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Contingency Management is one of several treatment models we may employ to address problems with alcohol, marijuana, opioids, cocaine, and other substance use problems.

What is Contingency Management (CM) for Substance Abuse Treatment?

Contingency management is a behavioral therapy that uses positive reinforcement in the form of motivational incentives and tangible rewards as tools to assist an individual in achieving abstinent from drugs or alcohol. Contingency management interventions are based on principles of basic behavioral analysis which includes the premise that

  • A behavior that is reinforced in close temporal proximity to its occurrence will increase in frequency.

In the case of Drug and Alcohol Abuse:

  • Drugs and alcohol stimulate the reward and pleasure centers of the brain by producing a chemical neurotransmitter called dopamine.
  • Dopamine is responsible for producing the trademark buzz, euphoria, high, rush or other pleasurable feelings many drugs create.
  • Eventually, as a tolerance occurs, the amount of drug needed to produce these feel-good effects climbs, circumstances which can push a person closer to addiction.

The Benefits of Contingency Management for Substance Abuse Treatment:

  • CM utilizes positive reinforcement procedures to systematically stimulate reward centers of the brain
  • CM positively modifies behaviors of substance abusers away from use
  • CM emphasizes positive reinforcement versus punishment
  • The magnitude of positive reinforcement increases with sustained periods of abstinence
  • A series of studies demonstrated that CM is efficacious in retaining patients in treatment and reducing substance use.

Contingency Management And Integrated Care

Like many forms of therapy, Contingency Management treatment success can be greater when coupled with other therapies.

  • Intensive psychotherapy sessions that employ additional therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy are often necessary to help a person overcome the root causes of addiction.
  • CM shows proven effectiveness when integrated into enhanced treatment models such as MST
  • CM paired with dialectical behavior therapy has shown promising results as drug and alcohol treatment.
  • A combination of CM with Mindfulness and stress management practices may also be used to encourage mind-body-spirit wellness.
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