Will California Pay People to Stay Sober?

I think there is a lot in this strategy for everyone to like. Most important of all, it works.” ~ Senator Scott Wiener, author of the new State Bill

With methamphetamine deaths surging, the State of California is asking for permission to use federal funds to implement a radical new program – paying people to stay sober.

But maybe the idea is not as far-fetched as you might think. It’s called “contingency management“, and the federal government has already used this strategy with military veterans for years, and research indicates that it is one of the most effective methods to get people to stop taking drugs, especially those drugs for which there are no available pharmaceutical treatments — stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine, for example.

How Does Contingency Management Work?

Under the proposed program, participants earn small incentive payments, usually on a gift card, for every negative drug test. Over the course of the program, they can earn a few hundred dollars.

And while that may not seem like a lot of money, seeing the balance grow has a definite psychological effect, because the person sees tangible evidence of their progress.

Tyrone Clifford, who participated in a private contingency management program in San Francisco, says, “You watch those dollar values go up, there is proof right there that I am doing this.” He also says that seeing his account grow after every negative drug test gave him the motivation to continue.

Clifford has been free of methamphetamine for 11 years now.

How Bad is the Meth Problem in California?

Between 2010 and 2019, overdose deaths involving stimulants QUADRUPLED in California. Using preliminary data from the first nine months of 2020, fatal stimulant overdoses jumped 42% compared to the previous year.

Part of the reason why contingency management is an attractive option is that while there are medications to help people who are dependent on alcohol or opioids, there are currently no drugs to treat cocaine or meth addiction.

Jacey Cooper, who heads California’s Medicaid program, says, “There is a clear kind of hole in regards to treatment services for individuals who have stimulant use disorder.”

Getting Help

There is one downside to contingency management – while it does help keep people from using drugs while they are in the program, the positive effects wear off in about 6 months.

That makes it perfectly clear that contingency management is only a tool, not a solution in and of itself. Even with financial incentives or other rewards as motivation, a person who is struggling still needs specialized evidence-based treatment and long-term aftercare.

In other words, the incentives may motivate someone to get sober, but the right treatment program helps them stay that way.

In Southern California, your first and best resource is Lasting Recovery, the oldest outpatient rehab program in San Diego. Best of all, our virtual telemedicine program lets you receive the services and support you need from the privacy, convenience, and safety of your own home.

For a confidential assessment, contact Lasting Recovery TODAY.

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