Clinical implications of reinforcement as a determinant of substance use disorders

Annu Rev Psychol. 2004:55:431-61. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.142033.


Extensive scientific evidence indicates that reinforcement plays an important role in the genesis, maintenance, and recovery from substance use disorders. In this chapter, we review recent clinical research from laboratory, clinic, and naturalistic settings examining the role of reinforcement in substance use disorders. Well-controlled human laboratory studies are reviewed characterizing orderly interactions between the reinforcing effects of drugs and environmental context that have important implications for understanding risk factors for substance use disorders and for the development of efficacious interventions. Recent treatment-outcome studies on voucher-based contingency management and community reinforcement therapy are reviewed demonstrating how reinforcement and related principles can be used to improve outcomes across a wide range of different substance use disorders and populations. Overall, the chapter characterizes a vigorous area of clinical research that has much to contribute to a scientific analysis of substance use disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*