The Sinclair Method for Alcoholism: What You Need to Know

If a nice cold beer, glass of wine, or a stiff drink are no longer just a nice way to end the day now and then, but are the focus of your whole day — you may be facing alcoholism. If you can’t cut back even though you want to, if you crave a drink all the time, if it’s starting to affect your job and your relationships, it’s time to get help.

Dr. Barbara Mack at True Potential MD in University Place, Washington, compassionately and expertly helps her patients overcome the uncontrollable urge to drink alcohol with a highly effective treatment called the Sinclair Method. Here’s how it works.

What happens inside your body when you drink alcohol

When you have a good belly laugh, go for a run, or even have sex, your brain produces a chemical called endorphins. Also known as the “feel-good chemicals,” endorphins not only help you feel pleasure, they also diminish pain.

Certain drugs can mimic endorphins, such as those in the opioid family: heroin, morphine, and codeine, to name a few. Alcohol can do this, too. These substances are all called agonists, which means they, like endorphins, trigger excitement, pleasure, and pain relief. Depending on the potency and frequency of the drug or alcohol use and the chemical makeup of the individual’s brain, this can become an addictive situation. 

Traditional methods of treating alcoholism

Historically, alcohol dependency treatments have relied on in-patient methods and abstinence. Treatment centers rely on a steady flow of patients in residence for their funding. Although other approaches have proven successful, they do require a shift in mindset from the medical community as well as the public. 

The Sinclair Method of treating alcohol dependency

Developed in the 1980s and approved by the FDA for use in the treatment of alcohol dependency in 1994, the Sinclair Method addresses the chemical reaction in your brain that we discussed earlier. 

The Sinclair method involves the use of a drug called naltrexone, which is an antagonist. That means it stifles the effects of an agonist like alcohol. If you take naltrexone about an hour before you drink an alcoholic beverage, it neutralizes the effect. Over time, it breaks the cycle.

Naltrexone effectively changes your brain’s relationship with alcohol. By taking away the pleasurable feelings — the buzz — you get when you have a shot of whiskey, you feel nothing. In a few months, your body stops making the connection between alcohol and pleasure, so you stop craving it.

Benefits of the Sinclair Method

Named after Dr. David Sinclair, this method of overcoming alcoholism has several advantages over other approaches.

You can still have a drink — in fact, you must

This may be the part that’s so hard for many health care professionals and their patients to understand. 

The Sinclair Method only works if you take it before you drink. The concept relies on your body consuming alcohol and NOT feeling pleasure to relearn the relationship, so you must keep drinking alcohol — at least during the initial phase of the Sinclair Method.

No detox necessary

The Sinclair Method gradually detoxes your system as your body learns that pleasure doesn’t come from alcohol. You’ll slowly decrease your consumption and no longer crave it.

More effective than abstinence

Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, has long been the accepted diagnosis. Even if you stop drinking for 20 years, you never lose the desire, and one drink can undo years of work.

With the Sinclair Method, you lose the desire. In scientific terms, this is called pharmacological extinction, which simply means that your brain dissociates pleasure and alcohol. Abstinence doesn’t do that.

Important note

It’s critical to note that naltrexone does NOT prevent intoxication. While it suppresses your brain’s response to the chemical pleasure and therefore decreases your desire to drink, it does not change the impairment that occurs when you consume alcohol. 

Fortunately, with your newfound control, you’ll know when to say when.

If you’re ready to take the reins back and gain control of your life once again, call us or book an appointment online to find out if the Sinclair Method is right for you or your loved one.

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