Comparing adaptive stepped care and monetary-based voucher interventions for opioid dependence

Robert K. Brooner, Michael S. Kidorf, Van L. King, Kenneth B. Stoller, Karin J. Neufeld, Ken Kolodner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


This 6-month randomized clinical trial (with 3-month follow-up) used a 2 × 2 design to compare the independent and combined effectiveness of two interventions designed to improve outcomes in treatment-seeking opioid dependent patients (n = 236): motivated stepped care (MSC) and contingent voucher incentives (CVI). MSC is an adaptive treatment strategy that uses principles of negative reinforcement and avoidance to motivate both attendance to varying levels of counseling services and brief periods of abstinence [Brooner, R.K., Kidorf, M., 2002. Using behavioral reinforcement to improve methadone treatment participation. Sci. Pract. Perspect. 1, 38-46; Brooner, R.K., Kidorf, M.S., King, V.L., Peirce, J.M., Bigelow, G.E., Kolodner, K., 2004. A modified "stepped care" approach to improve attendance behavior in treatment seeking opioid abusers. J. Subst. Abuse Treat. 27, 223-232]. In contrast, CVI [Higgins, S., Delaney, D.D., Budney, A.J., Bickel, W.K., Hughes, J.R., Foerg, B.A., Fenwick, J.W., 1991. A behavioral approach to achieving initial cocaine abstinence. Am. Psychiatr. 148, 1218-1224] relies on positive reinforcement to motivate drug abstinence. The results showed that the combined approach (MSC + CVI) was associated with the highest proportion of drug-negative urine samples during both the randomized and 3-month follow-up arms of the evaluation. The CVI-only and the MSC-only conditions evidenced similar proportions of drug-negative urine samples that were both significantly greater than the standard care (SC) comparison group. Voucher-based reinforcement was associated with better retention, while adaptive stepped-based care was associated with better adherence to scheduled counseling sessions. These results suggest that both CVI and MSC are more effective than routine care for reducing drug use in opioid dependent outpatients, and that the overall benefits of MSC are enhanced further by adding positive reinforcement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S14-S23
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Adaptive care
  • Behavioral reinforcement
  • Methadone
  • Opioid dependence
  • Stepped care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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