Dr. David Sinclair initially got inspired about a new method of alcohol treatment from the experiments of Nobel-prize winner, Ivan Pavlov. Most people are familiar with Pavlov’s experiment using dogs, providing them with a treat after sounding a bell and eventually, the dogs would salivate merely with the bell alone. Sinclair’s interest lay in the later “extinction” portion of the experiment, where the dogs would hear the bell and not be rewarded any longer. Eventually, the dogs would stop salivating altogether.
Sinclair, who has since passed on in 2015, thought that this “extinction” process could also be applied to humans trying to overcome, what he felt, was a learned addiction to alcohol. He began experimenting in the 1960s with rats who were predisposed to alcohol addiction. Early in his research, he concluded that alcohol acted on the brain in a way similar to how opiates do. Alcohol releases endorphins that bind with opiate receptors in the brain, so Sinclair hypothesized that this process could be interrupted. He tested this theory on rats using Naltrexone and the results were so encouraging that he began to do trials in humans shortly afterward.
The specifics of the Sinclair method for people attempting to overcome addiction is to take a Naltrexone (or Naloxone or Nalmefene) pill one to two hours before drinking alcohol. This is not a replacement method like methadone for heroin, or nicotine patches or gum, instead, the pill works as an opioid antagonist. An opioid antagonist does not do anything until after an endorphin has been released. Then the process of extinction is triggered, and the pharmacological extinction mechanism over time gradually removes the neural cause for excessive drinking. The tablets chemically disrupt the brain’s reward cycle causing you to want to drink less.
Interestingly, alcoholics using this method can continue to keep drinking, (although results suggest that 25% become completely abstinent), but the caveat is that a person must be committed to taking a pill, every time they drink alcohol, for the rest of their lives. The results have been astounding. 78% of people using the Sinclair method can become “normal” drinkers, not drinking to excess or in an alcoholic manner. The process of tapering off usually lasts between three and four months.
The Sinclair Method has successfully helped moderate the drinking in Finland, Sweden and Denmark where substance use disorders are major national problems. In 1994, the FDA authorized the use of Naltrexone to battle alcohol addiction in the U.S., however, the Sinclair method of treatment is not well known in the United States, so doctors are reluctant to prescribe Naltrexone for this purpose.
The New Era Health Center, located in Miami, Florida, is one clinic that has been offering the Sinclair method to its clients. However, most people in the U.S. who have been interested in this type of treatment have simply gotten the pills online from another country and self-monitored their progress. Claudia Christian, an actress and advocate for the Sinclair method, shares an interesting Ted Talk on the subject. She talks about her many relapses and her experience with a wide variety of treatment methods before successfully utilizing the Sinclair method.
One extremely attractive aspect to the Sinclair method is that a person can still drink alcohol. Most all other methods of treatment involve going “cold turkey” and living a life of abstinence for the remainder of one’s life. Dealing with cravings and the constant threat of relapse is synonymous with the lifestyle of the recovering addict. The Sinclair method’s program gives recovering people the hope that their cravings, and the subsequent frustration, will simply go away and no longer be a recurring problem for them.
The Sinclair method is also far less expensive than other forms of treatment and can be a great solution for developing countries where treatment centers are scarce. The method can be combined with, or without, therapy, so it’s possible for someone to find their way out of addiction without a lot of professional help. There is a book out, called “The Cure for Alcoholism” by Dr. Roy Eskapa, who worked alongside Dr. David Sinclair, and is the definitive guide to using the Sinclair Method.
If you want to stop drinking alcoholically, but still want to drink, the Sinclair method may be your answer.