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

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.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.