Open Access Open Badges Research article

A public health response to the methamphetamine epidemic: the implementation of contingency management to treat methamphetamine dependence

Steven Shoptaw12*, Jeffrey D Klausner3, Cathy J Reback245, Stephen Tierney6, John Stansell7, C Bradley Hare7, Steven Gibson8, Michael Siever9, William D King1, Uyen Kao1 and Jeffrey Dang1

Author Affiliations

1 David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Department of Family Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, USA

2 David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Department of Psychiatry, Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, Los Angeles, CA, USA

3 San Francisco Public Health Department, San Francisco, CA, USA

4 Friends Research Institute, Inc, Los Angeles, CA, USA

5 Van Ness Recovery House, Prevention Division, Los Angeles, CA, USA

6 San Francisco AIDS Foundation, San Francisco, CA, USA

7 University of California, San Francisco, Positive Health Program, CA, USA

8 University of California, San Francisco, MAGNET, San Francisco, CA, USA

9 University of California, San Francisco, Department of Psychiatry, CA, USA

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:214  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-214

Published: 18 August 2006



In response to increases in methamphatemine-associated sexually transmitted diseases, the San Francisco Department of Public Health implemented a contingency management (CM) field program called the Positive Reinforcement Opportunity Project (PROP).


Methamphetamine-using men who have sex with men (MSM) in San Francisco qualified for PROP following expressed interest in the program, provision of an observed urine sample that tested positive for methamphetamine metabolites and self-report of recent methamphetamine use. For 12 weeks, PROP participants provided observed urine samples on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and received vouchers of increasing value for each consecutive sample that tested negative to metabolites of methamphetamine. Vouchers were exchanged for goods and services that promoted a healthy lifestyle. No cash was provided. Primary outcomes included acceptability (number of enrollments/time), impact (clinical response to treatment and cost-effectiveness as cost per patient treated).


Enrollment in PROP was brisk indicating its acceptability. During the first 10 months of operation, 143 men sought treatment and of these 77.6% were HIV-infected. Of those screened, 111 began CM treatment and averaged 15 (42%) methamphetamine-free urine samples out of a possible 36 samples during the 12-week treatment period; 60% completed 4 weeks of treatment; 48% 8 weeks and 30% 12 weeks. Across all participants, an average of $159 (SD = $165) in vouchers or 35.1% of the maximum possible ($453) was provided for these participants. The average cost per participant of the 143 treated was $800.


Clinical responses to CM in PROP were similar to CM delivered in drug treatment programs, supporting the adaptability and effectiveness of CM to non-traditional drug treatment settings. Costs were reasonable and less than or comparable to other methamphetamine outpatient treatment programs. Further expansion of programs like PROP could address the increasing need for acceptable, feasible and cost-effective methamphetamine treatment in this group with exceptionally high rates of HIV-infection.