If one were to take a survey of addiction treatment methods used in residential and outpatient care environments, there would be a common theme: they require total abstinence. It’s the core tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and most programs that have evolved afterward to help addicts and alcoholics recover from chemical dependency. Step One of the Twelve Steps reads, “We admitted that we had become powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.” Powerlessness over one’s behavior is not a message that resonates with many people upfront. It has turned countless addicts away from the Twelve Step modality, many of them more than once as relapses mount and unmanageability does, in fact, seem apparent. The Sinclair Method emerged in 1994 to challenge that way of thinking about recovery. So what is the Sinclair Method, exactly?
The Sinclair Method is a Taper
The Sinclair Method is unequivocally not an abstinence-based program. People do not need to stop drinking at the beginning of treatment. Instead, the treatment aims to assist users in tapering down periodically through several tools.
- Naloxone: This prescription medication is the keystone of the Sinclair Method. Naloxone’s primary purpose is to reduce cravings for alcohol and opiates. It also works to make alcohol less effective in the person’s system, which reduces the mind’s association of pleasure with drinking. Eventually, the goal is to significantly decrease a person’s drinking or achieve abstinence.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): As a person tapers down, they work with a case manager or certified therapist as needed. This part of treatment varies with each individual. Some people will need more counseling or CBT due to trauma history, dual diagnosis, and/or other mitigating factors.
By combining the medication with treatment professionals who guide the tapering process, people seeking recovery should be able to gradually remove pleasurable associations with alcohol which lead to problematic circumstances and behaviors. The Sinclair Method is appealing to many over abstinence because it does not require such a drastic change in behavior, or even the desire to be completely clean and sober.
Does the Sinclair Method Work?
There is no simple “yes or no” answer to this question. While twelve step-based programs can track abstinence somewhat effectively over a long period of time (although self-reporting is inherently problematic), the Sinclair Method does not have such measurable areas of sustained success. The program is aimed at decreasing drinking and increasing happiness/life satisfaction, but these nebulous concepts cannot be measured with a percentage rate.
While the program is relatively new compared to the twelve step modality, it has still been around for twenty-five years. Some people find success with this method. But there is a reason that most treatment programs are abstinence-based. Addiction is a progressive disease. So while people may accumulate a few years of “managed” drinking or use, the long term situation does not look as promising. Most addicts and alcoholics in recovery will eventually return to problematic levels of use if given enough time. For some it may take months, for others years. But any individuals seeking an alternative solution to abstinence should seek counseling from a certified drug and alcohol abuse therapist or case manager for insight as to their individual unique circumstances. Professionals in the field of recovery can lend insight and underline long-term coping tools as needed.
If you or a loved one is seeking behavioral health treatment, our counselors are available 24/7 by phone (be advised that Blue Coast Behavioral Health is abstinence-based): 855-997-4702