Can Problem Drinkers Learn Moderation?

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CBS News Correspondent John Roberts reports a growing of number if treatment programs are using moderation to help people who abuse alcohol, if they're not yet addicted.

John Morgenstern of the Mount Sinai Medical Center says: "Those are people who are drinking excessively but are not actually dependant on alcohol. And at least some of those people, we know from research, can control their drinking by cutting back."

Moderation Management is a nine step program which promotes abstinence for the first 30 days, then limits the number of drinks allowed nine per week for women, 14 for men.

But last March Audrey Kishline, the program's founder, got behind the wheel of her pickup and plowed head-on into a car, killing a man and his 12-year-old daughter. Her blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit.

Despite the tragedy, Marc Kern of Moderation Management defends the program.

He says Kishline's guilty plea to charges of vehicular homicide has highlighted the need to better tailor treatment to individuals.

He says, "The professional community, the medical community is coming to realize that as we turn to the 21st century, we need a much more comprehensive spectrum of interventions for people with alcohol problems."

Kishline's conviction has created a backlash.

The head of the renowned Smithers Addiction Treatment and Research Center was forced to resign last month after he publicly endorsed moderation.

Dr. Nicholas Pace, the co-founder of the New York Council On Alcoholism, has been treating alcoholics for more than 25 years. He believes moderation is dangerous because the line between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence is fuzzy at best.

Pace says, "I don't believe in moderation management. I think if somebody has a problem with alcohol they shouldn't drink. If alcohol is interfering with your job, if it's interfering with your interpersonal relations, if it's interfering with your health you shouldn't drink."

For all the disagreement over how to treat alcoholism, there's no dispute about the need.

Alcoholism afflicts an estimated 8 million Americans, and it kills 100,000 people every year.



  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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