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Int J Addict. 1990-1991 Aug;25(9A-10A):1141-77.

Contributions to a social conditioning model of cocaine recovery.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge Hospital, Massachusetts 02139.


This article describes recent developments in a theory of recovery from drug addiction and in the adaptation of Recovery Training and Self Help (RTSH) to cocaine addiction. RTSH is an example of a new element of treatment known as "relapse prevention" (RP), which is an application of the discovery that addiction follows the laws of operant conditioning. We learned, however, that to understand and to treat cocaine addiction, we had to expand upon the conditioning paradigm to include a sociological analysis of the deviant lifestyle from which cocaine addiction stems. The theory presented here postulates three stages of recovery from cocaine addiction. Cocaine addicts can recover as outpatients by (1) initially building "walls" against drug triggers and supplies, (2) extinguishing addiction in the protective community of recovering persons, and (3) gradually lowering the walls and expanding beyond the recovering community to function more fully in conventional society. We have developed an outpatient group treatment system based on this recovery model. The Cocaine Recovery System includes a month-long cessation program, followed by a six-month recovery program, and active participation in the recovering community. A professional and a recovering person colead both the cessation and recovery programs, which feature Recovery Training sessions designed to help cocaine addicts achieve treatment goals and avoid or cope with threats to recovery. Clients in the recovery program also meet weekly for a support session, a weekend recreational activity, and individual counseling. The program also encourages group members to attend 12-step fellowship meetings. Clients achieve difficult lifestyle changes by taking a series of "commitment steps," which increasingly engage the clients in a recovering lifestyle and make relapse more difficult.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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