The Sinclair Method of alcohol abuse or alcoholism treatment enables most alcoholics to drink in moderation. The technique uses naltrexone or a similar substance. Taking a pleasure blocker prevents the brain from having the pleasure of a high. Pharmacological extinction (operant conditioning) then reduces craving for alcohol.

Naltrexone has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for decades. Now other pleasure blockers are approved and can also be used.

The Sinclair Method treatment lasts for three to 15 months. After that, the patient needs to continue taking naltrexone before drinking. This prevents positive conditioning from occurring. Otherwise, the pharmacological extinction will reverse itself.

The Sinclair Method is simple and easy.

There are no withdrawal symptoms.

There is no need for detoxification.

There is no need to go to a rehab facility.

There is no disruption of employment or family life.

The program can be followed with a person’s own .

Sinclair methodNamed after the doctor who developed it, John David Sinclair, the method is the one used throughout Finland and widely used elsewhere. Its limited use in the United States may result from the very strong influence of Alcoholics Anonymous.  A.A. insists that alcoholics can never learn to drink in moderation.  Much scientific research for decades has proven that most alcoholics can and do learn to drink in moderation.1

Most clinical trial evidence suggests that The Sinclair Methodit may have a success rate of about 80%.2 That’s much higher than the apparent 5% success rate of A.A.

On the Psychology Today website, addictions expert Kenneth Anderson wrote that “It remains difficult to understand why so few American physicians, therapists, and addiction counselors are familiar with The Sinclair Method.”3 Anonymous persons have asserted on Wikipedia without any evidence on that conspiracies and blatant self-interest operate to prevent the wider acceptance of the effective Sinclair Method.

“Dissemination of information of the treatment has been blocked by all of the existing treatment organizations largely because their existence depends upon the continued use of the treatments that they provide. The “give ’em a pill and send ’em home” simplicity of the system is anathema to our current alcoholism treatment industry. Most treatment centers rely upon inpatient treatment for funding, and would cease to exist if widespread adoption were to occur. Alcoholics Anonymous opposes the treatment on two fronts – the use of drugs and the continuation of drinking…

The medical community has been largely unconvinced of the effectiveness of this cure because of the extreme shift in mindset necessary to accept a treatment for alcoholism that involves continued consumption. To further cloud the matter, many studies have been done involving using naltrexone to help enforce abstinence – a purpose for which it is poorly suited at best. Although their “failure due to relapse rate” has no bearing on the Sinclair Method, most doctors see a “this drug failed” result and don’t look to see how it was used….

Other obstacles are more mysterious and tentative. It is guessed that the pharmaceutical company that makes the antagonist does not wish to pursue advertising this treatment because its use would decrease the sales of other more profitable drugs. Although insurance companies would benefit from the decrease in inpatient alcoholism treatments, it is suggested that they would lose money in the long run from former alcoholics who no longer let their health slide until they lose their jobs and their insurance.”4

The reasons for the general lack of awareness of The Sinclair Method are unclear. But the process is based on sound science.  More important, clinical research proves its effectiveness.

I. Popular Readings about The Sinclair Method.

Christian, C.  (2012) Babylon Confidential, Dallas, TX, BenBella Books.

Eskapa, R. (2012) The Cure for Alcoholism, Dallas, TX: BenBella Books.

II. Podcast by Dr. John David Sinclair

Sinclair, J.D. The Sinclair Method for Treating Addiction. Shrink Rap Radio

III. Selected Scholarly Publications about The Sinclair Method

Heinälä, P., et al. (2001). Targeted use of naltrexone without prior detoxification in the treatment of alcohol dependence: a factorial double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, J Clin Pharmacol, 21(3): 287–292.

Sinclair, J.D., et al. (2000) Long-term follow up of continued naltrexone treatment. Alco Clin Exper Res, 24 (Suppl. to No. 5), 182A.

__________. (2000). Evidence about the use naltrexone and for different ways of using it in the treatment of alcoholism. Alco Alco, 36(1): 2–10.

__________. et al. (1998) Extinction of the association between stimuli and drinking in the clinical treatment of alcoholism with naltrexone. Alco Clin Exper Res, 22 (Suppl.), 144A.

__________. (1998) From optimal complexity to the naltrexone extinction of alcoholism. In Hoffman, R., et al. (Eds.) Viewing Psychology as a Whole. Washington, DC: Am Psych Assn. Pp. 491–508.

__________. (1998) New treatment options for substance abuse from a public health viewpoint. Ann Med, 30, 406–411.

__________. (1998) Pharmacological extinction of alcohol drinking with opioid antagonists. Arqivos de Med, 12 (Suppl. 1), 95–98.

__________, et al. (1998) Treatment of alcohol dependence with naltrexone utilizing an extinction protocol. Abstracts: 38th Ann Mtg, NIMH)-sponsored New Clinical Drug Evaluation Unit (NCDEU) Program, Boca Raton, FL, June 10–13, 1998.

__________. (1997) Development in Finland of the extinction treatment for alcoholism with naltrexone. Psychiatria Fennica 28, 76–97.

__________. (1996) Laboratory animal research in the discovery and development of the new alcoholism treatment using opioid antagonists. Scan J Lab Animal Sci, 23 (Suppl. 1), 379–390.

__________. (1996) Alcoholism: Pharmacological extinction and the P-word. Työterveyslääkari 2/1996, 170–173.


1. Alcoholics Can Recover and Learn to Drink in Moderation.

2. Science of the Sinclair Method

3. Anderson, K. Naltrexone and the Sinclair method of pharmacological extinction.

4. Dombeck, M. The Paradoxical Sinclair Method For Treating Alcohol Dependence.

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Filed Under: Alcoholism Treatments