Dr. Sinclair started his research in America during the 1960s. He established what he called the “alcohol deprivation effect” as a driving force in alcohol addiction. He later moved to Helsinki, Finland, to take his research forward using specially bred rats genetically predisposed to becoming alcoholic. The conclusion of Sinclair’s experiments? That alcoholism is a learned behavior. When a response or emotion has been “reinforced” with alcohol over a period of time it is learned. Some people (and some rats) have genetic traits that lead them to feel a lot of “reinforcement” from consuming alcohol, which eventually creates uncontrollable cravings.
Sinclair was influenced by the work of the Nobel Prize-winning Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov, famous for making dogs salivate when a bell was sounded. Once conditioned, dogs rewarded with food after a bell had been rung would salivate at the sound of the bell itself. Over time, Pavlov would ring the bell, but he stopped rewarding the dogs with food; the salivating tapered off. This is called “extinction” and Sinclair thought the learned behavior of an addiction to alcohol could be removed by extinction, too.
Following his early research, Sinclair hypothesized that alcohol produces reinforcement in the brain in a way that’s similar to opiates. His research indicated that alcohol produced reinforcement by releasing endorphins that bind with opioid receptors in the brain. So a solution to stopping the reinforcement cycle might be to block the receptors every time alcohol was used. Sinclair tested his theory on rats using naltrexone, an opiate blocker, and after that he conducted clinical trials in people. The results were encouraging.
The solution discovered by Sinclair effectively means you have to drink yourself sober! This would surely be the perfect solution for many alcoholics. “Extinction” of the impulse to drink takes place over time and works for around 80% of people who use the method properly. It’s important to note that you take the pill an hour before drinking, not simply when you feel like it. Over time, the desire to consume alcohol will diminish and people end up abstaining most of the time or occasionally have a drink when they wish. You need to continue taking the medication before drinking, even when you feel things are under control.
After a plethora of peer-reviewed published research papers and clinical trials sanctioned and subsidized by the Finnish Institute of Health, Dr. Sinclair co-authored the book "The Cure for Alcoholism" in collaboration with his colleague, Dr. Roy Eskapa.
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