Reinforcing Operants Other Than Abstinence in Drug Abuse Treatment

An Effective Alternative for Reducing Drug Use

Published in: Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, v. 65, no. 3, June 1997, p. 421-428

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1997

by Martin Y. Iguchi, Mark A. Belding, Andrew R. Morral, Richard J. Lamb, Stephen D. Husband

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This study examines the effectiveness of using vouchers to reinforce either the provision of urine samples testing negative for illicit drugs (UA group) or the completion of objective, individually defined, treatment-plan-related tasks (TP group). A third group was assigned to the clinic's standard treatment (STD group). Participants were randomly assigned to groups after a 6-week baseline-stabilization period. Urine specimens were collected thrice weekly throughout the study. In the UA condition, participants earned $5 (U.S. dollars) in vouchers for each drug-free urine submitted. In the TP condition, participants earned up to $15 in vouchers per week for demonstrating completion of treatment plan tasks assigned by their counselors. Contingencies were in effect for 12 weeks, after which all participants received the clinic's standard treatment. Urinalysis results indicate that the TP intervention was significantly more effective in reducing illicit drug use than either the UA or STD interventions. These effects were maintained with a trend toward continuing improvement for the TP groups even after contingencies were discontinued.

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