Science busts age-old myth about alcoholism

• Aug 3 2015

It is an established belief that those who have suffered from alcoholism can never go back to drinking socially in moderation.

Someone who has broken free of alcoholism knows it takes tremendous effort, will-power and support to do so, and that one drink is all it takes to go spiralling back into the habit.

A study (Lovibond, Caddy, 1970) from the University of New South Wales set out to dispel this belief, and succeeded beyond expectations.

Electric jolts give alcoholics an “inbuilt stop mechanism” allowing them to drink socially in moderation without giving up alcohol completely

In 1970, two researchers designed a program aimed at training alcoholics to drink socially and in moderation.

The purpose of the treatment was to provide alcoholics with “an inbuilt stop mechanism which will assist [their] own efforts at self-control” (Lovibond, Caddy, 1970).

In the first phase, the 31 volunteers were trained to recognize their own blood alcohol level (BAC) according to their state and symptoms. This skill would help them determine a “limit” beyond which it would not be acceptable to continue drinking.

In the second phase, the participants were instructed to drink their favorite alcoholic beverage. Once their BAC passed the “limit” determined in phase 1, they would randomly start to receive unpleasant electric jolts every time they drank.

75% of patients lose their desire to drink past 3 glasses in as little as 6 sessions — Results maintained up to 50 weeks later

Shock vs Alcoholism
Within 6 – 12 sessions, 75% of the patients gained the ability to drink in a controlled fashion and only rarely exceeding their “limit”.

Additionally, 11% experienced considerable improvement in their control of alcohol consumption, while another 10% improved moderately.

Some of the participants were contacted up to 50 weeks after treatment and were found to have maintained their control on moderate drinking.

Most importantly, the successful participants experienced a “dramatic improvement in [their] general health, well-being and self-respect” (Lovibond, Caddy, 1970) and lost their desire to continue drinking beyond three or four glasses.

80+ years of data show how electric jolts can help break alcoholism and other persistent habits

Media and society constantly bombard us with messages about how drinking is a social norm. This social conditioning, together with the instant gratification of alcohol and its withdrawal symptoms, makes Alcoholism one of the hardest addictions to break.

Considering all this, a 75% success rate is staggering. However, this figure is neither surprising nor unheard of in the field of “aversion therapy” — the method used in the research quoted earlier.

Over the past 80+ years, many other studies have found electric jolts effective against alcoholism.

These electric jolts have also helped chronic marijuana users, heroin addicts as well as many people with habits such as smoking, alcoholism, overeating, and gambling.

 

Bibliography

Lovibond, S., & Caddy, G. (1970). Discriminated aversive control in the moderation of alcoholics’ drinking behavior. Behavior Therapy, 1(4), 437–444. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0005-7894(70)80069-7

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