Researcher challenges 'cold turkey' treatment for alcoholism

More than half of those dependent on alcohol in Sweden can shake their addiction by learning to drink moderately rather than abstaining completely, according to new research.

Health care workers traditionally recommending treating alcoholism with total abstinence, but Sven Andreasson, a professor of social medicine at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, said people with drinking problems can stop by using the internet and a few visits to the doctor and still continue drinking moderately.

"We want to challenge the status quo in areas such as health care, substance abuse treatment and social services, that you can only get rid of excessive consumption and alcohol dependence by total abstinence," Andreasson told the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

"This is not true," he continued, "the myth makes it more likely that many do not bother to seek help."

Andreasson said many Swedes that drink too much, but are not physically dependent on alcohol, are too afraid or ashamed to seek help since they think it will mean never drinking again. He said by making treatment programs welcoming and setting goals for moderate drinking, those with alcohol dependence can learn to cope better.

The research coincides with a Friday conference in Stockholm on new approaches in alcohol treatment. An estimated 600,000 Swedes have various problems with alcohol consumption.