The Sinclair Method & Alcohol Treatment

The Sinclair Method

Cut Down Or Cut Out Alcohol Using Naltrexone

The Sinclair Method (TSM) is a relatively new, and unknown, modality in alcohol addiction treatment, blending medication with psychology. By not demanding immediate abstinence, it introduces what some believe to be a more accessible path towards recovery. This method employs the medication Naltrexone, that targets the brain’s reward system to decrease the desire for alcohol over time in conjunction with behavioural therapy.

By systematically administering Naltrexone in conjunction with alcohol consumption, the Sinclair Method aims to gradually decrease the desire to drink, eventually leading to voluntary abstinence or controlled drinking. The process is known as pharmacological extinction and is rooted in the principles of operant conditioning, a method of learning that employs rewards and punishments for behaviour. The idea being that the absence of the expected alcohol-induced euphoria leads to a diminished craving for alcohol over time.

The method’s development marks a significant difference from conventional alcohol treatment modalities that are often abstinence based.

By acknowledging the complex nature of addiction and addressing it through a combination of medication and behavioural therapy, some believe the Sinclair Method provides a more accessible and potentially more effective treatment option for those struggling with alcohol dependence.

History and Background Of The Sinclair Method

John David Sinclair, PhD (1943–2015), is credited with popularising the use of Naltrexone administered before drinking. It’s based on his animal research demonstrating that Naltrexone could block alcohol’s reinforcing effects. Sinclair’s studies revealed that animals trained to consume alcohol would gradually extinguish their drinking behavior when alcohol was consistently preceded by naltrexone. Additionally, he observed that prolonged deprivation of alcohol increased animals’ motivation to obtain it, a phenomenon he termed the “alcohol deprivation effect,” similar he thought to the heightened craving experienced by some people whi have acohol problems during their periods of abstinence.

Sinclair hypothesised that administering Naltrexone prior to alcohol consumption could prevent reinforcement of drinking behavior, and that this would lead to a gradual reduction in craving through a process he termed pharmacological extinction. Clinical studies in Finland confirmed his hypothesis, demonstrating that targeted Naltrexone administration not only reduced alcohol consumption but also diminished the desire for alcohol over time.

Recognising the importance of reinforcing healthy behaviors, Sinclair advocated for the use of Naltrexone exclusively on drinking days, allowing natural endorphin release from non-drinking activities to reinforce positive behaviors. He believed this approach could facilitate neural rewiring, shifting the focus from alcohol consumption to healthier pursuits.

Sinclair’s therapy concept was patented in 1989, and despite successful trials in Finland, its unconventional nature, including the requirement for continued drinking during treatment, has hindered widespread acceptance within the treatment community. Consequently, the Sinclair Method has remained relatively obscure, partly due to its deviation from traditional abstinence-based approaches as well as relatively limited research compared to other treatment modalities.

The Sinclair Method Process

The process for using the Sinclair Method is:

  • Taking naltrexone daily for daily drinkers or around one hour before consuming alcohol if you are a binge drinker
  • Consume alcohol as usual
  • While drinking, the naltrexone blocks pleasurable feelings and you may feel like drinking less
  • Continuing to use naltrexone 100% of the days you consume alcohol
  • Over time, the rewards from drinking diminish
  • Many people see a reduction in consumption or complete abstinence

WATCH: Actress Claudia Christian discusses how to managed to overcome alcohol addiction using Naltrexone.

Naltrexone and The Sinclair Method

In TSM, Naltrexone diminishes the rewarding sensations associated with drinking thus addressing alcohol dependency at a neurochemical level.

The rationale for using Naltrexone in treating alcohol addiction is in its ability to disrupt the cycle of dependency.

Repeated cycles of consuming alcohol without the rewarding effects might lead to a significant reduction in alcohol use. For some, this method can result in a natural and voluntary reduction in alcohol intake. In other cases, it can even foster a state of indifference towards alcohol and abstinence.

Adherence to the prescribed Naltrexone regimen is essential for the Sinclair Method to be effective. Missing doses may undermine the treatment’s success as the protective barrier against alcohol’s rewarding effects may be compromised.

Naltrexone Safety and Efficacy

Numerous clinical trials and studies support the safety and efficacy of Naltrexone. It is generally considered safe when taken as directed under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Whilst potential side effects may include nausea, headache, dizziness or fatigue, these symptoms are both rare, typically mild and temporary. It is important for those taking Naltrexone to communicate any adverse reactions with their doctor, ensuring adjustments to the treatment can be made if necessary.

Naltrexone has been shown in some studies to reduce the frequency and severity of relapses, decrease alcohol cravings and also promote abstinence. It is often used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that may include alcohol counselling, psychosocial support, home alcohol detox programs and other interventions.

Psychology Behind The Sinclair Method

Naltrexone Medication

Naltrexone is central to the Sinclair Method. In essence, Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist and works by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors without activating them, effectively blocking the euphoric and pleasurable effects of alcohol.

When a person drinks alcohol, their brain releases endorphins, which are chemicals that produce feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. This reward encourages repeated alcohol consumption leading to dependency in some people. Naltrexone works by blocking the endorphin receptors in the brain. As a result, the immediate pleasure usually experienced from drinking alcohol is significantly reduced or eliminated.

This reduction in pleasure leads to what is known as pharmacological extinction – the gradual decrease in alcohol craving and consumption. The process is straightforward. A person takes Naltrexone before drinking and over time the brain starts to associate alcohol with a lack of reward. This changes drinking behaviour as the motivation to drink for pleasure diminishes.

Behavioural Therapy & Operant Conditioning

Alongside medication, behavioural therapy plays an essential role in treatment, addressing habits and thought patterns associated with drinking.

Behavioural therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing unhealthy or maladaptive behaviours by identifying and modifying the patterns of actions (and thoughts) that contribute to them. It’s based on the principles of learning theory, particularly the classical conditioning and operant conditioning aspects.

Operant conditioning is a type of learning in behavioural psychology that involves the modification of behaviour through the use of positive and/or negative consequences. These consequences can be either reinforcements, which increase the likelihood of the behaviour occurring again, or punishments, which decrease the likelihood of the behaviour occurring again.

Behavioural theory is at the root of the use of Naltrexone and the Sinclair method – if there are no positive effects from alcohol use when one is taking Naltrexone, then alcohol use will diminish or stop, in theory.

In behavioural therapy, the therapist and the client work together to set specific measurable goals for behaviour change.

Techniques used in behavioural therapy may include:

  • Behavioural Analysis: Identifying the problematic behaviours, triggers and consequences associated with them.
  • Behavioural Modification: Using positive/negative reinforcement to increase desired behaviours and decrease undesired ones.
  • Exposure Therapy: Gradually exposing the individual to feared or avoided situations or stimuli in a safe and controlled manner to reduce anxiety or avoidance behaviours.
  • Cognitive Restructuring: Identifying and challenging irrational or negative thought patterns and replacing them with more adaptive and realistic ones.

Behavioural therapy is typically brief, structured and focused on specific goals making it a highly effective approach for many people.

The Sinclair Method, therefore, is a psychology-backed solution to alcohol addiction. Its combined use of Naltrexone and Behavioural therapy, underpinned by robust pharmacological principles and supported by empirical evidence, does offer a different approach to addiction treatment that prioritises people’s needs and outcomes, without necessarily requiring abstinence.

The Sinclair Method & Naltrexone

This dual approach of medication in the form of Naltrexone and the use of behavioural therapies ensures that both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction receive attention. Something that we are big on here at Detox Today. We believe the use of medications and psychology – in whatever form works for clients – is the solution to alcohol addiction.

The Sinclair method’s stance on not requiring immediate abstinence offers a different pathway for many struggling with alcohol addiction. It acknowledges the challenges of sudden withdrawal and provides an alternative that some may find more achievable. By integrating Naltrexone with behavioural strategies, the Sinclair Method targets addiction’s root causes.

Benefits and Challenges of the Sinclair Method

The Sinclair Method presents a nuanced approach to combating alcohol addiction, blending pharmacology with behavioural change.


  • Flexibility: Unlike traditional methods that demand immediate and total abstinence, the Sinclair Method allows for gradual reduction in alcohol consumption. This flexibility can make the process seem less daunting and more manageable.
  • Evidence-Based: The method is grounded in scientific research, offering a treatment that has been scrutinised and supported by clinical studies. This evidence-based approach ensures that the treatment is not just theoretical but has practical, real-world applications.
  • Moderate Drinking: For some, the goal of being able to drink in moderation rather than complete abstinence is more achievable and desirable (for most dependent drinkers this goal is usually the case). The Sinclair Method might provide a pathway to controlled drinking habits, potentially leading to a healthier relationship with alcohol.


  • Adherence to Medication: Success with the Sinclair Method relies heavily on strict adherence to the Naltrexone protocol. Missing doses might significantly reduce the treatment’s effectiveness.
  • Variable Responses: People react differently to Naltrexone. While many experience a decrease in alcohol cravings, others may not find the same level of benefit.
  • Reception within Recovery Communities: The Sinclair Method can sometimes face scepticism from traditional recovery communities that advocate for total abstinence, particularly Alcoholics anonymous but may be more aligned with SMART Recovery.

Understanding these pros and cons helps make an informed decision about whether the Sinclair Method aligns with  personal goals and circumstances. The flexibility and evidence-based foundation offer significant advantages, but the challenges highlight the importance of commitment and support throughout the treatment process.

The Sinclair Method with Home Alcohol Detox

A home alcohol detox, also known as home detoxification or home withdrawal management, refers to the process where people undergo withdrawal from alcohol or drugs in their own home environment, often with the support of family members, friends and healthcare professionals. Home detox is usually for those with mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms that don’t require medical supervision in an inpatient or residential setting.

Using the Sinclair Method to home detox is a process that requires careful planning and attention to safety.

Planning A Home Detox

Professional Consultation

Begin with a consultation from a medical or addiction professional experienced in the Sinclair Method. This helps ensure the approach is suitable for you and helps tailor the detox plan to your needs.

Medication Management

A private Naltrexone prescription is required unless you can get the medication from your own NHS doctor. The medication is taken in the correct dosage and timings in relation to alcohol consumption, with alcohol consumption reduced over any given period of days or weeks. The excat lowering of alcohol is dictated by safety and also the effects of the medication. Getting the balance between medication and alcohol consumption is essential for successful abstinence or acceptable level of reduction.

Support System

Establishing a support network that includes family, friends and/or support groups can be helpful. A network can provide emotional encouragement and practical help during challenging times.

Safety Measures and Professional Guidance

Medical Supervision

Access to a healthcare provider, doctor or addiction specialist is advisable to help monitor progress, adjust treatment if needed and provide support.. These check-ins can also address any side effects or health concerns.

Psychological Support

The chances of success increase rapidly by engaging a therapist or counsellor who specialises in addiction. Psychological support helps address underlying issues related to alcohol use and develop coping strategies for long-term recovery.

Emergency Plan

Have a plan for emergency situations. This includes knowing when and how to seek immediate medical attention should complications arise.

Managing Potential Risks

Medication Adherence

Missing doses of Naltrexone can increase the risk of relapse. Use reminders or a medication schedule to maintain consistency.

Monitoring Health

Be aware of potential side effects from Naltrexone or withdrawal symptoms from reducing alcohol intake. Promptly report any adverse effects to your treatment provider or seek immediate medical care if you have severe reactions or feel unwell.

Avoiding Triggers

Identify situations or emotions that trigger drinking. Develop strategies with your support network or therapist to manage these triggers effectively. Talk to us to find out more about how to manage triggers.

Using the Sinclair Method as a home alcohol detox plan offers a personalised path to reducing alcohol dependence. It doesn’t come without risks but is usually safer than going cold turkey. With careful planning, sticking to safety protocols and the backing of a comprehensive support system, people can detox process safely and effectively. The role of professional guidance cannot be overstated, ensuring that each step taken is in the best interest of the person’s health and well-being.

Commencing The Sinclair Method

This method offers an alternative to traditional abstinence-based treatments, accommodating those who seek a gradual reduction in their alcohol intake or maybe for those who have tried abstinence and it hasn’t worked so far. TSM acknowledges the diverse needs and preferences of people dealing with alcohol addiction and can promote a more personalised treatment plan and softer way to control addiction compared to abstinence.

Clinical studies supporting the use of Naltrexone as part of the treatment suggest it is a relatively safe treatment compared to others such as disulfiram. However, success relies on adherence to the medication regime, the support of medical or addiction professionals and the involvement of a personal support network. It must be noted that this method does not work for some people and certainly doesn’t work for everyone – whether that’s down to individual biology and their reaction to Naltrexone, chronic alcoholism or the reasons for drinking as a coping mechanism are still unclear. However, the approach can address both the physical and psychological needs of addiction treatment and may offer a holistic path to recovery. For some people, it’s certainly worth trying but please speak to addiction professionals before you do.

The Sinclair Method does challenge conventional thinking in addiction treatment, highlighting the potential for pharmacological interventions to play a significant role in recovery. As with any treatment, it’s essential for those considering this method to seek detailed information and professional advice tailored to their specific situation. This ensures that the chosen treatment aligns with their recovery goals and health requirements.

It offers an option for those struggling with alcohol addiction, where attempting abstinence has been unsuccessful previously. By combining medication with behavioural therapy it can offer a flexible, evidence-based strategy that respects the unique journey of each person towards recovery.

Over the years, the Sinclair Method has undergone some testing and refinement. Some clinical trials and studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing alcohol consumption and, for some, leading to complete abstinence.

If you’re looking for advice on how to stop drinking or cut down using The Sinclair Method, or would like to find out options on how to stop or cut down, please get in touch using the live chat on the website, calling 0800 009 6675 or emailing:

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Benefits Of Home Detox


There’s nothing more precious than being able to heal with the support of your loved ones, in the familiar environment of your own home. Savour the convenience of being able to maintain your daily routine, work, or simply spend quality time with your loved ones throughout the detox programme.


Our team comprises individuals who have either personally battled addiction or have witnessed a loved one struggle with it. We ensure we understand your needs at the deepest level to keep you safe and make your recovery efficient.

Safe and Comfortable

A medical detoxification helps to alleviate alcohol withdrawal symptoms, whether physical or mental. For long-term heavy alcoholics and heavy drinkers, sudden withdrawal can be dangerous, and the psychological cravings can be overwhelming.

Cost effective

Home alcohol detox is much cheaper than attending a detox clinic or rehab. It is the best value form of private detox treatment, simply because there are no residential costs associated with inpatient. It really is worth the cost to live a life free form alcohol.



We can deliver medication to your door or collect from one of our pharmacies. Call 0800 009 6675 for more.