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Updated on February 2, 2023
5 min read

The Sinclair Method Explained

What is the Sinclair Method?

The Sinclair Method is a method of treating alcohol use disorder (AUD) developed by Dr. John D. Sinclair.4 It is a medication-assisted treatment for alcoholism.

The Sinclair Method combines continued alcohol consumption with the prescription drug, Naltrexone.4 Naltrexone reduces the pleasure of alcohol, which can help people cut back or quit drinking.

Unlike most traditional alcohol dependence treatments, the Sinclair Method allows alcoholics to continue drinking alcohol at the start of treatment. It is not an abstinence-based treatment plan.4

In this article, you’ll learn how the Sinclair Method works, how successful the Sinclair Method is, and what other alternative treatments are available to you.

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How Does the Sinclair Method Treat Alcohol Addiction?

The Sinclair Method utilizes the medication Naltrexone. Naltrexone is a non-addictive, FDA-approved prescription drug that helps people quit or cut back on drinking. It also helps prevent relapse. 

With the medication, alcohol no longer gives them the same pleasure. Without that pleasure, they may not drink so much.6

The goal of the Sinclair Method is for the person to willingly change their drinking habits instead of trying to quit drinking cold turkey.

The Sinclair Method differs from abstinence-based treatments because the patient can continue drinking. In fact, it argues that abstinence does not work. This is because an alcohol-dependent person’s brain will not rest until they have an alcoholic drink.6

What to Know About Naltrexone 

Naltrexone has been FDA-approved for alcohol addiction since 1994. Most insurance plans also cover it.6

It blocks your body’s naturally occurring endorphins when you consume alcohol. This stops the rewarding buzz feeling that some alcoholics experience.6

Naltrexone has very few side effects, but some include5:

  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Vomitting
  • Cramps
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Cold symptoms

Is the Sinclair Method Right for You?

Talk to your doctor to decide whether or not the Sinclair Method is right for you. The Sinclair Method may not be for you if:

  • You suffer extreme mental health effects from alcohol use, like depression
  • Your alcohol use has caused other serious health concerns like liver disease or cancer
  • You continue to drink so much that you get alcohol poisoning
  • You are taking other medications to combat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that interact with alcohol
  • You try the Sinclair Method and continue to drink despite less pleasurable effects
  • You are battling other health conditions, physical or mental, that drive you to drink nonetheless (these require different forms of treatment)
  • You are dealing with alcohol and substance use at the same time

Who Benefits the Most from the Sinclair Method?

On the contrary, the Sinclair Method is most effective for the following people:

  • Your goal is not to stop drinking completely
  • You only want to control your alcohol intake without going overboard
  • You have tried other methods of alcohol addiction treatment that don’t seem to work
  • You find yourself drinking heavily but do not necessarily have an addiction
  • You are on a slippery slope and want to reduce your alcohol intake before it’s too late
  • Your alcohol use has not already led to other health complications

Consult your doctor about whether or not the Sinclair Method to eliminate alcohol addiction will be safe or likely effective for you. 

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What is the Success Rate of the Sinclair Method?

Ironically, for the Sinclair Method to work, the patient has to continue consuming alcohol

The Sinclair Method is considered a relatively successful one. It is deemed to be about 78% effective.1

More specifically, the Sinclair Method was effective in more than 90 clinical trials across the globe.10 It was also effective in about 80% of problem drinkers worldwide.10

In some European countries, the Sinclair Method is considered a standard treatment. In the United States, acceptance is still growing.

Critics argue that the Sinclair Method is only successful with monitoring alcoholism. Some also argue that people with alcohol problems may not hold themselves accountable for taking Naltrexone when they want to drink.

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Do Rehab Centers Endorse the Sinclair Method? 

Not all rehabilitation centers endorse the Sinclair Method. This is largely because it neglects to address the mental toll that alcoholism can have on a person. 

Most rehab programs reinforce sobriety. Unlike the Sinclair Method, rehab centers also treat the other side effects of alcoholism, like anxiety and depression. Ultimately, rehabilitation centers offer a more holistic approach to healing from alcohol addiction than simply making alcohol seem less appealing.

Alternative Treatments for Alcohol Addiction

While the Sinclair Method may work for some people, it is not for everyone. Fortunately, there are many other ways to treat alcohol addiction, too. Three alternative treatments for alcoholism include:7, 8

  • Rehabilitation: Inpatient and outpatient treatment centers partner you with medical professionals, psychologists, and other health professionals to treat alcoholism
  • Therapies: Talk therapy can help you to unpack the triggers that drive you to drink and can help you address mental health issues
  • Support Groups: Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous connect you with other people who are struggling with sobriety to help you on your road to recovery
  • Medications: Acamprosate and disulfiram are other medications that are approved to help alcoholism and be used alone or in combination with behavioral treatments

Summary

  • The Sinclair Method is a method of treating alcohol use disorder using the drug Naltrexone
  • Naltrexone is taken while you drink and reduces many of the pleasurable aspects of drinking
  • The Sinclair Method aims to make drinking less appealing to reduce alcohol intake or to quit altogether
  • The treatment isn’t endorsed by many rehab centers and is only gaining notoriety in the U.S. in recent years
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Updated on February 2, 2023
10 sources cited
Updated on February 2, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. About: The Sinclair Method.” C Three Foundation.
  2. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2021.
  3. Alcohol Use Disorder.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2018.
  4. “Reclaim Your Control over Alcohol.” The Sinclair Method Institute.
  5. Naltrexone (Oral Route) Side Effects.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2021.
  6. The Sinclair Method (TSM) for Alcoholism: Accepting New Patients.” SinclairMethod, 2021.
  7. Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2014.
  8. Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2020.
  9. McKeown, et al. “What Is the Mortality and Morbidity of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?” Medscape, 2021.
  10. What is the Sinclair Method?” SinclairMethod.

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