Is abstinence the only option? Moderate alcohol drinking is possible and there’s help

I can’t even think of how many times I’ve heard the notion that complete, total, abstinence should be the only goal for all people who abuse drug or alcohol. This idea is so pervasive that most addiction treatment providers actually expel clients for relapsing, a notion that makes no sense to me especially if you believe in the idea that addiction is a chronic disease. In fact, even most research institutions and well-informed providers use total abstinence as the marker for addiction treatment success. The thing is that the amount of alcohol or drug use per se is not a part of the definition of addiction or abuse (other than in the “using more than intended” factor but even there an absolute amount isn’t introduced) and I don’t think it should be a necessary part of the solution either.

When I first set about writing this article, many of the issues I was going to bring up had to do with research on alcohol relapse patterns, my own story, and other evidence I’ve already introduced on All About Addiction. Fortunately for us, some recent research about Moderation Management and a newly developed website application component introduced me to some new evidence regarding moderate alcohol drinking that will allow us to look even more deeply into the problem. Continue reading “Is abstinence the only option? Moderate alcohol drinking is possible and there’s help”

About Addiction: Prescription Medication, Alcoholic Energy Drinks, and Video Games

If you want to learn about addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, and more, you’ve come to the right place. Check out some of our discoveries for online content about addiction.

Prescription Medication

Psy Post- Ever encounter prescription labels that warn you to not drive when you are using it ? Well this is good advice because prescribed medications are responsible for over 3 percent of automobile accidents in France.  Driving performance is classified into 4 levels of risk, from level 0 (no or negligible risk) to level 3 (major risk). Continue reading “About Addiction: Prescription Medication, Alcoholic Energy Drinks, and Video Games”

Does alcohol on T.V. make for more alcohol in the hand?

Dirk Hanson

The title of the Dutch study, published in the journal Alcohol & Alcoholism, is unambiguous: “Alcohol Portrayal on Television Affects Actual Drinking Behaviour.”

It is an easy and familiar accusation that has been levied at violent video games, drug use heavy movies, and alcohol advertising. But what is the actual evidence for it? Leave it to a group of Dutch scientists to design a practical experiment to test the proposition when it comes to drinking.  In a noble attempt to get around the self-reporting problem, the authors of the study went directly to the heart of the problem. They built a “bar laboratory” on the campus of Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Continue reading “Does alcohol on T.V. make for more alcohol in the hand?”

Five tricks bars use to keep you drinking their alcohol

Christopher Russell

With alcoholic drink sales in the UK estimated at around £37 billion ($58.6 billion) each year, bars, clubs, and drinks companies need to fight hard, think ahead, and sometimes get down and dirty with the competition to win their piece of this lucrative pie. BBC Newsbeat reporter, Jim Reed, asked industry insiders about the top five tricks bars use to keep their customers drinking alcohol for longer and buying the drinks they want to sell. Here is what they said.

(1)   The ‘three second’ rule

“Most punters just focus on the products right in front of them”, said one former bar manager. Three seconds is the amount of time the customer has to make a decision after staff ask for his order. The key to his choice is visibility; the drinks which are easiest to see behind the bar are more likely to be chosen. As a result, drinks companies strike deals with bars to ensure their drinks get ‘profitable placement’ behind the bar. This isn’t all that different from the famous “sugary cereal placement” issue common in American Supermarkets and includes alcopops being placed on the top shelf of the fridges, draft beers with oversized, illuminated pumps, and a row of spirit optics hanging right behind the bar. The latest eye-catching marketing gimmick – the “extra cold” beer pump covered in condensation – will be in your bar soon.

(2)   Turn up the volume and heating and pack people in

People drink more alcohol when the music is louder and the room is hotter. Results from a recent field study of the effect of music volume and beer consumption showed that louder music led to an increase in beer consumption and a decrease in time customers took to drink their glass. Clubs want people on the dance floor, but not all night. Some DJs told the reporter that they are often asked to drop in a couple of dodgy tunes to push people towards the bar, known as ‘persuaded drink breaks’. Some bar staff also said that they are told to turn up the heating, even in summer, to get people to drink faster and head back up for more. Door staff are also encouraged to fill the club to capacity and sometimes, over capacity. A packed club means long queues at the bar, and so people tend to buy more than they actually want in one visit to avoid having to wait later on. Having bought two to three rounds worth of drinks, the customer then feels obligated to drink them, even if he has to force them down.

(3)   Cocktails – Making alcohol sexier

Alcoholic cocktails are that “something a bit different” on the menu. First, cocktail names are memorable, often sexually suggestive, evocative, and often humorous. Usually involving an elaborate creative process in full view of the customer, cocktail making is as much a treat for the eyes as it is for the tongue. Infusing the flavours of gins, vodkas, whiskeys, tequilas or rums with fruit juices, liqueurs, and soft drinks and garnishing the glass with pieces of fresh fruit, mint leaves, cream, sugar, coconut milk and other fancy touches to produce a unique blended taste and exotic colouring all explain why cocktails are a staple of the alcoholic drinks menu in bars and clubs. The often lengthy time taken to make cocktails also gives bars the excuse to sell cocktail pitchers as well as single glasses, meaning more is sold to the same number of customers. And for this grandiose procedure, customers are willing to pay a premium price.

The customer pays, in part, for the image, the back-story, the ‘show’ which preceded the cocktail; they are not buying the ingredients, they are buying the cocktail experience, or at least this is the marketing intention to justify hiking up prices for a combination of ingredients which on their own would cost significantly less than the price of a cocktail. Some bar managers reported being more than happy to repackage a £3 rum-and-coke as a £8 Cuba Libre. While vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice and orange juice may be tasty drink, a “Sex on the Beach” with a straw umbrella and sugar-rimmed glass is a ‘product’ which commands an exponentially higher price. Cosmopolitans and French martinis say “class”; mojito’s say “cool”;  mai tai’s say “relax”. One trainer of cocktail makers said “Are the drinks made using fresh fruit? Does the bar tender look technically confident? All those are signs that you are getting value for money”. In much the same way that clothes, cars, and colognes are sold as  “more than just these things”, the cocktail is the bars’ opportunity to repackage ordinary ingerdients as an extraordinary product for which an extraordinary price is justified.

(4)   Skilled, attractive staff

The best bar staff are those who can get you to buy more than you wanted. You ask for a vodka and coke, the barman might offer to make it a double. You ask for a glass of wine, the barman might suggest you buy a bottle because it works out cheaper than buying individual glasses all night, pre-empting your decision to actually drink more than one glass. The downside of upselling is that customers drink more than they had intended to when they arrived at the bar. It is also well-known that the most popular bars and the bars with the highest turnovers generally employ the most attractive bar staff. Attractive, flirtatious male and female bar staff can ensure customers choose their bar for their next night out and ensure that customers visit the bar more regularly throughout the night.

(5)   In-venue alcohol marketing

According to a former marketing executive, eight out of ten drinkers walk through the door of a pub without knowing what they want, so “if you can put a brand name in their head they are very likely to remember it when they get to the bar”. Strategically placed posters, beer mats, printed glasses and illuminated signage all serve to keep the name of a drink at the front of the mind and the tip of the tongue. Bars and clubs receive incentives, discounts, and promotional products from drinks companies for the right to preferential placement of their marketing materials throughout a venue. The idea again is that an effective advertising can make the choice for the undecided customer, that he can be persuaded to buy a drink he either didn’t want or doesn’t even like.


These are just some of the tricks which bars and clubs use to persuade the customer to spend more money and time in their premises. However, it must be remembered that no one and nothing can literally make you drink. People drink when it makes sense for them to drink, and the tricks described here are intended to make the customer see drinking as something which makes sense at that moment. Effective marketing is that which presents ‘good’ reasons to drink, but these should be tempered with your own reasons for why you should or should not keep drinking.

By being aware of some of the tricks bar owners and bar staff are using to make more drinking seem like a good idea, you can keep in mind a quantity and speed of drinking which you consider sensible and so make sensible decisions about when you should call it a day.


Gueguen, N., Jacob, C., Le Guellec, H., Morineau, T., Lourel, M. (2008). Sound level of environmental music and drinking behavior: a field experiment with beer drinkers. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 32(10), 1795-1798.

Reed, J. (2011). Five tricks to make you buy more booze. Accessed 28/01/11 at

About Addiction: Synthetic drugs, binge drinking, and recovery

You didn’t think we’d let you go a whole week without giving you another of our amazing updates about addiction news and research from around the globe did you? I’m sure you didn’t, and you were right! Here we are again with some good old discussions of marijuana, alcohol binge drinking, and other issues relevant to addiction and drug use. We hope you like it.

Synthetic Drugs and Marijuana

Greenbay Press Gazette– K2 is being sold and marketed as a legal substitute for marijuana and is also referred to as “Spice,” “Genie,” “Zohai” or simply “legal weed”. Apparently, cops in Wisconsin don’t like it too much and even though it hasn’t been banned in that state, they’re making trouble for those who sell it and store owners are complying by removing K2 products from their shelves.

Time– Another article examining the question “is marijuana addictive?” According the DSM, addiction is the compulsive use of a substance despite ongoing negative consequences, which may lead to tolerance or withdrawal symptoms when the substance is stopped. Although only about 10% of people who smoke marijuana become addicted to it by this definition, the real issue is how harmful the drug may be and what consequences it may produce for individuals who are using compulsively.

Science Daily– Speaking of negative impacts of marijuana use, this article discusses the possible neurobiological implications of marijuana and alcohol use during adolescence. Binge drinking in adolescence is a relatively common occurrence in many circles and it can detrimentally affect  cognitive functioning, especially in terms of attention and executive function.  Marijuana was found to, not surprisingly, leave adolescent users with impaired memory performance. The fact that this drug use is occurring during a sensitive developmental period likely doesn’t help.

ABC News– Kids aren’t the only ones who binge drink. Mothers who binge drink during pregnancy are increasing the chances that their babies will develop attention and memory deficits. It was estimated that about 40,000 infants are born each year with neurological and developmental damage that was caused by binge drinking. We’ve written about fetal alcohol syndrome in the past, and this piece touches on the same issues.

Addiction, recovery, and the good old drug trade

The Messenger– This article uses everyday language to explain the evolution of addiction and specifically seven signs that causal substance use is evolving into dependence. I can’t say I agree with everything said here, especially some of the statistics, but it’s a nice read, and as long as you recognize it for what it is – a very dumbed-down version of the real account of things – you’ll hopefully enjoy it!

Breaking the cycles– Sober Living Environments (SLEs)  is a term which is often spoken in  addiction/alcoholism treatment and recovery programs. Sober living houses provide recovering addicts with a drug-free environment in order to complete the transition from a residential treatment setting to stabilization and reintegration to a normal life.

Addiction Inbox– The UN has been monitoring designer drug trade. This report displays emerging trends in synthetic drug use. The drugs that are being observed are amphetamine-type stimulants, as well as designer drugs such as mephedrone, atypical synthetics like ketamine, synthetic opioids like fentanyl, and old standbys like LSD. The article gives a complete list of the findings of drugs used in a variety of countries and it is very fascinating.

About Addiction: Prescription drugs, Alcohol prices, and prevention among teens

You know you care about addiction, and you know you love reading addiction news and research – A3 does it all for you and gathers things up in a nice little package we call our weekly “about addiction” post. It’s the fastest way to get the information you want, even if you didn’t know it was out there!

Prescription Drugs, drug safety, and sales

Reuters– Walgreen’s offers its customers a convenient way of disposing of their prescription drugs. This allows individuals to safely dispose of unwanted or expired drugs. The way that the program works is to place the unwanted prescription drugs in an envelope and send it to a medication incinerator. Controlled substances however are excluded from the program, I guess they’re afraid of bags of heroin and cocaine showing up at Walgreen offices?

Wales online– After being bugged to see if a man was in possession of illegal drugs, a number of men were sentenced to 48 years in jail for selling heroin. This undercover investigation lasted for six months, revealing a magnificent economy of drug use, abuse and profit.

Discovery News– Authorities discovered that eight illicit drugs, including cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamines, were detectable in the waterways of a Spanish national park. They’re worried about the threat of the drugs’ side effects to animals, but I have to say it makes me wonder why so many drug addicts are dumping their drugs there…

Alcohol Prices

Telegraph (U.K.)– A “price fixing”  system for alcohol prices has been suggested in the U.K., which is supposed to help reduce binge drinking encouraged by bottom priced alcohol. Economics experts in England suggest that all the policy will likely do will be increase profits for store that sell cheap alcohol. If our work here is any indication though, driving alcohol price up (as much as 100% in some stores) will certainly have an effect on some drinkers.

Health DayTax increases in alcohol prices may aid in alleviating alcohol problems. A study was conducted which showed that increasing the alcohol prices will result in significant reductions in many of the undesirable outcomes associated with drinking. So next time you go to buy alcohol and the price is too high just think of all the help you’re providing the community.

Addiction interventions and addiction treatment of teens

Time to act!- Perhaps one of the most important ways to prevent an addiction from happening is to catch it in its early stages and prevent it from ever developing. This website promotes primary prevention of as a means of addiction intervention and urges parents to act as soon as possible if you think your child is using drugs or alcohol.

DBtechno– Children who have regular meals are less likely to drink (read our coverage of teen drinking). This was attributed to parents having better, more consistent, interactions with their children at the dinner table. Kids who did not eat regular meals were twice as likely to drink and use cigarettes. Talk about a great way at starting on an addiction intervention early on in life – a nice relaxing dinner, and maybe some dessert…

ABC News– This article tells of the ill effects that alcohol can have to a child when alcohol is consumed during pregnancy. It tells the story of one family who could not stand their child’s “out of control behavior” likely brought on by FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). Read All About Addiction’s coverage of drinking during pregnancy.

Addiction Inbox– A great article using Dock Ellis’ perspective on LSD. Ellis is now speaking to inmates in correctional facilities, telling his story of how he was addicted to drugs and alcohol while playing baseball.

Alcohol – Blackouts, Brownouts and how they affect your body

Do you remember what you did last night? Have you ever not remembered what you did after drinking? Drinking alcohol affects the brain and can cause lasting damage including, but not limited to, slips in memory. These memory slips can be due to lack of blood flow to brain areas that are important for memory consolidation and are commonly known as blackouts. Contrary to what popular belief, blackouts often occur in social drinkers and don’t seem to be related to age or level of alcohol dependence.


Blackouts and the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) rate

Amnesia, or memory dysfunction, can begin to occur even with as few as one or two drinks containing alcohol. However, as the amount of alcohol intake increases so does the probability of memory impairment. Although heavy drinking alone will not always cause blackouts, heavy drinking of alcohol on an empty stomach or “chugging” alcoholic drinks often does cause blackouts.

The estimated BAC (blood alcohol content) range for blackouts begins at levels .14%- .20%. Individuals who reached high BAC levels slowly experienced far less common occurrences of blackouts. Additionally, while blackouts lead to forgetting entire events that happened while intoxicated, some individuals experience an inability to recall only parts of an event or episode (these are often called brownouts).

Blackouts can occur to anyone who drinks too much too fast. In a survey of college students, males and females experienced an equal number of blackouts, although men consumed a significantly more alcohol.

Although brain damage could potentially occur from heavy alcohol consumption, there is no evidence that blackouts are caused by brain damage per se. However, if brain damage is caused from excessive alcohol use, some studies show improvements in brain function with as little as a year of abstinence. Regardless of the possibility of reversing any effects, alcohol use causes damage in different areas of the body (including the liver), and those damages have been shown to occur more quickly among females.

Co-authored by Jamie Felzer



1. White, Aaron M., Signer, Matthew L., Kraus, Courtney L. and Swartzwelder, H. Scott(2004). Experiential Aspects of Alcohol-Induced Blackouts Among College Students, The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse,30:1,205 — 224

2. Alcohol Alert (2004) . Alcoholic Brain Damage. Alcohol Research & Health, Vol. 27.