Contingency Management for Patients Receiving Medication for Opioid Use Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

JAMA Psychiatry. 2021 Oct 1;78(10):1092-1102. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.1969.


Importance: Medication treatment for opioid use disorder (MOUD) is efficacious, but comorbid stimulant use and other behavioral health problems often undermine efficacy.

Objective: To examine the association of contingency management, a behavioral intervention wherein patients receive material incentives contingent on objectively verified behavior change, with end-of-treatment outcomes for these comorbid behavioral problems.

Data sources: A systematic search of PubMed, Cochrane CENTRAL, Web of Science, and reference sections of articles from inception through May 5, 2020. The following search terms were used: vouchers OR contingency management OR financial incentives.

Study selection: Prospective experimental studies of monetary-based contingency management among participants receiving MOUD.

Data extraction and synthesis: Following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) reporting guideline, 3 independent investigators extracted data from included studies for a random-effects meta-analysis.

Main outcomes and measures: Primary outcome was the association of contingency management at end-of-treatment assessments with 6 clinical problems: stimulant use, polysubstance use, illicit opioid use, cigarette smoking, therapy attendance, and medication adherence. Random-effects meta-analysis models were used to compute weighted mean effect size estimates (Cohen d) and corresponding 95% CIs separately for each clinical problem and collapsing across the 3 categories assessing abstinence and the 2 assessing treatment adherence outcomes.

Results: The search identified 1443 reports of which 74 reports involving 10 444 unique adult participants met inclusion criteria for narrative review and 60 for inclusion in meta-analyses. Contingency management was associated with end-of-treatment outcomes for all 6 problems examined separately, with mean effect sizes for 4 of 6 in the medium-large range (stimulants, Cohen d = 0.70 [95% CI, 0.49-0.92]; cigarette use, Cohen d = 0.78 [95% CI, 0.43-1.14]; illicit opioid use, Cohen d = 0.58 [95% CI, 0.30-0.86]; medication adherence, Cohen d = 0.75 [95% CI, 0.30-1.21]), and 2 in the small-medium range (polysubstance use, Cohen d = 0.46 [95% CI, 0.30-0.62]; therapy attendance, d = 0.43 [95% CI, 0.22-0.65]). Collapsing across abstinence and adherence categories, contingency management was associated with medium effect sizes for abstinence (Cohen d = 0.58; 95% CI, 0.47-0.69) and treatment adherence (Cohen d = 0.62; 95% CI, 0.40-0.84) compared with controls.

Conclusions and relevance: These results provide evidence supporting the use of contingency management in addressing key clinical problems among patients receiving MOUD, including the ongoing epidemic of comorbid psychomotor stimulant misuse. Policies facilitating integration of contingency management into community MOUD services are sorely needed.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence*
  • Motivation*
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / therapy*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*