The brief abstinence test: Voucher-based reinforcement of cocaine abstinence

Elias Robles, Kenneth Silverman, Kenzie L. Preston, Edward J. Cone, Elizabeth Katz, George E. Bigelow, Maxine L. Stitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


This study assessed the effectiveness of a brief abstinence reinforcement procedure for initiating cocaine abstinence in methadone maintenance patients. On Monday of the test week, 72 cocaine-abusing methadone patients were offered a $100 voucher if urine samples collected on Wednesday indicated that they had abstained from cocaine across that 2-day period. A patient was considered abstinent and the voucher delivered if the urine benzoylecgonine concentration decreased by 50% from Monday to Wednesday (quantitative criterion) or if the concentration of Wednesday's urine sample was ≤300 ng/ml. Overall, 79% of study patients showed urinalysis evidence of abstention from cocaine between Monday and Wednesday of the test week. In a subsample with complete data (n=50), significantly more patients abstained from cocaine from Monday to Wednesday of the test week (84%) than from Monday to Wednesday of the week before (36%) or after (32%) the test week . Furthermore, while almost all patients (94%) decreased their benzoylecgonine concentration from Monday to Wednesday of the test week, significantly fewer patients' benzoylecgonine concentrations decreased from Monday to Wednesday of the week before (56%) or after (48%) the test week. This highly efficacious procedure may have clinical application where reliable abstinence initiation is desired, either on a temporary basis (e.g. sobriety sampling) or at the start of longer-term interventions. It may also be possible to use the brief abstinence test as an experimental model to assess the effects of other therapeutic interventions on abstinence initiation in treatment settings. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-212
Number of pages8
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2000


  • Abstinence initiation
  • Cocaine abuse
  • Contingency contracting
  • Methadone patients
  • Urinalysis
  • Voucher-based reinforcement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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