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Material Rewards Can Make Recovery Fun — and Lead To Dramatically Better Outcomes

It’s called contingency management: the use of modest but far from trivial rewards for progress toward recovery. And for many suffering from SUD, it works. Now, after decades of resistance in the U.S., the approach is being adopted in states and cities across the country.

The people interviewed for this AP News article say it best: “Recovery is not just balled-up fists and clutched teeth…. It can be fun.” And the evidence is mounting that, with SUD, a little fun can bring serious recovery benefits.

Grounded in brain science and backed up by decades of studies, contingency management provides small, dependable rewards (cash, gift cards, merchandise) for passing drug tests and staying clean. In so doing, it accesses the very same “quick fix” urge that so often, in the moment, outweighs a user’s long-term recovery goals. It provides immediate pleasure of a positive variety.

Such methods “can be a bridge from the difficult days of early recovery to a better life,” says one researcher cited in the article. Thankfully, old worries and misconceptions about such programs are giving way to understanding and acceptance. It’s all laid out in this brief but deeply informative piece.


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In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)