Reducing Drug Use by Encouraging Alternative Behaviors

Published in: Motivating Behavior Change among Illicit Drug Users: Research on Contingency Management Interventions / Edited by Stephen T. Higgins and Kenneth Silverman (Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Assoc., Mar. 1999), Chapter 10, p. 203-220

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1998

by Andrew R. Morral, Martin Y. Iguchi, Mark A. Belding

Abstaining from illicit drugs deprives chronic drug users of powerfully reinforcing events. At the same time, abstinence provides the opportunity to encounter alternative rewards available to those engaged in a drug-free lifestyle, such as finding contact with family and friends more gratifying, holding jobs more easily, and having more time and money to pursue non-drug interests. When natural rewards such as these are encountered, behaviors leading up to the reward are likely to be reinforced, including those contributing to the individual's abstinence. Conversely, if reinforcing events are not encountered, abstinence will not endure. Thus, contact with new natural rewards should diminish drug-maintained behavior, such as drug use (Vuchinich & Tucker, 1988). In this chapter the authors review evidence from the methadone maintenance treatment literature bearing on this hypothesis.

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