The Sinclair Method for alcohol addiction

What is the Sinclair Method (TSM) and how is it used to treat alcoholism?

What You Need to Know

The Sinclair Method is designed to curb drinking by taking an opioid antagonist medication an hour or so before drinking. The medication will block the euphoric effects of the alcohol, thus retraining the brain and reducing desire for alcohol. Usually, the positive effects of drinking reinforce our habit of alcohol consumption. The Sinclair Method is designed to break that habit by extinguishing the good vibes associated with booze. The fancy name for this technique is pharmacological extinction.

Naltrexone, in pill form, is the medication utilized for the Sinclair Method. Naltrexone fills and blocks the opioid receptors in the brain. “The idea is that drinking alcohol causes pleasure by triggering the release of endogenous opioids in the brain,” Dr. Sarah E. Wakeman explains on Workit’s blog. She says, “Naltrexone, by blocking the opioid receptor, prevents these endogenous opioids from having an effect and that limits the rewarding and positively reinforcing aspects of drinking.” It’s not a cure for alcohol addiction, but it can be an aid for people hoping to cut down or totally stop drinking.

No, but Vivitrol can help you reduce your heavy drinking days. There is evidence that naltrexone in all forms can reduce cravings and decrease heavy drinking days, including in its once-a-month injection form known as Vivitrol. In one study, treatment with Vivitrol resulted in 25% greater reduction of heavy drinking days than counseling alone. In another study, Vivitrol showed greater success with those who were totally abstinent from drinking for a week ahead of receiving the shot.

How is this different than The Sinclair Method? Jenny Williamson, Director of the C Three Foundation, explains: “TSM is technically called ‘targeted pharmacological extinction.’ Targeting the alcohol reward is the essence of what defines TSM and makes it what it is. Time-release methods of naltrexone are incapable of targeting … so while it is 100% true that there is the potential for Vivitrol to work for some people, there is never a case where Vivitrol can be used TSM on its own.”

According to a survey from the C Three Foundation, more than half of the survey participants reduced their drinking by 70% in 6-12 months. Like any recovery method, The Sinclair Method isn’t an overnight fix, but a gradual solution.

Although it isn’t commonly known that naltrexone can be used as a treatment for alcohol addiction, including for moderation, there are no regulations limiting what type of doctor is able to prescribe naltrexone in the U.S.

Most inpatient treatment centers follow a traditional model of abstinence-based treatment, while the Sinclair Method is often begun in outpatient settings like medical offices. Workit Health offers naltrexone treatment utilizing The Sinclair Method for alcohol addiction in California, Michigan, New Jersey, Washington, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Oregon, Texas, Minnesota, and Alaska. We serve these entire states via telehealth. If you aren’t in one of these three states, you can refer to the C Three Foundation’s directory of in-person and telehealth naltrexone providers.

Questions? Talk to an expert