Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Nicotine)

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was developed as a method to prevent relapse when treating problem drinking, and later it was adapted for cocaine-addicted individuals. Cognitive-behavioral strategies are based on the theory that in the development of maladaptive behavioral patterns like substance abuse, learning processes play a critical role. Individuals in CBT learn to identify and correct problematic behaviors by applying a range of different skills that can be used to stop drug abuse and to address a range of other problems that often co-occur with it.

A central element of CBT is anticipating likely problems and enhancing patients’ self-control by helping them develop effective coping strategies. Specific techniques include exploring the positive and negative consequences of continued drug use, self-monitoring to recognize cravings early and identify situations that might put one at risk for use, and developing strategies for coping with cravings and avoiding those high-risk situations.

Research indicates that the skills individuals learn through cognitive-behavioral approaches remain after the completion of treatment. Current research focuses on how to produce even more powerful effects by combining CBT with medications for drug abuse and with other types of behavioral therapies. A computer-based CBT system has also been developed and has been shown to be effective in helping reduce drug use following standard drug abuse treatment.

Further Reading:

Carroll, K.M., Easton, C.J.; Nich, C.; Hunkele, K.A.; Neavins, T.M.; Sinha, R.; Ford, H.L.; Vitolo, S.A; Doebrick, C.A.; and Rounsaville, B.J. The use of contingency management and motivational/skills-building therapy to treat young adults with marijuana dependence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 74(5):955–966, 2006.

Carroll, K.M.; and Onken, L.S. Behavioral therapies for drug abuse. The American Journal of Psychiatry 168(8):1452–1460, 2005.

Carroll, K.M.; Sholomskas, D.; Syracuse, G.; Ball, S.A.; Nuro, K.; and Fenton, L.R. We don’t train in vain: A dissemination trial of three strategies of training clinicians in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology  73(1):106–115, 2005.

Carroll, K.; Fenton, L.R.; Ball, S.A.; Nich, C.; Frankforter, T.L.; Shi,J.; and Rounsaville, B.J. Efficacy of disulfiram and cognitive behavior therapy in cocaine-dependent outpatients: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Archives of General Psychiatry 61(3):264–272, 2004.

Carroll, K.M.; Ball, S.A.; Martino, S.; Nich, C.; Babuscio, T.A.; Nuro, K.F.; Gordon, M.A.; Portnoy, G.A.; and Rounsaville, B.J. Computer-assisted delivery of cognitive-behavioral therapy for addiction: a randomized trial of CBT4CBT. The American Journal of Psychiatry 165(7):881–888, 2008.