How Wine Cures Alcoholism?



The ideal treatment for chronic alcoholism is abstinence.  But at some rehab centers residents are given a measure of wine at hourly intervals.  It is called the Managed Alcohol Program, and aims to change the drinking behaviour of inveterate addicts.


Harm reduction refers to any tactic or method involved in minimizing the effects and consequences of drinking alcohol or using substances.  Methadone maintenance, safe injection sites, and needle exchanges are some well-known examples of harm reduction tactics in British Columbia and the lower mainland Vancouver area.  Technically, abstinence is a harm reduction method since it attempts to reduce harm, but programs offering this approach are generally considered part of a different treatment sphere since it forbids regulated, tapered use of substances or alcohol.


Managed alcohol programs provide regulated doses of alcohol to program participants as a way to address problems associated with severe alcohol abuse.  In studies evaluating MAP effectiveness, some participant improvements and benefits include:

  • Maintained housing
  • Improved well-being and quality of life
  • Reduced frequency and quantity in alcohol use
  • Reduced use of non-beverage alcohol (e.g. mouthwash and shoe polish)
  • Decreased alcohol-related harms (social, financial, physical, mental, etc.)


From a health perspective, abstinence and detox is the most ideal option.  However, sometimes conventional addiction treatment programs are less suitable and effective for certain demographics.  Many MAP participants struggle with homelessness, mental health issues, and other factors that inhibit successful abstinence.  Harm reduction practices, like managed alcohol programs, help shift us away from conventional understandings of addiction treatment where abstinence is the primary goal.

Rather than focusing on the removal of alcohol, MAPS focuses on finding ways to raise a person’s social functioning as a means for improving each individual’s quality of life. Providing controlled amounts of alcohol can allow these groups of people to experience similar benefits to those in recovery until they’re capable of fully stopping alcohol-consumption.


Despite their effectiveness, MAPs need further research and evaluation.  In some research studies, alcohol use remained the same or increased causing some to believe MAPs should be reserved for individuals with severe alcohol dependency who fulfill specific eligibility requirements.

For MAPs and other harm reduction strategies, it’s important for organizations to provide sufficient and necessary information to surrounding communities and its residents in order to gain support.  Providing several different options to treat addiction and substance abuse will increase people’s ability to seek help and live with improved quality of life.

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Sources & References: Sunshine Coast Health Centre

BBC Credit Link


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