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The Sinclair Method – Treatment for Alcohol Addiction


Have you ever noticed how one-size-fits-all very rarely ever fits all? It’is no exception when it comes to methods for treating addiction. There are several addiction recovery methods used throughout the world, and more methods are evolving as science continues to discover new developments on the physical and psychological effects of drug and alcohol use.

In this post we’ll cover the basics of the Sinclair Method, an addiction recovery method that has been gaining more attention in recent years.

The Sinclair Method

Also referred to as TSM, the Sinclair Method is a treatment for alcohol addiction developed by Dr. John D. Sinclair. It uses a technique called pharmacological extinction which is a process of stopping a behavior that has previously been repeatedly rewarded. The Sinclair Method involves taking an opioid antagonist such as Naltrexone or Nalmefene, which chemically interrupts an individual’s action or incentive cycle producing the desire to intake less of the substance rather than more, one hour before consuming alcohol. Eventually, the medication is capable of eliminating the desire to drink.

The Science Behind It

Dr. Sinclair was influenced by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist primarily known for his research and work in classical conditioning. Pavlov conducted an experiment using dogs where he gave food to the dogs each time a bell was rung. After repeating this process several times, the dogs would salivate at just the sound of the bell. Once the dogs were conditioned in this way, Pavlov stopped giving food to the dogs when the bell was rung, eventually causing the salivating to gradually come to an end. This concept is referred to as “extinction”, something that Dr. Sinclair believed would work similarly with addiction. Over time, the individual who had become conditioned to crave alcohol would instead become conditioned to no longer crave the substance.

Does it Work?

The Sinclair Method has a success rate of nearly 80% for those who properly apply this method. Some individuals find the method effective whether they pair it with therapy or not. Using the Sinclair Method, “extinction” can occur in as little as 3 months.

As with all recovery and treatment methods, there are those who will condone and those who will promote it. Some say the Sinclair Method is a treatment that can be effective before meetings and therapy become necessary. Because it is applied while an individual is still actively involved in a behavior they want to change, it can be effective for people who simply want to stop a behavior rather than save themselves from an addiction.

Others say that because the pill isn’t effective without the intake of alcohol, it doesn’t really fix the psychological effects that come with addiction. The medication taken with the Sinclair Method takes time to take effect, while in the meantime the alcoholic continues to drink heavily. Impaired judgement, motor skills, and behaviors could still be present since drinking still continues.

As mentioned before, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for every person pursing recovery. Having a trained team of professionals on your side during the recovery process will help you determine which methods and medicine are right for your unique situation.

Related: Physical vs. Psychological Addiction