Alcohol addiction effects millions of Americans. While moderate drinking may be safe, heavy drinking can have devastating consequences on one’s health, finances, career and family. Since excessive drinking causes so much damage, why is it so hard to stop? The answer lies in the brain’s reward center, which alcohol activates. For this reason, Explore Health Arizona of Scottsdale, Arizona offers The Sinclair Method as a treatment option, which stops alcohol from activating this center, giving hard drinkers the ability to moderate or stop.
How Long Does It Take for the Sinclair Method to Work?
Individual results vary, but, in general, the Sinclair Method works within a couple of months. Because the method requires the subject to take naltrexone while tapering their alcohol consumption, the process requires a period of adaptation. During this time, clients become accustomed to taking naltrexone, which blocks opiate receptors in the brain that provide the psychological reward for continuing to drink. After several months, the brain adapts, and the client stops feeling compelled to drink alcohol.
Why Alcohol Dependency Forms
One of the primary reasons people develop bad drinking habits, drinking problems or full-blown alcoholism is that alcohol triggers the reward center in their brain. Once triggered, this reward center sends them the message to continue drinking. As a result, many people will drink multiple drinks in a row until severely intoxicated.
Ultimately, they may continue imbibing until they eventually pass out. Many times, because alcohol incapacitates short-term memory, they may forget how drunk they became the night before.
For binge drinkers. this often results in a night, a weekend or an even longer continuous cycle of drinking into a stupor, sleeping it off, drinking more and repeating the cycle, usually resulting in regrettable hangovers. Daily drinkers who exceed moderate levels may become accustomed to a certain level of alcohol.
Over time, as their body develops a tolerance to alcohol, more is required to achieve the same level of euphoria their brain’s reward center craves. These cravings, along with the symptoms of hangovers, make drinking difficult to quit.
How Naltrexone Interrupts the Cycle
Unlike opioids and other extremely powerful drugs, alcohol addiction tends to occur slowly over time. As drinking becomes more habitual, the resultant tolerance encourages the drinker to up his or her consumption, both in terms of quantity and frequency. A psychological and physical dependence forms. The drinker feels a need for a drink to help cope with stress or disappointment, to celebrate, to sleep and often to have a good time. Meanwhile, physical dependency sets in.
The Addiction Cycle
Hangovers often start the physical dependency process. The drinker wakes feeling thirsty, tired, short-tempered and sometimes with a stomach ache or headache. Most experienced drinkers know how to cope with an occasional, mild hangover.
Having a hangover once in a while is perfectly normal, but when drinking gets out of control, hangovers become so severe the drinker may have trouble functioning normally for most or all of the day. Habitual drinkers may experience them frequently or even daily.
Unfortunately, most heavy drinkers learn that there is one sure cure for a hangover: more alcohol. Some use the “hair of the dog” cure, where they have a small amount of alcohol to ease hangover symptoms. Others, unfortunately, may begin to drink multiple times throughout the day to stave off severe hangovers, setting themselves up for alcohol dependence and addiction.
As alcohol dependence grows, quitting becomes more challenging because hangovers morph into withdrawal, which can have severe health consequences.
The Problems With Alcohol Withdrawal
Many heavy drinkers decide they want to quit drinking completely. They may tire of being intoxicated, feel they are neglecting other important aspects of life, be entirely sick of hangovers and have concerns about how alcohol is affecting their health. Frequently, heavy drinkers reach a point where the act of consuming more alcohol becomes detestable. They have had enough.
Often, they find quitting harder than imagined because of alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal occurs at various levels of severity. It may appear after a period of heavy drinking that lasted weeks, months or years. Generally speaking, the longer the period of regular drinking and the higher the quantity regularly imbibed, the more severe the symptoms. However, this is only a generalization. The length and severity of alcohol withdrawal depends greatly on the individual.
Alcohol Withdrawal Causes
What Are the Symptoms?
Mild symptoms usually show up as early as 6 hours after the last drink. They can include:
- Shaky hands
If more serious symptoms appear, they usually start 12 to 24 hours after the last drink. Serious symptoms need immediate medical attention. They include hallucinations and seizures. The most serious withdrawal cases result in delirium tremens, or DTs, which must be treated at a medical facility. During DTs, the sufferer may experience vivid hallucinations and delusions. Other dangerous withdrawal symptoms requiring medical attention include the following:
- Racing heart
- High blood pressure
- Heavy sweating
How the Sinclair Method Combats Withdrawal
Though light forms of withdrawal may simply require some rest, fluids and a supportive environment, heavy cases are difficult, uncomfortable and can even be life-threatening. By using this method, clients can reduce their alcohol consumption without ever having to go through the withdrawal process.
This is possible for one simple reason: using the Sinclair approach, the client continues drinking while taking the medication. Provided the client stays with the treatment, the drug gradually reduces the urge to drink, causing a steady tapering in the amount of alcohol consumed.
As the client’s need for alcohol decreases, he or she gains independence from the substance. Because the Sinclair approach takes several months, the body has time to wean itself off of alcohol. As a result, no serious withdrawal symptoms appear.
Within a few months of starting treatment, 80% of Sinclair Method adopters report being free of alcohol addiction. Provided they take the medication prior to any drinking, they find it easy to stop with just a drink at dinner. The addictive response that compelled them to imbibe drink after drink is controlled.
Many Sinclair Adopters Decide to Quit Drinking Altogether
Because the Sinclair approach does not require the cessation of alcohol, many people are surprised to learn that many clients who adhere to the Sinclair alcohol reduction method choose to quit alcohol completely on their own. Statistics show 25% of those who use the Sinclair approach decide, after tapering off alcohol use for several months, that they’d prefer to go all the way and abstain.
Many report that after several months of treatment, they have lost their dependence on alcohol and no longer feel a compulsion to drink. Many decide there are healthier activities they’d rather do and put down the glass for good.
How the Sinclair Method Differs from Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) relies on a 12-step program meant as a spiritual awakening. In addition to treating alcohol addiction, the program seeks to reform the participants, changing their outlook on life. While this program has benefitted millions of people, it does not work for everyone.
Many clients do better when focusing on the physical aspects of alcohol addiction. By engaging in the Sinclair approach, they can ward off withdrawal and beat the cravings that come with quitting. Since the cycle of drink and reward is broken, they can then either drink moderately or not at all.
Reasons to Reduce or Stop Drinking
Drinking excessively does damage to your health over the long term. When drinking is reduced or stopped, surprising health benefits occur very quickly, including the following:
Feeling and Sleeping Better
When drinking too much too often, the body has to work overtime to process the toxins in alcohol. This saps both mental and physical energy. Alcohol also disrupts sleep patterns, causing sleep to be less deep and restorative. After moderating or stopping alcohol, most people sleep and feel better in a matter of days.
Restoring a Younger Appearance
As a diuretic, alcohol dehydrates the skin. This causes a loss of collagen and elasticity, resulting in older looking skin. After a heavy drinking habit stops, hydration returns and collagen is gradually restored, giving the skin a youthful, resilient look. In addition, excessive alcohol intake can result in a slowing of the body’s ability to generate new cells. This speeds the aging process, both for the skin and internal organs.
Alcohol doesn’t come cheap when consumed in high quantities. More than 4.5 million Americans spend more than $200 per week on alcohol. Few people can spend that kind of money without financially damaging themselves. Though moderate drinking may not put a strain on your budget, constantly buying drinks to feed a habit can leave your pockets empty.
Alcohol isn’t just high in calories. It’s high in empty calories. As a result, the calories consumed in alcoholic beverages are turned into sugar, which is then stored as fat. This predicament is made worse by alcoholic beverages that are high in sugar. When the empty calories of alcohol are mixed with a high-carbohydrate diet, extensive weight gain can result. After reducing alcoholic calories, most former heavy drinkers lose significant weight.
Lifting Feelings of Depression
Alcohol, as a depressant, can be a cause of or contributor to depression. If you’ve been feeling down and are drinking heavily, the alcohol may be part of the problem. By reducing or stopping alcohol, you may find your depression lifts quickly.
A Healthy Lifestyle
Excessive drinking comes with many ill effects, including liver damage, heart damage, weight gain and emotional difficulties, such as depression and anxiety. Most alcoholics start as occasional drinkers but, over time, find themselves unable to control their intake. This occurs because alcohol stimulates the reward center of the brain, which is what causes some people to want to drink continuously. However, the health difficulties this creates eventually catches up to heavy drinkers, and many find quitting is harder than they imagined.
The Sinclair Method provides a safe, affordable and effective way to stop excessive drinking. Medication interrupts the alcohol-reward cycle in the brain. As a result, former heavy drinkers no longer feel the urge to have one drink after another. Instead, they can enjoy a moderate amount or quit drinking altogether. The method has an 80% success rate, making it one of the top cures available.
If you think the Sinclair Method might be the right way for you or a loved one to stop drinking excessively, contact a counselor at Explore Health Arizona in Scottsdale, Arizona today.