Abstinence is the act of refraining from engaging in a positively reinforced, or pleasurable, behavior. It is typically a voluntary act, but it can also be imposed, and it typically occurs when an individual experiences a sense of decreased personal control over a behavior (e.g., consumption of alcohol). Not engaging in the problematic behavior connotes increased self-control—and the hope of improved social interactions and personal health as a consequence. For example, decreased heart disease and lung cancer prevalence has occurred in the United States as a result of more smokers quitting and then maintaining abstinence from tobacco. Similarly, abstinence from alcohol reduces the risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver.
SCOTT J. LEISCHOW
(SEE ALSO: Addiction and Habituation; Alcohol Use and Abuse; Behavior, Health-Related; Contraception; Counseling; Drug Abuse Resistance Education [DARE]; Predisposing Factors; Smoking Cessation; Substance Abuse, Definition of)