Acceptance of non-abstinence goals by addiction professionals in the United States

Psychol Addict Behav. 2013 Dec;27(4):1102-9. doi: 10.1037/a0030563. Epub 2012 Oct 22.


Previous research has found relatively limited acceptance of nonabstinence goals in addiction treatment settings in the United States. Because such attitudes may have changed over time, this study was designed to assess the current acceptance of nonabstinence goals by addiction professionals as a function of type of substance (alcohol vs. drug), severity of the disorder (DSM-IV abuse vs. DSM-IV dependence), and finality of the outcome goal (intermediate vs. final). The sample comprised 913 members of a national association of addiction professionals who completed a web-based survey. Over one half of respondents rated nonabstinence as somewhat or completely acceptable as both an intermediate and final outcome goal for clients with alcohol abuse, but considerably smaller proportions rated nonabstinence an acceptable intermediate or final outcome goal for clients with alcohol dependence. Regarding drug-taking clients, one half and one third of respondents rated nonabstinence at least somewhat acceptable as an intermediate goal and final outcome goal, respectively, for clients with drug abuse, but fewer rated nonabstinence an acceptable outcome goal for clients with drug dependence. One implication of the findings is that individuals with alcohol and drug problems who avoid treatment because they are ambivalent about abstinence should know that--depending on the severity of their condition, the finality of their nonabstinence goal, and their drug of choice--their interest in moderating their consumption will be acceptable to many clinicians, especially those working in outpatient and independent practice settings.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*
  • Temperance / psychology*
  • Treatment Outcome*
  • United States