The Sinclair Method for Treating Alcoholism or Alcohol Dependence

The goal of the Sinclair Method (sometimes called niacin therapy) of alcohol abuse or alcoholism treatment is to enable heavy drinkers to drink in moderation. The technique uses an opioid antagonists such as naltrexone to block the brain’s opioid receptors. This prevents the patient from experiencing a high and also prevents the the brain’s naturally occurring pain killers from binding to the receptors in the brain. This mechanism of pharmacological extinction (operant conditioning) reduces craving for the otherwise positive reinforcement caused by consuming alcohol (or drugs such as heroin).

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Although naltrexone has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for decades, other opioid blockers are available and may be used.

The Sinclair Method treatment period lasts from a period of three to 15 months. After that, the patient needs to continue taking naltrexone before drinking to prevent positive endorphin conditioning from occurring. Otherwise, the pharmacological extinction will reverse itself.

Named after the doctor who developed it, John David Sinclair, the method is the standard protocol used in Finland and widely used elsewhere. Its limited use in the United States may result from the very strong influence of Alcoholics Anonymous, which claims that alcoholics can never learn to drink in moderation. The difference between A.A.'s ideology and science is that the latter is modified by empirical evidence. Much scientific research for decades, some of it conducted by the U.S. government, has clearly demonstrated that a large proportion of alcoholics can and do learn to drink in moderation.

More information is on the very readable Psychology Today article on the Sinclair Method.

Disclaimer: This website is informational only. It makes no suggestions or recommendations about alcohol, alcoholism, substance abuse, niacin therapy or any other subject and none should be inferred. Neither this website nor your host receives any compensation, directly or indirectly, from listing or describing any program. Such listing or description does not imply endorsement.

Readings about the Sinclair Method

  • Escapa, Roy D. The Cure for Alcoholism: Drink Your Way to Sober without Willpower, Abstinence, or Discomfort - the Sinclair Method, a Medically Proven Cure for Alcoholism. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, 2012.
  • Heinälä, Pekka; Alho, Hannu; Kiianmaa, Kalervo; Lönnqvist, Jouko; Kuoppasalmi, Kimmo; Sinclair, John D. Targeted use of naltrexone without prior detoxification in the treatment of alcohol dependence: a factorial double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2001, 21(3), 287-292.
  • Sinclair, John David. Evidence about the use of naltrexone and for different ways of using it in the treatment of alcoholism. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2000, 36(1), 2-10.

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This website is informational only. It makes no suggestions or recommendations about any subject.
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