The rewards of a sober lifestyle are many and might include improved physical health, enhanced relationships and a better economic outlook. In fact, people who are sober after years of addiction often report that their lives are happier now than they ever were when drugs played a role,and they might claim that they’ll never be tempted to return to drug use. Even so, it can be difficult for people with addictions to understand the future benefits they’ll receive with sobriety, and they might feel as though they’d rather accept the rewards drugs can offer them right now, instead of waiting for the delayed rewards sobriety can bring.
Vouchers can help to make the benefits of sobriety a bit more immediate to people enrolled in addiction treatment programs. Instead of waiting to see how their lives will change as they continue to fight back against their destructive urges, vouchers give them something to look forward to and be proud of right now, all due to their continuing abstinence.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that vouchers work best when they’re provided in tandem with a traditional treatment program for addiction.
Therapists who use this approach may provide their clients with comprehensive therapies that can help clients to:
- Pinpoint their addiction triggers
- Avoid risky situations
- Alleviate emotional distress without drugs
- Learn more about addiction
Vouchers augment this learning by encouraging clients to stay sober between their outpatient appointments. Before each therapy session, clients are asked to submit to tests that can detect a variety of different substances of abuse. All substances are tested for, as some addicted people dabble in new substances in the vain attempt to heal from an addiction to another substance. These tests are sophisticated, but they’re also easy to administer and read, and the results come back quickly. If the person’s test is negative, that person gets a voucher that can be exchanged for a prize. Typically, that prize is something that could be considered part of a sober lifestyle, such as a healthy food, a movie pass or a gym pass. Winning the prize is rewarding, but the prizes also help to reinforce the lessons of therapy.
With each week of sobriety, the vouchers get bigger and bigger, allowing people to feel an even greater sense of accomplishment for the progress they’re making in the fight against addiction. A positive urine test resets the value of the voucher to zero, so people in recovery also feel motivated to keep working on recovery. A slip means losing something real that’s hard to get back, and for some, this is also a lesson that they’ve been learning in therapy.
Value of Vouchers
In most cases, the vouchers provided have a low monetary value. They’re simply small little trinkets or tokens that stand in for the hard work that people are doing in the fight against addiction. People who get these vouchers, however, may find them so important and so valuable that they’re willing to keep coming to therapy in order to obtain another voucher. For example, in a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, researchers found that 84 percent of people who got vouchers continued to get care over an eight-week period, compared to only 22 percent of people who didn’t get this kind of prize. Staying in therapy is vital to long-term success, as people who keep going to their sessions keep learning about addiction and they keep building up new skills. Dropping out, on the other hand, usually means returning to drug use. If vouchers can keep people coming back to therapy, it might be one of the best ways to help them learn how to stay sober in the future.
Since vouchers are only handed out when people remain sober, they can also be helpful in reducing drug use.
They have a reason to stay sober, and a reason to keep working, and this can keep them away from drugs. With each day that they stay sober, too, they’re picking up new skills and learning new techniques that could keep them away from a future relapse. In time, people who participate in training like this might not even need vouchers, as the rewards of a sober life might become more present and more rewarding. Their lives might change, if they stay in therapy for long enough periods of time and stay sober during that therapy period, and vouchers can make that happen.
Getting This Help
A study in the journal Addictive Behaviors suggests that vouchers could be helpful for a variety of addicted people, including those with mental illnesses and those who are pregnant. However, not all treatment programs provide vouchers to their clients. Some administrators feel as though vouchers provide a false sense of reward, and that people will return to drugs when the vouchers are gone. Other facilities just don’t have the financial ability to provide prizes to clients. Those who feel as though vouchers might be helpful should ensure that the facilities they consider offer this intervention, as it doesn’t yet seem to be widespread.
If you’d like help in finding a treatment facility that provides the therapies that are right for you, please call us. We’re here to help.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton