Voucher-Based Reinforcement Therapy in Methadone Maintenance Treatment

Reward vouchers are an incentive for drug addicts to remain drug-free.

Voucher system helps drug addicts achieve and maintain abstinence from illegal drugs.Reinforcement therapy helps patients achieve and maintain abstinence from illegal drugs by providing them with a voucher each time they provide a drug-free urine sample. The voucher has monetary value and can be exchanged for goods and services consistent with the goals of treatment. Initially, the voucher values are low, but their value increases with the number of consecutive drug-free urine specimens the individual provides. Cocaine- or heroin-positive urine specimens reset the value of the vouchers to the initial low value. The contingency of escalating incentives is designed specifically to reinforce periods of sustained drug abstinence.

Studies show that patients receiving vouchers for drug-free urine samples achieved significantly more weeks of abstinence and significantly more weeks of sustained abstinence than patients who were given vouchers independent of urinalysis results. In another study, urinalyses positive for heroin decreased significantly when the voucher program was started and increased significantly when the program was stopped.


Silverman, K.; Higgins, S.; Brooner, R.; Montoya, I.; Cone, E.; Schuster, C.; and Preston, K. Sustained cocaine abstinence in methadone maintenance patients through voucher-based reinforcement therapy. Archives of General Psychiatry 53: 409-415, 1996.

Silverman, K.; Wong, C.; Higgins, S.; Brooner, R.; Montoya, I.; Contoreggi, C.; Umbricht-Schneiter, A.; Schuster, C.; and Preston, K. Increasing opiate abstinence through voucher-based reinforcement therapy. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 41: 157-165, 1996.

Source: National Institute of Drug Abuse, "Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide."
Last updated September 27, 2006.

next: Drug Abstinence Contingencies and Vouchers
~ all articles on Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment
~ addictions library articles
~ all addictions articles

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 30). Voucher-Based Reinforcement Therapy in Methadone Maintenance Treatment, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, February 23 from

Last Updated: April 26, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

More Info