Around 14.5 million people grapple with alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the United States. Individuals with AUD are unable to stop or reduce their drinking on their own. Their alcohol dependency impairs their ability to fulfill their responsibilities, damaging their relationships and causing health problems. If you want to reduce your drinking, you may have come across the Sinclair Method before. While some swear by it, others diminish it as a debunked method. This medication-based treatment tapers patients off alcohol consumption over time, but does it work? The answer is more complex than you think. Keep reading our guide to see the Sinclair Method debunked.
What Is the Sinclair Method?
The Sinclair Method reduces alcohol consumption over the course of weeks and months using naltrexone. It is an alternative treatment to going “cold turkey,” which can be difficult to maintain. Withdrawal effects and intense cravings can be so intense that participants stop treatment.
The Sinclair Method is a harm reduction strategy. The idea is that you lower the risk of relapse when you don’t fight the urge to drink over an extended period of months. Instead, your goal is to decrease your alcohol consumption until you reach a point of control or abstinence.
Most participants become independent from alcohol between four and six months. By nine months, most have completed treatment and will have stopped drinking, or will have reached a state of controlled drinking with a changed relationship to alcohol.
Harm reduction strategies remain controversial in addiction and psychiatric treatment. Debunking methods are necessary to determine if they are viable medical options.
What Is Naltrexone?
Using naltrexone diminishes your craving for alcohol. Physicians originally used naltrexone to reverse opioid overdoses in the 1970s. The FDA approved naltrexone for AUD treatment in 1995. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist. An antagonist is a medication that interferes with the effects of another substance. Although it has “opioid” in the definition, naltrexone is not a controlled substance. You’re not at risk of developing an addiction to it, and you’ll only take naltrexone as-needed. You will need a doctor’s prescription for oral naltrexone.
Studies suggest that naltrexone is beneficial for those struggling with alcohol abstinence. Using naltrexone can decrease drinking days and sessions of excessive drinking. Successful drinking reduction is linked with medication dosing compliance. When you follow the Sinclair Method, you take naltrexone by mouth one to two hours before drinking. It binds to your brain’s cellular opioid receptors and interferes with the pleasurable and reinforcing effects of drinking alcohol. This reward "extinction" will make you apathetic to alcohol use over time. You remove the reward, and you gradually regain your control.
Sinclair Method Debunked
The Sinclair Method has undergone several debunking methods throughout its history. Research has found that the Sinclair Method fails when a participant neglects the medication dosing protocol. If you use the Sinclair Method, drinking alcohol without naltrexone can have consequences. Drinking will reconnect the association between alcohol and reward. Your progress will be undone.
The Sinclair Method alters your brain chemistry in a positive way, but that is only one factor in AUD. Trauma, stress, and mental health problems are conditions of alcohol abuse. If you don’t address those problems, recovery is less likely.
Alcohol numbs physical and emotional pain. This effect appeals to people who struggle to cope with this pain. Individuals who have also suffered an injury may use alcohol as a form of pain management.
Treatments that use medication alone lack the depth needed to improve AUD. A better method is medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which combines medication with lifestyle changes. This approach is ideal when it incorporates wellness concepts.
MAT is your best option for alcohol abuse reduction.
Wellness Can Reduce Your Drinking
If you only treat the biological side of alcohol abuse, you’re only touching one aspect of it. The concept of wellness completes the picture by providing a wholeness approach. Wellness includes your physical, mental, and emotional health. Wellness strategies provide healthy alternatives to harmful drinking behaviors. Medication helps you begin your treatment, and wellness strategies help you maintain it. A wellness lifestyle may seem too difficult to achieve if you have AUD, but with a little effort you can get started easily. You don’t have to do all the work at once, nor would that be a realistic plan. The goal is to make small lifestyle changes at a reasonable pace. As you drink less, you will integrate wellness strategies into your daily routine. Physical wellness strategies are a great place to start.
Physical Wellness Strategies
For those with a sedentary lifestyle, exercise is the key to improving wellness. Exercise does not have to monopolize hours of your time or cost hundreds of dollars. Physicians recommend 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week to achieve wellness.
Exercise releases endorphins like drinking alcohol does, so it’s a great substitute. Chasing a runner’s high is like getting buzzed without the impairment. Remember, your body produces opioids naturally called endorphins. It’s up to you to find a healthy way to begin the process and harness those endorphins to produce healthy physical lifestyle habits.
Exercise can reduce alcohol intake and produce better outcomes for people with AUD. It’s important to start small. Begin by taking walks in your neighborhood or doing a brief yoga routine. You do not want to push yourself so hard that you harm yourself or stop after a few tries.
Increasing the quality of your sleep is another physical wellness strategy. Sleep affects our cardiovascular health, hormone levels, immune system and more. You need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night to be mentally energized. Decreasing your alcohol intake will improve your sleep quality. Alcohol abuse can disturb your sleep patterns and make it difficult to stay asleep. People with AUD are 3 times more likely to experience insomnia compared to the general population.
Improving your eating habits is also a great physical wellness strategy. You can upgrade your diet by changing the amount and type of food that you eat. Change your diet by adding more vegetables to your meals and reducing refined sugars. Meat is a great source of protein, but it is better to choose chicken and fish over red meats which can hurt your health.
Physical wellness strategies correlate with decreased drinking. Implement one side of the equation and the other will improve. Then you can then leverage wellness and reduced drinking off of each other to improve in both areas.
Mental and Emotional Wellness Strategies
Mental wellness occurs when you process stimuli in a rational way. You achieve emotional wellness when you handle negative situations with composure and optimal solutions, and regulate your emotions. Reducing stress is the first step in mental and emotional wellness. Stress manifests in physical and emotional forms. It can wreak havoc on your body and cause headaches, nausea, and panic attacks. You can improve your stress through breathing exercises, meditation, and mindful thinking.
Another strategy is to build your support system. A support system is a group of people and resources that you can lean on during your AUD treatment. Your support system consists of trusted friends, family members, peers, and professionals. You can talk to these people about your disorder, your difficulties, and your triumphs. Reliable support systems enhance AUD treatment plans.
Find a Medication-Assisted Treatment Program
Part of building your support system is finding an AUD treatment program that works for you. Your path to wellness is unique, and it reflects your lived experiences and trials. You need a guide that can help you tailor your treatment plan for the best results.
When you research MAT programs, consider what the ideal MAT program looks like. This program will provide you with detailed medication dosage information. Providers will supply comprehensive educational resources and wellness strategies.
You will benefit most from a program that lets you meet with AUD professionals. Telehealth programs have a special advantage because you can receive treatment from the comfort of your home. AUD professionals will help you track your progress and give support as you overcome your alcohol use disorder. Do not fall victim to programs that lock you into expensive, never-ending services. Look for affordable programs that understand the importance of your health and that provide a clear pathway to an realistic goal in a reasonable amount of time, tailored to your particular situation. A reputable AUD treatment program will approach your health with a holistic mindset. You’ll learn skills to combat the causes of alcohol abuse at a managed pace and take back control.
Begin Your AUD Treatment with Alcure
The Sinclair Method works best when supplemented with a wellness approach. Now that you’ve seen the Sinclair Method debunked, you can make an informed treatment decision. Alcure offers treatment tailored to each client and in-depth video tutorials and courses to guide you through its program and reduce your drinking. Our medication-assisted treatment program uses both the Sinclair Method and wellness strategies.
Within nine months, you can turn your life around and live a life of wellness and fulfillment, and put your excess drinking behind you.
Don’t wait to take the first step. Schedule an appointment with one of our health care providers now.