Objective: of the review was to explore the three major controversies over the controlled drinking debate, and to assess for whom controlled drinking may be a viable form of treatment of alcohol dependence. Method: was to survey the literature of the last twenty years, using the Medline data base, the Index Medicus, and the Excerpta Medica. Findings: were that controversies involving the work of the Sobells and the Rand reports were influenced by the social attitudes of the time, and that D.L. Davies work despite being methodologically unsound, made the consideration of having a controlled drinking goal a viable treatment option. We also found that comparing studies using different definitions of controlled/normal drinking is difficult, but it would appear that the young, married, less severely dependent, and possibly female drinker may benefit from this form of treatment. The return of a patient to controlled drinking is not always dependent on the treatment model they have undergone. Conclusions: are that controlled drinking should be considered as a serious option, and that the recommended safe alcohol intake, will differ between patients, and that flexibility will be required. Also that a source of ongoing collateral information about the patient is essential.