Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

In The News

"A particular approach did not kill anyone. . . The issue is of personal responsibility."

[See also the chapter entitled "Moderation Management and Murder" in Addiction Is a Choice, published in January 2000 by Open Court Publishers, Chicago. and the Foreword to the first edition of Moderate Drinking: The New Option for Problem Drinkers by Audrey Kishline, published in 1994 by See Sharp Press, Tuscon, Arizona]

Fatal accident forces debate over movement for problem drinkers

MIA PENTA, Associated Press Writer

Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Breaking News Sections

(06-27) 02:16 EDT SEATTLE (AP) -- In March, Audrey Kishline allegedly drove her pickup truck the wrong way down Interstate 90, smashing head-on into a car in an accident that killed a man and his 12-year-old daughter.

Kishline, who police said had a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit, has since been charged with vehicular homicide.

What makes the case different from thousands of other drunken-driving cases is who Kishline was: The founder of a national group that promotes moderate alcohol intake among problem drinkers.

After the accident, Kishline said she realized that Moderation Management, the organization she founded in 1993, ``is nothing but alcoholics covering up their problem,'' said her lawyer, John Crowley.

Critics of the group agree, though members say Moderation Management is the only realistic solution for problem drinkers who aren't alcoholics.

Kishline, 43, was charged with vehicular homicide, drunken driving and hit-and-run driving after the March 25 deaths of Richard Davis and his daughter, LaSchell. Kishline, who is scheduled for trial in September, is seeking substance-abuse treatment at a western Oregon facility and was unavailable for comment.

Until recently, Kishline functioned as a spokeswoman for Moderation Management, which touts itself as an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous. Members joining the 50 volunteer-run groups are told drinking is learned -- and not a disease -- as they go through a nine-step program.

It bills itself as a ``supportive mutual-help environment that encourages people who are concerned about their drinking to take action to cut back or quit drinking before drinking problems become severe.''

Admitted alcoholics are discouraged from the program, which allows nine drinks per week for women and 14 for men and discourages drinking and driving.

The problem is that Moderation Management is a tempting alternative for alcoholics, who often cannot admit that they have serious drinking problems, critics say.

``Moderation Management is built on an illusion,'' said George Vaillant, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. ``It's hard for us in America to realize that those with serious drinking problems can't go back to social drinking.''

Alcoholics who join and believe they are only problem drinkers may soon find themselves out of control, said Richard Frances, medical director and chief executive at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Conn.

``It's so attractive to patients, and quickly leads to a lot of relapses,'' Frances said.

That's what Elisa DeCarlo found. DeCarlo, a former leader of a New York Moderation Management group, said she was constantly frustrated by members who were using the group as an excuse to drink.

`The idea is good in abstract,'' said DeCarlo, who has since left Moderation Management and quit drinking. ``It's just not a realistic concept when you come down to it.''

Kishline, author of the 1994 book ``Moderate Drinking,'' apparently agrees. Crowley said that if she is convicted, she plans to write another book that will say moderation is not an option for people with serious drinking problems.

Dr. Frederick Glaser, a member of the Moderation Management advisory board and director of the division of substance abuse at the Brody School of Medicine, said Kishline's statements -- made in the aftermath of a tragedy -- need to be taken with a grain of salt.

There are no accurate estimates of how many members are in Moderation Management, but Glaser estimated that hundreds of people have gone through the program and hundreds more seek help from it on the Internet.

Group members also blame Alcoholics Anonymous, which Kishline announced she joined in January, a few months before her accident. The group asks members to strive for sobriety.

``Isn't it ironic that her most extreme case of intoxication was after she quit Moderation Management?'' asked Stanton Peele, a psychologist and another board member of Moderation Management.

Peele said he suspects that Kishline's statement blaming the program is her way to deal with the recent tragedy. ``Someone shouldn't rule out an entire group based on her own failure,'' he said.

A spokeswoman for Alcoholics Anonymous declined comment Monday, saying the program has a policy against discussing organizations outside of AA.

Neither organization should end up pointing fingers at each other, said Jeffrey Schaler, a psychologist and adjunct professor at American University School of Public Affairs in Washington D.C.

``A particular approach did not kill anyone,'' he said. ``The issue is of personal responsibility.''

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