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Sinclair Method for Alcohol Addiction

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Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 6/01/2022

Dr. John D. Sinclair developed the Sinclair Method (TSM) to help people with alcohol addiction. The method works by combining alcohol with Naltrexone, which is a prescription medication that reduces the pleasurable effects of alcohol. When combining the two substances the result is undesirable and causes people to reduce their alcohol consumption because it doesn’t produce the same intoxicating effects that it used to. Instead, consuming alcohol has all of the side effects without the pleasure.

The Sinclair Method is also a unique method for alcohol treatment because it’s one of the few treatment modalities that require patients to drink alcohol during the recovery process. While the Sinclair Method has become popular, it’s not for everyone. We’ll cover what the Sinclair Method is and how it’s used to treat alcoholism. It’s also necessary to understand Naltrexone and how it interacts with the brain and alcohol to grasp the Sinclair Method.

What is the Sinclair Method?

The Sinclair Method is a treatment method for alcohol abuse disorder (AUD). Created by Dr. John D. Sinclair, the method has a success rate of 78% and has been effective in at least 87 clinical trials. The Sinclair Method is also FDA-approved and covered by most insurance plans. In some countries around the world, the Sinclair Method is a primary treatment modality but this is not always the case in the United States. There is also controversy surrounding the Sinclair Method because it requires people to consume alcohol and take Naltrexone. However, most sources suggest that the Sinclair Method is safe and effective.

The Sinclair Method is also unique because people who suffer from alcoholism don’t have to quit alcohol completely. Evidence shows that 80% of problem drinkers developed better control over their alcohol consumption with the Sinclair Method. Furthermore, the Sinclair Method goes against the traditional alcoholism treatment philosophy of abstinence. For Dr. Sinclair, abstinence does not work because the human mind still believes that the last time alcohol was consumed there was a pleasurable effect.

How Does the Sinclair Method Work?

The Sinclair Method works in a few ways. First and foremost, it’s designed to combat alcohol addiction by making alcohol less enjoyable. Based on Dr. Sinclair’s work, the brain learns that alcohol does not produce a pleasurable effect when it’s exposed to alcohol and Naltrexone. Repeating the process of making alcohol less pleasurable cures the root cause of alcohol addiction, which is its pleasurable/intoxicating effects. When an individual who suffers from alcoholism finds that alcohol is no longer pleasurable, it’s easier to quit drinking alcohol.
In practice, the Sinclair Method is more affordable and accessible than other treatment methods because it doesn’t require extensive therapy or inpatient treatment. That said, there are some drawbacks to be aware of. The most obvious is that some of the treatment methods are designed to help people reduce their alcohol consumption, not to maintain abstinence.

How Long Does it Take for the Sinclair Method to Work?

The Sinclair Method has different results for everyone. Because it’s a method with less supervision from medical health professionals, the results vary depending on the patient. For most people, results begin to take effect within a few weeks. Still, the Sinclair Method can take up to 6 months to work for some people with severe symptoms of alcoholism.

However, an important component of the Sinclair Method is to ensure that individuals take the medication before consuming alcohol each time. If people fail to do so the Sinclair Method will not work. It’s also important to note that people who suffer from alcoholism are instructed to take Naltrexone before drinking alcohol for the rest of their lives. If someone fails to follow this practice it can lead to relapse.

What is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication that blocks opiate receptors in the brain. The medication does not produce the intoxicating effects of opiates or alcohol and helps people manage addiction because opiates and alcohol become less pleasurable. Ultimately, Naltrexone works by binding to endorphin receptors in the brain and body, which makes engaging in substances like opioids and alcohol less enjoyable.

What is the Best Time to Take Naltrexone?

The best time to take Naltrexone is when your doctor tells you to. If Naltrexone is prescribed in the morning hours, you should take it in the morning. On the other hand, Naltrexone can be prescribed at different times. In some cases, Naltrexone can be taken daily and before consuming alcohol.
Another good way to determine when to take Naltrexone is to consider when you’re drinking alcohol. If you plan on going out with friends and family for alcoholic beverages, make sure you take Naltrexone before doing so (if your doctor approves).

What is the Sinclair Method’s Success Rate?

The Sinclair Method has a success rate of 78% throughout 87 clinical trials. Sinclair’s Method has a higher success rate than most treatment modalities because the goal of treatment is different. Instead of having someone quit drinking for the rest of their lives, the Sinclair Method focuses on reducing drinking by making it less enjoyable with Naltrexone. Because people participating in the Sinclair Method can continue drinking, the method has a higher success rate and a lower chance of failure.

Some people follow the Sinclair Method for life and can continue drinking in social settings. That said, Naltrexone always needs to be involved to prevent relapse and alcohol’s euphoric effects. Still, the Sinclair Method is effective for what it’s attempting to treat.

Is it Possible to Become Addicted to Naltrexone?

No, Naltrexone is not an addictive substance. While multiple doses of Naltrexone are prescribed to help with the early stages of alcoholism treatment, most people can take less Naltrexone over time. Additionally, Naltrexone can become a substance that’s only used on rare occasions (before drinking alcohol). Because the Sinclair Method is not always used to make people quit drinking permanently, Naltrexone can be used throughout a recovering alcoholic’s life.

For these reasons, it’s not possible to become addicted to Naltrexone. The substance also doesn’t cause any positive effects on the brain, which means there’s no euphoric feeling to get addicted to. With Naltrexone and alcohol, it’s quite the opposite.

What are the Alternative Addiction Treatment Options for Alcohol Addiction?

There are many alternative addiction treatment options for alcoholism; the Sinclair Method is not the only method. The three most common alternative treatment methods include inpatient rehabilitation (residential rehab), outpatient rehab, and alcohol detox.

Inpatient rehab is long-term rehabilitation that takes place between 30 and 90 days (on average). At inpatient rehab centers, patients are required to remain on the premises, and contact with the outside world is limited. Inpatient rehab has a high success for these reasons and some locations have amenities like sports, yoga, and chef-cooked meals. At residential rehab centers, patients are provided with supervision during alcohol withdrawal, 1-on-1 counseling, and group therapy. Inpatient therapy works for all types of alcoholic addiction, regardless of severity.
Outpatient rehab is similar to inpatient rehab when it comes to treatment options. For example, outpatient rehab also consists of supervised detox and therapy. The difference between inpatient and outpatient rehab is that outpatient rehab is more flexible and patients can return home after each session. However, the drawback is that supervision is limited and sessions are less frequent. Outpatient rehab is better for less severe cases of alcohol addiction.

Lastly, there are alcohol detox programs. Alcohol detox programs can include things like partial hospitalization, which has patients stay in a medical facility during the withdrawal period. This occurs because medical professionals want to ensure that the withdrawal symptoms don’t harm the patient. Detox can also be performed at outpatient and inpatient rehab centers. Alcohol detox is best for severe cases of alcoholism and sometimes medications like Naltrexone are prescribed.