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Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2007;33(3):343-65.

A perfect platform: combining contingency management with medications for drug abuse.

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Division of Substance Abuse, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, West Haven, Connecticut 06516, USA.


Contingency management (CM) procedures, which provide concrete reinforcers or rewards contingent on verification of discrete targeted behaviors, such as drug-free urines, have been demonstrated to be effective in a number of clinical trials. However, to date there have been only a few that have capitalized on the unique strengths and capabilities of CM as an ideal platform to improve response to or address weaknesses of many pharmacotherapies used in the treatment of drug abuse. In this review, we describe the multiple potential uses of CM as a platform for pharmacotherapy, including reducing illicit drug use in the context of agonist therapies; fostering medication compliance with antagonists, aversive agents and HIV medications; fostering a period of abstinence prior to initiation of agents used to treat comorbid psychiatric conditions or in the context of vaccines to foster adequate periods of abstinence while titer levels are building; and to enhance the effectiveness of anticraving agents through additive or synergistic effects. Although its multiple strengths render it an almost perfect platform, CM does have some weaknesses that have limited its use to date, including cost, the short-term nature of its effects, and need for training. Future treatment development of CM as a medication platform needs to counter these issues by focusing on CM applications with large potential benefit, developing simple or automated methods for CM delivery and placing greater emphasis on the process of transitioning away from formal CM treatment.

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