The Sinclair Method
You have been there. Having to confess, take the blame. Perhaps had to stand up at a meeting and say how awful you have been to other people, accept how it was all your fault, how you made the choice, that nobody put the bottle to your lips. You couldn’t see it, yourself, you never meant to drink too much, or start drinking again after a period of abstinence. You never set out to hurt anybody, it’s just that the urge got so strong, it was like trying to hold your breath and not let go, until it was impossible to do it for any longer. To be accepted in society, you have to go through the hell of craving alcohol, you have to avoid certain social situations, you have to avoid the drinks aisle in the supermarket and make excuses why you can’t attend someone’s leaving party at work, or somebody’s wedding.
Now, what if all those alcohol treatment methods were wrong? What if your alcohol problem was NOT your fault? What if it was a medical condition that you didn’t cause? You just drank, the same as all of your friends but, because you are slightly different in the way you are built, they got away with it and you didn’t. They still drink in a controlled way, they even get drunk occasionally, but they can stop when they want to. You, on the other hand, have one glass and you are back in serious trouble. How is that fair? How is that your fault?
Alcohol dependence is a medical condition. You did not cause it. Yes, if you had never had a drink in your life, you would have never discovered that you have that condition, but almost everyone tries alcohol at some point and a large number overdo it, particularly when they are young. You just did what everyone else did but you got into trouble. Click here to read an example of how alcohol could affect two friends differently
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What is the Sinclair Method?
The Sinclair Method is a modern method of treatment for alcohol addiction which is being used with very high success rates, particularly in Finland where clinics are reporting that up to 78% of clients are either stopping drinking altogether or returning to controlled drinking.
The method works by a process called Pharmacological Extinction.
To put this process into a short simple summary, when people drink, endorphins are released which attach to opioid receptors in the brain giving reward to the individual. The Sinclair Method involves the use of drugs which block those receptors so that the endorphins cannot attach to to them and the drinker experiences no reward. Over time, previous behaviour is unlearned until the drinker is no longer addicted to alcohol.
The drugs involved are called opioid receptor antagonists. These have been around for some years and natrexone is the one that has been used for The Sinclair Method. A newer drug has recently been developed and approved for use in the UK. This is called nalmefene. Unfortunately, the side effects of nalmefene are quite severe and we decided to stop using it after finding out that it was leading to many patients avoiding taking it. We therefore use naltrexone.
Endorphins are involved in many activities including eating sweet and spicy foods, vigorous exercise, sex, placing bets, cuddling babies or even seeing cute little animals. These are all activities which give pleasure. Endorphins also act as the body’s natural painkillers.
The problem with alcohol is that, after getting initial rewards from it, drinking is reinforced, even when the person drinking is no longer getting any positive effects from their indulgence. This means that people keep craving alcohol even when they are very aware that if they drink, it will cause serious problems for them.
Using The Sinclair Method, it is necessary to drink alcohol along with the medication, otherwise pharmacological extinction cannot occur. Research has shown that drinking ceases or reduces to a healthy level after 3-4 months.
Because blocking the opioid receptors all of the time would prevent enjoyment of other healthy activities, it is necessary for people using The Sinclair Method to work towards having days off from drinking. On those days off, the medication wouldn’t be required and pleasure could be gained on those days from non-drinking activities.
The Sinclair Method cannot accurately be described as a ‘cure.’ Even after drinking has ceased, or a healthy level of alcohol consumption has been achieved, it is necessary for the medication to be taken before drinking. Drinking without the medication would lead to a return to uncontrolled drinking.
While The Sinclair Method is a medical approach to treating alcohol dependence and doesn’t require psychotherapy, education is necessary in order to understand the process fully and to ensure success of the treatment.