A Comparison Between Low-Magnitude Voucher and Buprenorphine Medication Contingencies in Promoting Abstinence From Opioids and Cocaine

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This study compared the relative efficacy of low-magnitude, contingent monetary vouchers, contingent buprenorphine medication, and standard counseling in promoting abstinence from illicit opioids and cocaine among opioid-dependent adults. Following an 8-week baseline period during which participants received buprenorphine maintenance treatment with no contingencies in place, 60 participants were randomly assigned to one of 3 treatment groups for 12 weeks: (a) Participants in the voucher group earned vouchers for each opioid- and cocaine-negative urine sample, in accordance with an escalating schedule. Continuous abstinence resulted in voucher earnings equivalent to a total of $269, which participants could exchange for material reinforcers of their choice. (b) Participants in the medication contingency group received half their scheduled buprenorphine dose for clinic attendance and the other half for remaining abstinent from opiates and cocaine. Thus, they received only half of their scheduled dose on submission of an opioid- and/or cocaine-positive urine sample. (c) Participants in standard treatment did not receive programmed consequences contingent on urinalysis results. All participants were maintained with buprenorphine according to a 3-times-per-week dosing regimen and participated in behavioral drug counseling. Retention rate did not significantly differ across the groups; however, participants in the medication contingency group achieved significantly more weeks of continuous abstinence from opiates and cocaine compared with participants in the voucher group (Ms = 5.95 and 2.90, respectively). Results suggest that the use of medication-based contingencies in combination with behavioral therapy in promoting drug abstinence may have clinical utility. Limitations of the study are discussed.

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