Can you learn to drink moderately with medical treatment from your TSM doctor?
Most people do not believe that it is possible for an alcoholic or binge drinker to learn to drink in moderation. Yet, studies and clinical experience have revealed that it is possible to reduce alcohol cravings with medication-assisted treatment.
If you would like to know how to learn to drink in moderation, you may be interested in learning about a process known as pharmacological extinction. Alcohol addiction, or alcoholism, is a learned behavior.
You might think of it as a malignant bad habit. We all have bad habits that we would like to work on replacing with good habits. Sometimes, learned behavior is so ingrained and so dangerous, that we need help to overcome it.
The question of how can binge drinkers learn to drink in moderation has been answered by a researcher, Dr. John David Sinclair. Dr. Sinclair studied the effects of naltrexone on the brain with respect to binge drinking and alcohol use disorder.
It turns out that moderate alcohol consumption is possible for the problem drinker who either has the goal of eventual total abstinence, or long-term alcohol moderation. Dr. Sinclair’s work has given us what is now known widely as The Sinclair Method.
Can The Sinclair Method (TSM) really help with controlled drinking?
Alcohol dependence is difficult to overcome without help. Talk therapy solutions that have been around for years are not effective enough for most people who suffer from a drinking problem.
Fortunately, doctors who are experienced in providing TSM can help the heavy drinker and binge drinker to reduce harmful drinking. Even the moderate social drinker may benefit from this program.
The key to success with improving drinking behavior with TSM is to combine naltrexone intake with controlled alcohol intake. Generally, a naltrexone tablet is taken an hour before drinking alcohol.
Over time, excessive drinking is reduced and the drinking habit gets under control. Many TSM patients arrive at a state of complete abstinence within a short time.
Is TSM as effective as an abstinence based program?
You may wonder why there are not TSM rehabs if the program works so well. Interestingly, there are now residential rehab programs that provide pure alcohol in combination with medication to provide this revolutionary new alcohol treatment protocol.
The 12-step program Alcoholics Anonymous has had wide spread influence in medical addiction treatment for nearly a century. Due to the social and political connections of the founders, the AA program became the accepted standard of care in rehabs and medical addiction treatment programs.
Even the medical societies that grant doctors with addiction medicine board certification status tend to recommend the AA model of complete abstinence. With many substance abuse problems, this makes sense.
Yet, when it comes to alcoholism and problematic drinking, we must always be open to proven scientific discoveries when they arise. Unfortunately, AA is a spiritual program with members who sometimes have a distrust of the medical community and medical treatments for addiction.
Can The Sinclair Method really help the true alcoholic to become a moderate drinker?
As hard as it can be to believe, TSM has a very high rate of success in reducing alcohol cravings. There is often doubt when trying it for the first time.
An hour after taking the pill, the person who has suffered with problem drinking for years sits in front of an alcoholic drink and wonders what is going to change. Then, as they take the first sip, they realize that the experience of drinking is not the same anymore.
While the taste, and even the mild intoxicating effect of a single drink, are generally the same, the compulsion to keep going is reduced, or even gone altogether. For some people, the first experience can be dramatic.
Yet, it is important to keep going. Whenever the patient plans to have a drink, they must always take the pill an hour before. It seems simple and straightforward, but this is the key point where some people do not do as well as others.
Consistently following the program long-term is the secret to using TSM to become a successful recovering alcoholic who is able to manage moderate drinking or even progress to complete abstinence. TSM is a form of harm reduction intended to address the alcohol problem by meeting alcoholics where they are, rather then trying to force them to follow an abstinence program that they are not ready for.
Should the recovered alcoholic who no longer drinks still follow TSM?
There is an excellent book on the topic of TSM titled, “The Cure For Alcoholism.” While there is some truth in the title in that TSM can help a person reach a state of extinction where they no longer crave alcohol at all, TSM is not a complete cure for the condition of alcohol use disorder.
Alcoholism is a chronic disease that can go into remission for long periods of time, but relapse is also always a possibility. A person who has had great success with TSM, giving up heavy drinking for good, can go back to having an active alcohol addiction problem again by drinking without first taking naltrexone.
Hence, the treatment is a life-long treatment that must be applied whenever the patient decides to return to having an alcohol beverage, even years after becoming abstinent.
For example, imagine that you start TSM around Thanksgiving. You have great success and then have your last alcoholic beverage by drinking a glass of champagne on New Years Eve at midnight, after taking naltrexone at 11 pm.
Then, you remain alcohol free for the next year without any incidents. Then, along comes New Year’s Eve once again, and you look forward to another sip of champagne.
Here is where TSM must be applied correctly. If the person takes a sip of champagne, even a full year after becoming abstinent in the program, they must still take naltrexone before having a drink, or they are at high risk for full relapse.
Is detox necessary with TSM to avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms?
Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous. There is a risk of seizures and other serious risks related to the response of the nervous system to the sudden shift from having alcohol always in the system to having none.
While there are cases of TSM patients requiring a medical detox before starting the program, in many cases, detox is not necessary. This is because alcohol is not being discontinued abruptly, but gradually over time.
Alcohol abuse is harmful to the body, causing liver problems, heart disease, and eventually brain damage. When a person makes the decision to quit drinking, it makes sense that they would want to quit cold turkey, removing the toxic substance from their lives.
Yet, a gradual taper and reduction of alcohol over days and weeks is gentler on the central nervous system. With The Sinclair Method, and pharmacological extinction, going from a high level of alcohol intake to a level of social drinking in which the patient only drinks one drink daily at most, the body is able to adjust without going into full withdrawal.
Once a person has learned to drink in moderation, are their relapse warning signs to look out for?
While many people have great long-term success with TSM, relapse is possible. If a person drinks without taking their medication first, the alcohol habit quickly returns.
A person who has had their alcohol consumption under control, even for many years, can slip and start drinking without naltrexone. In a short time, they may be back to where they started, binge drinking or daily excessive drinking.
What are some warning signs of relapse to look out for? If you are close to the person and aware that TSM is the program that helped them quit problem drinking in the past, you may notice that they are not carrying and taking naltrexone when they drink.
Many TSM patients are taught to always carry some naltrexone tablets with them at all times. In order to do this, they may get a keychain device that can store several tablets.
If you see that your loved one no longer uses their keychain medication storage device, it can be a sign that they do not care to be prepared to drink. If you see them drink afterwards, it may be a sign that they are breaking the program, drinking without taking naltexone first.
Another clear sign of impending relapse is when you see your loved one drinking multiple drinks at a time. For example, if you go out to dinner and you see them ordering another glass of wine and then another, there is likely a problem coming up soon.
What are some relapse triggers to look out for?
If you are a TSM patient, and you are worried about triggers that may make you want to drink excessively again, be assured that TSM helps greatly to make it possible for you to not react to many triggers that affected you in the past. Driving past the liquor store should not bother you the way it used to.
Still, there are some intense triggers that can overcome even TSM and the power of pharmacological extinction with naltrexone and alcohol. For example, imagine a major family fight that gets you very stressed out.
You may feel backed in a corner where you have no way out of the situation. The thought of escaping the world one way or another is triggered and you first think of your favorite oldtime escape, alcohol.
Even if you have had great success with TSM, you may still react to significant triggers that make you think about taking extreme action that may be self-destructive. Because of the real danger of relapse triggers, psychotherapy is an important part of any medication-assisted treatment program.
Learning to drink in moderation is possible with help from a TSM doctor.
The results of taking naltrexone before drinking can be dramatic. People report back that they went out and had a drink or two, but stopped there without drinking more and blacking out. The compulsion to keep drinking was gone.
TSM works for many people, helping them to reduce alcohol consumption and to get to complete abstinence, if that is the goal. I have heard many people report back amazement at how effective the treatment is.
First, the compulsion goes away. They do not care about having more drinks.
Then, the obsession goes away next. After a while, they stop thinking about drinking all the time. It is a good feeling to be able to think about other, more pleasant things, for a while.
You can now enjoy other things in life besides drinking alcohol.
One patient described to me how when he went out for lunch with friends, all he could think about was having a beer, and then ordering another beer. There was no thought about what food he would order, or how nice it would be to see his friends again.
After starting TSM, he decided to take naltrexone on the way to the restaurant. Of course, it was still early in treatment, so he was still thinking about what he was going to drink.
Yet, when he was sitting with his friends at the table, with the beer in front of him, he took a few sips and realized that he was losing interest in alcohol. He tried to take a few more sips and then pushed the beer away.
After that, he started to engage in conversation with his friends and enjoy his food. He then ordered an iced tea and enjoyed the cool, refreshing taste. Without the obsession and compulsion to drink, he was able to fully enjoy the experience of eating at a restaurant with friends.
Life starts to look a lot more enjoyable without the never-ending obsession with alcohol. When you free up your brain to have other thoughts and work on other things, other than planning out your next drink, you are able to enjoy life more and accomplish much more.
You deserve to enjoy life and free yourself of the hold that alcohol has taken on you. There are so many possibilities for what you can do and what you can achieve without alcohol holding you back.
As you learn to drink in moderation with the help of TSM, you will start to see a world of possibilities open up. When you free yourself of an addiction that has taken over your life, you gain a level of freedom that makes anything possible.