The first step toward successful treatment involves profound shifts in thinking about excessive drinking and alcoholism. The Sinclair Method is based on a completely new understanding of how alcohol addiction develops and how it can be permanently cured by removing the addiction from your brain and nervous system.
Understanding how the treatment works will ensure that you solve your drinking problem smoothly and efficiently. It will also show those of you who are only beginning to develop a problem how to prevent or inoculate yourself against one in the first place.
Many people will think it’s crazy that if you have a drinking problem, alcohol can actually be necessary for recovery. The research, however, proves drinking is necessary—but only if you take naltrexone whenever you drink.*
Most of us think of addiction as a deep-seated problem, virtually impossible to conquer. But now, clinical trials based on the Sinclair Method have proven otherwise. While heavy drinking and full-blown addiction to alcohol must be treated as a very serious condition, the latest research proves that it is not nearly as difficult to prevent or cure as it used to be. Now, millions of lives can be freed of compulsive and addictive drinking without resorting to torturous and antiquated treatments.
No Abstinence Allowed
Unlike other alcohol treatments, the Sinclair Method does not demand that you stop drinking. Perhaps you have avoided going into treatment, not only because of the stigma associated with being labeled alcoholic, but because you assume that treatment automatically means that you will have to stop drinking completely. It is perfectly understandable that many people cannot picture their life without alcohol, dread a future of deprivation, craving, and total abstinence. The Sinclair Method is good news for those who wish to carry on drinking moderately—it allows you either to stop completely or to carry on drinking safely.
Many of you may have already tried to control your drinking using some form of higher power, willpower,* with religion, on your own, with professional counseling, or through a traditional support group like A.A. Some of you may have been through expensive private treatment programs, only to find yourselves relapsing back to heavy drinking.
Studies prove that many alcoholics manage to abstain for a few weeks—even months—at a time. This is especially true if you have just started traditional rehab and are feeling optimistic about going straight. But as time passes without having a drink, feelings of deprivation close in and the craving for alcohol intensifies. You might be able to resist the impulse to drink the first time, the second, and the third. But all too soon, you find it impossible to resist the craving, and you relapse back to drinking. You may have promised yourself you would drink moderately, but after a drink or two, you end up bingeing, depressed, and hung over.
As chapter 2 showed, when rats already addicted to alcohol are deprived of alcohol for a few days, weeks, or even months, they immediately start binge-drinking much higher amounts than their original daily intake when they are again permitted free access to alcohol. Monkeys also show this Alcohol Deprivation Effect.49 The same pattern applies to human alcoholics.
The Sinclair Method is about as far away from traditional rehab as you can get; to beat your addiction, you must continue drinking. There is, however, a major proviso: you must only drink while on the endorphin-blocking opioid antagonist medication, naltrexone.* As shown in chapter 3 on the hard evidence for the cure, if you abstain from drinking alcohol while taking naltrexone, you will not meet with success because you will not trigger the physiological mechanism causing de-addiction. As you proceed through the treatment, you will notice a gradual reduction in craving and drinking levels within the first few weeks. While this will encourage you to continue, the clinical trials prove that you have to continue drinking while taking naltrexone for at least three to four months until you meet with real success.
Straight Thinking—Undoing the Myths
Like many problem drinkers and alcoholics, you may have come to believe the following about your addiction:
• You are hopelessly incurable.
• Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.
• You have a weak “addictive personality.”
• Trying to control or reduce your drinking is a delusional pipe dream.
• In general, while about 10 percent of alcoholics are able to stop on their own, the only way to beat your drinking problem is through a total abstinence regime for the rest of your life. This means you must continually battle the demons that cause craving through the use of some form of willpower to achieve abstinence—your only realistic goal.
• Advanced alcoholism is usually a terminal illness.
• You are born an alcoholic.
• The only way to conquer alcoholism is to tough it out, through the Twelve Steps, Tough Love, or similar total abstinence program.
• Alcoholics must go through a rigorous, difficult detoxification and drying-out process.
• You have to come out of denial by hitting rock bottom before you will seek help.
Until the discovery of the Sinclair Method, these statements made sense. Prior to the Sinclair Method, alcohol addiction was incurable. Once acquired, the addiction tormented you for the rest of your life. No doubt about it, you had to struggle for lifelong abstinence. Research proved that nearly all attempts at controlled drinking for alcoholics were disastrous. Old-fashioned willpower, an external higher power, or various rehabilitation programs based on total abstinence were the only way to go. Sadly, whatever the treatment and despite the best intentions, the majority of alcoholics invariably ended up relapsing.
Before the discovery of the Sinclair Method, difficult and often dangerous inpatient detoxification (drying-out) procedures were compulsory—they simply had to be endured. But now, with the Sinclair Method, there is a safer, cheaper, and easier way to remove the physiological dependence. With the Sinclair Method, you need no longer fear the dreaded customary warnings—“in-curable” and “85 percent relapse rates”—so endemic to traditional rehab environments.
The Sinclair Method puts an end to these dangerous myths. You now can expect to beat your addiction:
• Clinical trials show you have reason to anticipate a full reversal of your addiction, in other words, a cure. If you are a heavy drinker or addicted to alcohol, it does not mean you are condemned to remain so for the rest of your life. Your addiction can be conquered through Sinclair’s discovery of pharmacological extinction—the formula of Naltrexone + Drinking = Cure.
• Heavy drinking and alcoholism has nothing to do with “personal weakness” or immorality. Rather, you may have inherited an “addictive brain biochemistry.”
• Research proves that controlled drinking is a realistic goal with the Sinclair Method. The formula of Naltrexone + Drinking = Cure means that your craving and drinking levels will either end completely or be reduced to safe levels. Even the most severe cases no longer mean a slow death sentence.
• You are not born alcoholic. Excessive drinking is caused by a combination of an inherited genetic predisposition and learning the addiction—installing it into your brain—over many drinking sessions.
• Abolishing the craving and the heavy or addictive drinking no longer demands “hitting rock bottom,” “Tough Love,” or “Toughing It Out” one day at a time through the Twelve Steps of A.A. or other total abstinence programs. No doubt such programs have helped some alcoholics, but the Sinclair Method offers you a more effective and far less drastic alternative.
• Alcoholics who have managed total sobriety for years without relapsing are in the minority and deserve praise. But they all remain at risk for relapsing to dangerous drinking—85 to 90 percent will relapse within the first year following treatment. A single drink for an alcoholic can lead to a major relapse, even after years of abstinence.
• People who attend A.A. regularly report that they encounter fellow alcoholics who have relapsed even after decades of total abstinence. As we saw in chapter 2, the Alcohol Deprivation Effect in the brain means that the addiction remains in the “always on” position. Until Sinclair’s extinction treatment, nothing could be done to remove the factor causing alcoholism, to delete the fundamental neural circuitry driving your addiction. No amount of willpower or conventional rehab can remove the over-strengthened addictive wiring in your brain. Without access to the Sinclair Method, the addictive wiring remains intact throughout the brain for life. Thus, even if you have not had a drink for thirty years, you are still addicted and always at risk of relapsing. “One drink and it’s over” is your First Commandment for life. The Sinclair Method changes this by removing the addictive neural pathways from your brain. After completing de-addiction treatment, your craving will be gone, and you will be cured.
• Detoxification through the Sinclair Method is a gradual, relatively painless process. You will continue to drink while on your medication and your craving and actual drinking levels will subside automatically. Indeed, the ideal way to detox is to do so slowly, bit by bit, so the body gradually adapts to life without alcohol. Pharmacological extinction provides an easier, more dignified way of accomplishing this.