The Sinclair Method (TSM) is a treatment for alcohol addiction where the patient takes a medication known as naltrexone one hour prior to consuming alcohol. Unlike other treatments for alcohol addiction, the Sinclair Method allows the patient to continue drinking at the beginning of the treatment. By attaching to opioid receptors in the brain and blocking the effect of endorphins, naltrexone reduces the pleasure derived from alcohol consumption. The patient’s craving for alcohol diminishes over time until eventually, they simply lose interest in drinking.
Alcoholism is a broad term and is now also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD). According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.
Some other common signs or symptoms of those with AUD include:
- The inability to reduce how much alcohol is consumed or recurring unsuccessful attempts to cut back
- Feeling a strong compulsion to drink
- Continuing to drink even though it’s known to be causing problems with health, personal relationships, or other important aspects of life
- Suffering symptoms of withdrawal such as shakiness, loss of appetite, nausea, or irritability when not drinking or drinking to stop such symptoms
AUD can lead to numerous health problems including:
- Liver disease
- Cardiovascular problems
- Weakened immune system
- Increased risk of cancer
A Learned Behavior
Research completed by Dr. David Sinclair showed that excessive alcohol consumption is a learned behavior. When a person consumes alcohol, their body releases endorphins that create feelings of enjoyment and reward. These feelings act as a reinforcement. Sinclair, an American psychologist and alcohol researcher, reasoned that certain individuals, for various reasons, receive so much reinforcement through drinking that they eventually lose the ability to control their level of consumption.
Naltrexone is a medication that binds to the brain’s opioid receptors. In doing so, it blocks the effects of the endorphins that are released when a person drinks. The FDA approved naltrexone for the treatment of alcohol dependence in 1994. Naltrexone is non-addictive.
The Sinclair Method
The work of Ivan Pavlov and his famed experiment teaching dogs to salivate heavily influenced Sinclair. In the experiment, Pavlov rang a bell and then gave food to the dogs. After repeating this process a number of times, he tried only ringing the bell. At first, the dogs continued to salivate even though the food was no longer provided. Over time, however, the dogs eventually stopped salivating. This is known as extinction, which is defined as the disappearance of a previously learned behavior when the behavior is not reinforced.
Sinclair realized that the concept of extinction could be applied to the treatment of alcohol addiction. Naltrexone removes the reinforcement by eliminating the feelings of enjoyment and reward. Over time, the mechanism of extinction takes effect and the patient loses their interest in drinking.
TSM has been found to be a successful treatment in about 80% of people with alcohol use disorder.
This safe and effective treatment is offered at Huron Recovery Specialists in Huron Ohio. Call us at 567-245-4576 to schedule an appointment.