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Methamphetamine Abusers Respond to Reward System

Contingency management keeps addicts drug-free longer than regular treatment only

FRIDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) -- A contingency management program that rewards methamphetamine-dependent participants with prizes for remaining drug-free helps them stay off drugs longer than regular treatment alone, researchers report in the November issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

John M. Roll, Ph.D., of Washington State University in Spokane, and colleagues randomly assigned 113 methamphetamine abusers to 12 weeks of their usual treatment or contingency management plus usual treatment.

Participants' breath was tested for alcohol use, and their urine was tested for illegal drugs. Samples found drug-free were rewarded with plastic chips, some of which could be traded in for prizes. Winnings obtained by getting negative samples added up cumulatively, but a missed or drug-positive sample reset the prize tally back to the beginning.

The researchers found that both sets of participants stayed in treatment about the same time, but participants in contingency management and regular treatment produced significantly more drug-negative samples than those in regular treatment. Overall, those in contingency management also remained drug-free longer: five weeks instead of three weeks.

"These results suggest that contingency management has promise as a component in treatment strategies for methamphetamine use disorder," the authors write.

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