Alcoholics have long suffered a critical stumbling block on their road to recovery total and utter abstinence.
But that could be a thing of the past thanks to an unlikely, little-known treatment which offers the seemingly-impossible: recovery while drinking in moderation.
Called the Sinclair Method, it was devised in the 1970s and uses opioid-controlling drugs combined with self-discipline and, paradoxically, alcohol, to give addicts renewed control and, impressively, it boasts a success rate of nearly 80 per cent. So could it be the answer to Booze
READ:Four-in-one 'miracle' pill to cure high blood pressure.
Interestingly, rather than relying on will-power alone, it uses a daily pill called Naltrexone to re-train the brain.
The drug, which is recommended by NICE, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence works by blocking the receptors that trigger the release of alcohol-related endorphins. Over time, it's capable of changing addictive behaviours for good and effectively stops the addiction in its tracks.
One selling point is that it offers a fresh alternative to the all-or-nothing approaches popularised by organisations such as Alcohol Anonymous.
In essence, users can still enjoy their favourite beer, wine and spirits, but in moderation.
'Traditional recovery programs are based on a very old-fashioned model, one that's almost biblical where alcohol is considered evil,' Dr Josh Berkowitz says.
'In some ways that's correct alcohol can be evil in the wrong hands, but this treatment allows people to remain social and not to be fearful of public gatherings. That's much more realistic than total abstinence. People want that option.'
Clearly, his patients agree. It's by far the practice's most popular treatment, with hundreds signing up to find a middle ground between 'dry' and drowning.
It first requires a five-day period of clinic-based 'detox', where they are built-up nutritionally with multi-vitamin and amino acid drips.
'This initial preparation tries to repair some of the damage that chronic drinkers do to themselves,' Berkowitz adds. 'They're often malnourished and isolated physically. They're not eating properly, they're relying on alcohol for their calories...so the drip gets them into the best condition for the rest of the treatment. We also feed them properly.'
Then, they're introduced to Naltrexone alongside a small daily intake of alcohol. 'We actually advise the patient to drink every day for ten days, taking the tablets as instructed,' he adds. 'It doesn’t have to be much but the patient’s mind and body can then understand the relationship between alcohol consumption and the effects of Naltrexone.
'After that, the patient need only take the tablet one hour before they plan to drink.
'The man behind the Sinclair Method called it the extinction of the endorphins, but that isn't strictly true, it actually just reduces them to a very low level,' Berkowitz adds. 'It doesn't work 100 per cent for everybody, but it's very effective for the majority.'
Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including: mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast cancers; high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver; and depression.
However, industry critics are not completely evangelical about the Sinclair Method, arguing that alcoholism is complex.
A spokesperson for Alcohol Concern said: 'Work like this is always interesting, but I’m sure that these clinicians would be the first to say that treating an alcohol problem is never just about taking a tablet. 'There are all sorts of reasons people drink too much and pharmacological interventions can never take the place of the personal support that can help people understand their drinking and turn their lives around.'