Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)
Community Reinforcement Approach Plus Vouchers (Alcohol, Cocaine, Opioids)

Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA) Plus Vouchers is an intensive 24-week outpatient therapy for treating people addicted to cocaine and alcohol. It uses a range of recreational, familial, social, and vocational reinforcers, along with material incentives, to make a non-drug-using lifestyle more rewarding than substance use. The treatment goals are twofold:

  • To maintain abstinence long enough for patients to learn new life skills to help sustain it; and
  • To reduce alcohol consumption for patients whose drinking is associated with cocaine use

Patients attend one or two individual counseling sessions each week, where they focus on improving family relations, learn a variety of skills to minimize drug use, receive vocational counseling, and develop new recreational activities and social networks. Those who also abuse alcohol receive clinic-monitored disulfiram (Antabuse) therapy. Patients submit urine samples two or three times each week and receive vouchers for cocaine-negative samples. As in VBR, the value of the vouchers increases with consecutive clean samples, and the vouchers may be exchanged for retail goods that are consistent with a drug-free lifestyle. Studies in both urban and rural areas have found that this approach facilitates patients’ engagement in treatment and successfully aids them in gaining substantial periods of cocaine abstinence.

A computer-based version of CRA Plus Vouchers called the Therapeutic Education System (TES) was found to be nearly as effective as treatment administered by a therapist in promoting abstinence from opioids and cocaine among opioid-dependent individuals in outpatient treatment. A version of CRA for adolescents addresses problem-solving, coping, and communication skills and encourages active participation in positive social and recreational activities.

Further Reading:

Brooks, A.C.; Ryder, D.; Carise, D.; and Kirby, K.C. Feasibility and effectiveness of computer-based therapy in community treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment  39(3):227–235, 2010.

Higgins, S.T.; Sigmon, S.C.; Wong, C.J.; Heil, S.H.; Badger, G.J.; Donham, R.; Dantona, R.L.; and Anthony, S. Community reinforcement therapy for cocaine-dependent outpatients. Archives of General Psychiatry 60(10):1043–1052, 2003.

Roozen, H.G.; Boulogne, J.J.; van Tulder, M.W.; van den Brink, W.; De Jong, C.A.J.; and Kerhof, J.F.M. A systemic review of the effectiveness of the community reinforcement approach in alcohol, cocaine and opioid addiction. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 74(1):1–13, 2004.

Silverman, K.; Higgins, S.T.; Brooner, R.K.; Montoya, I.D.; Cone, E.J.; Schuster, C.R.; and Preston, K.L. Sustained cocaine abstinence in methadone maintenance patients through voucher-based reinforcement therapy. Archives of General Psychiatry 53(5):409–415, 1996.

Smith, J.E.; Meyers, R.J.; and Delaney, H.D. The community reinforcement approach with homeless alcohol-dependent individuals. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 66(3):541–548, 1998.

Stahler, G.J.; Shipley, T.E.; Kirby, K.C.; Godboldte, C.; Kerwin, M.E; Shandler, I.; and Simons, L. Development and initial demonstration of a community-based intervention for homeless, cocaine-using, African-American women. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 28(2):171–179, 2005.