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Harm Reduction for Alcohol: An Idea Whose Time Has Arrived
Date:11/24/2009

NEW YORK, Nov. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- There is a new game in town when it comes to dealing with alcohol problems. It is harm reduction, offering pragmatic and realistic strategies where traditional approaches to alcohol problems have failed. Spearheading this movement is a group called HAMS -- Harm Reduction, Alcohol Abstinence and Moderation Support. HAMS is a free-of-charge, lay-led support and informational group for people who drink alcohol.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism tells us that only 7% of people with an alcohol problem ever seek treatment. And clinical research shows that over two-thirds of those who enter 12-step treatment programs drop out. HAMS acknowledges that 12-step programs are a great resource for those people who've had success with them; and applauds anyone who manages to beat a drinking problem by going to AA. But why do so few people succeed with 12-step programs? Perhaps it is because 12-step programs require:

  • Participants to identify themselves as "diseased" and "alcoholic;"
  • Total abstinence from all addictive, mood altering drugs, except nicotine and caffeine;
  • A confession of "powerlessness" and a reliance on a "Higher Power" (i. e., God) to cure one's "disease."

For a majority of people these demands are unpalatable, making the 12-step programs unapproachable.

By way of contrast, the HAMS alcohol harm reduction program:

  • Meets people "where they are at" with their drinking;
  • Does not label people or require them to identify themselves as "diseased" or "alcoholic;"
  • Empowers people to choose their own goal -- safer drinking, reduced drinking or quitting;
  • Engages people with realistic goals that they can actually accomplish.

Harm reduction programs have been applied to situations other than alcohol problems and owe much of their success to their approachability. Some hig
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