I have a friend whose adult son has been struggling with an alcohol addiction for many years. I’ve met with the son regarding his addiction and, although he’s been to inpatient rehab several times and attends AA meetings regularly, he can’t seem to stop drinking. Really, not only is his health deteriorating, but he’s also facing prison time for his fourth DUI arrest. Because the “normal” paths haven’t worked for him, I’ve been researching alcohol treatment books such that perhaps I can find one to have him read.
Since I’m providing the book, I want to make sure that whatever I recommend is viable. Most of what I’ve encountered is either religious gobbledygook or requires using the same tools that either rehab or AA teach. Since religion, in and of itself, doesn’t solve anything and since he’s gotten access to the normal recovery tools, I hadn’t found anything worth recommending. But then, lo and behold, I stumbled upon a book called, The Cure for Alcoholism: The Medically Proven Way to Eliminate Alcohol Addiction. The approach taught and advocated within the book is called, The Sinclair Method, which involves continued drinking while taking naltrexone. The theory behind this method is that naltrexone, an opiate antagonist, stops the reward mechanisms involved in alcohol addiction. In psychobabble terms, this is known as pharmacological extinction and the book claims that 78% of people who use the Sinclair Method are cured of their alcohol addiction.
The caveat to this book (and what most of the criticism is based upon) is that a person must take a naltrexone EVERY TIME that person drinks in order for it to be effective. When someone isn’t drinking, taking the med won’t have any effect (according to the book). Plus, the book (and method) REQUIRES someone to continue drinking and to keep a “drinking diary.” I would almost argue that, while I’m certain that the med does its job, the writing/journaling component of the book is also operative, but i digress….
The reality is that there are three (3) meds approved for the treatment of alcohol: 1) Naltrexone; 2) Acomprosate; and, 3) Disulfram (antabuse). However, the typical prescribing of these meds requires abstinence and some form of counseling. I think, though, that one point the book does make is around something called the Alcohol Deprivation Effect (ADE). This ADE means that cravings will increase as a result of not drinking. This means that not drinking, while taking the meds, probably won’t have much positive impact. The Sinclair Method does indicate that continued drinking, while taking Naltrexone, does lessen drinking and allows a person to get control over alcohol.
I have two (2) problems with the book and with the method: 1) Naltrexone is harmful to the liver and if should not be prescribed to someone with liver damage; and, 2) Neither the book nor the method speaks to co-occurring disorders such as Depression and/or Anxiety. However, my friend’s son doesn’t have liver damage (thankfully) nor does he present much depression or anxiety. Therefore, I’m going to give the book to him and suggest that he discuss The Sinclair Method with his doctor. I believe that addiction should be fought by any and all means and, who knows, perhaps The Sinclair Method really does work.
A more detailed review of The Sinclair Method can be found here.