The Sinclair Method is an effective way of treating alcohol addiction that grew out of research by Dr. John David Sinclair starting in the late 1970s. It is based on using the drug Naltrexone, which interupts the normal effects of alcohol.
Addiction to alcohol is a vicious cycle. Each drink gives the alcoholic a boost but then leaves him or her feeling worse and in need of another fix. The brain gets used to chronic alcohol use; the highs become less intense while the lows become increasingly deep. The alcoholic responds by increasing the dose, which further intensifies the process. Naltrexone can break this cycle by blocking the alcohol receptors in the brain. When the alcoholic takes a drink, he or she doesn’t feel any better, or any worse afterward. Over time the brain returns to normal and no longer demands alcohol to feel normal.
What makes the Sinclair Method different?
Usually, in the United States, doctors prescribe a daily dose of Naltrexone and recommend that the patient avoids alcohol. When used this way, Naltrexone makes abstinence easier by taking away the pleasure of drinking, and gradually reducing the cravings. Dr. Sinclair developed a different method. During his research, he discovered that going cold turkey was counter-productive because the ‘alcohol deprivation effect’ leads to elevated cravings and a cycle of binge drinking. Instead, he recommended that alcoholics continue to drink, but take Naltrexone an hour before they do so.
It might seem counter-intuitive to say that the way to beat alcoholism is to keep drinking. However, it is precisely by using Naltrexone with alcohol that the brain learns to respond to alcohol in a new way. In fact, many people who use the Sinclair Method go on to quit drinking altogether, but only after Naltrexone has changed their brain’s relationship with alcohol.
Does the Sinclair Method work?
The evidence shows that it does. Studies performed in countries where it is common, such as Finland, indicate a success rate of as much a 78%. This is far higher than any other method of alcohol-addiction treatment, including the traditional way of prescribing Naltrexone.
The Sinclair Method is a game-changer in the fight against alcohol addiction. However, a word of caution should be sounded. A success rate of 78% still means the Sinclair Method does not work for everyone. It also requires a high degree of self-discipline. If the recovering alcoholic forgets to take a pill, or decides not to, then a major relapse is likely. Anyone interested in seeing whether the Sinclair Method can work for them should consult an addiction specialist.
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