Getting started

December 12th 2015 marked day 1 of my Sinclair Method experience.

At least, that was the day of the first tablet.

Actually the story goes back a bit further, and it is worth explaining how I got hold of some nalmefene in the first place.

It is available on the NHS for people who meet some specific criteria in terms of their drinking habits, but is not widely prescribed by GPs, many of whom aren’t familiar with The Sinclair Method.  Also, even when it is prescribed, it sometimes comes with poor advice – some have been prescribed the drug, but advised to adopt a period of abstinence which completely misses the point of The Sinclair Method, and Pharmacological Extinction.

Also, the NICE guidelines surrounding nalmefene demand that it is prescribed in conjunction with some counselling.  Again, this is valuable for some, and may very well help with any emotional or psychological issues behind an individual’s drinking.  For my part, I’m not one for talking therapies, and don’t feel like I need this kind of counselling.  And besides, I know my drinking is a physical and chemical pleasure, as well as a long-ingrained habit.

This immediately builds in a series of obstacles.  For me, once I had made a commitment to myself to tackle my drinking, and having done the research had settled on The Sinclair Method as the way I was going to do it, I wanted to get the show on the road as quickly as possible.  It was particularly important to me to get things started, and get over any initial side-effects before the Christmas drinking season began in earnest.

In my GP practice there is one doctor who specialises in substance abuse, so I thought I would be a step ahead of many in terms of finding a sympathetic ear and well-informed prescriber, but I couldn’t get an appointment with him until mid-January.

After that initial appointment, there is a requirement that you go away and keep a drinking diary for two weeks that has to be reviewed before a prescription will be written, and even then many have found that where their GP is prepared to prescribe the drug, they have a further delay as waiting lists to see therapists for the associated counselling can be months long.

While for many the support that comes from this therapy will be important, I believe that if someone has got to the point with their drinking where they have identified The Sinclair Method as a possible solution, and made it to their GP, it is important to harness that momentum, and begin the process as quickly as possible.

There are a couple of ways to speed this along.  The most valuable of these is a counselling service offered in the UK by CThree Foundation.

CThree are a fantastic resource for anyone considering The Sinclair Method as an option, and they provide a number of very useful resources to help drinkers get the help they need from the NHS.

These include a letter for GPs who may not be familiar, which explains The Sinclair Method and how it works, and provides references to supporting research.  This can often overcome the initial barrier of doctors just not knowing what the process is, and should also ensure that the guidance you get with the drug is reliable – that is to say, it actually recommends that you continue drinking with nalmefene, rather than, as some have been advised, you take it while also trying to take an abstinence-based approach.

Once you can get your GP to buy in to the idea, they also offer a free counselling service that is designed to complement The Sinclair Method.  Again, their website contains a downloadable pack to take to your doctor which explains how this talking therapy works and includes copies of their counsellor’s accreditation.

This is an invaluable service, allowing you to overcome delays for counselling referrals within the NHS, and also providing a service tailored to The Sinclair Method.

Having said all that, I went for another alternative entirely.

I discovered, again through CThree, that it is possible to get hold of nalmefene privately in the UK through www.pharmacy2u.co.uk.  In the time it took me to get the bus to work I completed their online consultation, and they allowed me to upload a two week drinking diary for the previous two weeks there and then, cutting out that delay.

As an alternative to face to face counselling – which some people might want to arrange separately anyway – the prescription comes with a referral for an online course designed to help users acquire coping strategies and knowledge to manage their alcohol intake.

I was able to order the pills straight away, and had them through my letterbox within a few days.

This means this is also kept off my medical records, which might be a concern for some people, but does have the downside of coming at a cost.

The price of the pills varies depending on how much you get at a time, with 14 costing £65 up to £306 for 84.  But at between £3.64 and £4.64 per pill, and given that I was generally getting through between one and two bottles of wine a night – and could easily blast through £40 or £50 on a night in the pub without really thinking twice about the fact that I couldn’t afford it - this is still pretty good value for money.

And finally, December 12th 2015 marked day 1 of my Sinclair Method experience.