones. Keep in mind that alcohol addiction isn’t just about the amount of alcohol you drink, but also about the impact it has on your daily life.

Here are some signs of alcoholism to look out for:

  • Consuming more alcohol than intended
  • Cravings and loss of control
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Continued alcohol abuse despite negative consequences
  • Withdrawal symptoms like shaking, sweating, or nausea when attempting to quit drinking

Please note that not everyone with alcohol use disorder exhibits all of these signs, and some may have other indicators of addiction.

Can Alcoholics Ever Drink Again?

When people come for alcohol treatment, one of the most common things they ask is whether they really have to commit to abstinence forever. Can they learn controlled drinking? Can they become social drinkers?

As we mentioned before, the answer is not always straightforward. While moderate drinking is possible and achievable for some people after completing alcohol treatment and maintaining sobriety, many individuals with a history of alcohol abuse cannot.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, around 90% of people who abuse alcohol will experience a relapse within four years of receiving treatment. This statistic highlights the challenges that many individuals face in managing their alcohol consumption.

At the same time, research has shown that the brain chemistry of individuals with a history of alcoholism and alcohol dependence may be permanently altered, making it more difficult for them to drink in moderation. The brain’s reward system becomes hyperactive when exposed to alcohol, which can lead to cravings and a loss of control.

For this reason, complete abstinence from alcohol is often necessary to manage alcohol addiction and prevent relapse.

That being said, it is important to note that every individual’s journey to long term recovery is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It is also true that while many people who abuse alcohol may find it difficult to go back to controlled drinking or social drinking, it is not impossible for everyone.

Can Alcoholics Drink in Moderation?

For years, most people and experts believed that drinking alcohol in moderation is simply not possible and that there is no room for “just one drink” for anyone with an alcohol problem. However, currently, there are known programs like Moderation Management which allows for controlled drinking and have been successful in helping people learn to have one drink safely.

With that said, while moderate drinking is possible for some people who have had issues with alcohol abuse, this is not meant for everyone. People who are diagnosed with alcohol use disorder may find it even harder to be successful in the moderation approach.

What is Moderation Management?

Moderation Management is a treatment approach that allows individuals to practice controlled consumption while addressing the underlying issues motivating their drinking.

Similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), MM has meetings and a supportive community to help you keep your alcohol use in check. That being said, it is basically impossible for an alcoholic to practice controlled drinking.

Most people involved in this form of treatment are not diagnosed with alcohol use disorder and is most beneficial for those who are not physically dependent on alcohol. That means that this approach is not an effective or sustainable one in terms of minimizing the risks associated with drinking in alcoholics.

Although MM could be beneficial to individuals who think they drink a bit too much, it is not meant for true alcoholics. Those who try moderation approaches to treatment usually end up switching to abstinence as it is the most effective.

Keep in mind that although a moderation approach to treatment does not involve staying completely sober, it does require a 30-day abstinence period. This period is used to develop strategies to identify and manage triggers as well as to learn tactics to keep your drinking in check. Moderation Management (MM) requires individuals to realistically look at their drinking and the reasons for it.

Abstinence versus Moderation

It can be difficult to decide what treatment approach is right for you. Not all people who drinks in excess is an alcoholic and not all people seeking treatment has alcohol use disorder.

If you are an alcoholic and are dependent on alcohol, however, attempting to engage with a moderation treatment approach will most likely be futile.

The most popular and effective recovery model for alcoholics is abstinence, which is supported by 12-step programs such as AA. It is the safest and simplest way to avoid repeating past dangerous behaviors involving substances.

A study conducted at the University of Gothenburg showed that 90% of the abstinent patients were still sober two and a half years after treatment, while only 50 percent of those who focused on controlled consumption were still in control of their drinking. An abstinence approach is best for individuals with alcohol use disorder and those who are physically dependent on alcohol.

Many people try to cut back on their drinking before receiving treatment and are unable to do so. This in itself indicates the inability of many alcoholics to drink in moderation. Many seek treatment for the very fact that they cannot control the amount of alcohol they consume, so attempting moderation treatment is often a losing battle and a waste of time.

It is common after a period of being sober that you may think you are cured and can begin drinking again – this is the power of selective memory. It can be easy to forget the negative consequences associated with drinking after being sober for a while.

You may feel like you deserve an award for being sober for a certain amount of time, however, one drink is all it takes to spiral out of control. Having a false sense of confidence is a sign that relapse is near, so acknowledging this and reaching out for support is essential in avoiding drinking.

While cravings are powerful and you feel tempted to drink or switch to a moderation form of treatment, it is important to recognize how much better your life is without alcohol. Playing back the tape when you want to use can help you from falsely convincing yourself you can drink casually.

If you are having trouble controlling these thoughts, go to a meeting or contact a counselor, sponsor, or loved one to help you work through these thoughts. Sobriety isn’t a solitary activity, and being sure to reach out for support is essential in staying on track with your successful recovery.

Staying Sober with NuView Treatment Center

If you are currently struggling with alcoholism and staying sober, NuView Treatment Center can help you. At NuView Treatment Center, located in Los Angeles, you can receive the support you need to stop your alcohol abuse.

NuView offers outpatient alcohol addiction treatment designed to give you the tools you need to recover from both dependence and addiction. Our staff is trained to develop individualized treatment plans for each client and assist with addressing underlying conditions that may be motivating your drug or alcohol use.

Through this, you will develop new, healthy coping mechanisms and plans for dealing with possible triggers. The compassionate evidence-based therapeutic modalities used at NuView Treatment Center helps you achieve sobriety and offers you the tools to stay sober long-term.

Frequently Asked Questions

Moderate drinking is certainly the only option possible for a recovering alcoholic, but it can be difficult and will not be possible for everyone. Recovering alcoholics often have trouble trying to drink in moderation, as most can can finnd it difficult to stop drinking once they start.

While some people may be able to try controlled drinking after undergoing alcohol recovery, this is not the case for everyone. Remember that it's vital for recovered alcoholics to be honest with themselves about their ability to drink socially and in moderation.
When alcoholics start drinking again, they are likely to experience a range of negative consequences related to their problem drinking. These may include physical and mental health issues, relationship issues, legal problems, and financial difficulties. Additionally, the person is likely to experience a return of the symptoms of their addiction, including a loss of control over their drinking alcohol and the negative consequences related to it.

People with alcohol addiction generally die 24-28 years earlier than non-alcoholics. The average life expectancy of people hospitalized with alcohol use disorder is around 47–53 years for men and 50–58 years for women. This is because heavy drinking increases your risk of getting health issues such as liver disease, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic health conditions.

Note that life expectancy can vary depending on a person's overall health, lifestyle, and access to health care.
It is possible for problem drinkers to cut back, but it can be difficult to do so without substance abuse treatment and ongoing support. It can be difficult for alcoholics to stop drinking once they've started, and even if they do, they may still face unpleasant repercussions.

Babor, T. F. (1996). The Classification of Alcoholics: Typology Theories From the 19th Century to the Present. Alcohol Health and Research World, 20(1), 6-14.

Banerjee, N. (2014). Neurotransmitters in alcoholism: A review of neurobiological and genetic studies. Indian Journal of Human Genetics, 20(1), 20-31.

Berglund, K. J., Svensson, I., Berggren, U., Balldin, J., & Fahlke, C. (2016). Is there a need for congruent treatment goals between alcohol-dependent patients and caregivers? Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 40(4), 874–879.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, November 20). Most people who drink excessively are not alcohol dependent. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from,Health%20Services%20Administration%20(SAMHSA).

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Alcohol Facts and Statistics. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved February 17, 2023, from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Relapse and craving-alcohol alert no. 06-1989. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Understanding alcohol use disorder. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved March 17, 2023, from

Westman, J., Wahlbeck, K., Laursen, T. M., Gissler, M., Nordentoft, M., Hällgren, J., Arffman, M., & Ösby, U. (2014). Mortality and life expectancy of people with alcohol use disorder in Denmark, Finland and Sweden. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131(4), 297–306.

Latest posts

Share this post


Leave a comment

Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

Read More

Addiction & Recovery

Did you know that we are always here for you 24/7?

You don't have to try to cope with life and addiction all on your own. Reach out to us now, no matter the time of day or night, even if you're not sure what you want to do yet and just need someone to listen.

We understand what you're going through and we can help you or a loved one survive addiction and find happiness in your life again.

Fill out the form below and we will contact you soon or call us any time at (323) 307-7997.
Contact Form - Blog

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction? We can help!

Our advisors are waiting for your call: (323) 307-7997

Ready to get Help?