Key priorities for implementation

Key priorities for implementation

Brief interventions

Opportunistic brief interventions focused on motivation should be offered to people in limited contact with drug services (for example, those attending a needle and syringe exchange or primary care settings) if concerns about drug misuse are identified by the service user or staff member. These interventions should:

  • normally consist of 2 sessions each lasting 10 to 45 minutes

  • explore ambivalence about drug use and possible treatment, with the aim of increasing motivation to change behaviour, and provide non-judgemental feedback.


Staff should routinely provide people who misuse drugs with information about self-help groups. These groups should normally be based on 12‑step principles; for example, Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous.

Contingency management

Introducing contingency management

Drug services should introduce contingency management programmes, as part of the phased implementation programme led by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA), to reduce illicit drug use and/or promote engagement with services for people receiving methadone maintenance treatment.

Principles of contingency management

Contingency management aimed at reducing illicit drug use for people receiving methadone maintenance treatment or who primarily misuse stimulants should be based on the following principles:

  • The programme should offer incentives (usually vouchers that can be exchanged for goods or services of the service user's choice, or privileges such as take-home methadone doses) contingent on each presentation of a drug-negative test (for example, free from cocaine or non-prescribed opioids).

  • The frequency of screening should be set at 3 tests per week for the first 3 weeks, 2 tests per week for the next 3 weeks, and 1 per week thereafter until stability is achieved.

  • If vouchers are used, they should have monetary values that start in the region of £2 and increase with each additional, continuous period of abstinence.

  • Urinalysis should be the preferred method of testing but oral fluid tests may be considered as an alternative.

Contingency management to improve physical healthcare

For people at risk of physical health problems (including transmittable diseases) resulting from their drug misuse, material incentives (for example, shopping vouchers of up to £10 in value) should be considered to encourage harm reduction. Incentives should be offered on a one‑off basis or over a limited duration, contingent on concordance with or completion of each intervention, in particular for:

  • hepatitis B or C and HIV testing

  • hepatitis B immunisation

  • tuberculosis testing.

Implementing contingency management

Drug services should ensure that as part of the introduction of contingency management, staff are trained and competent in appropriate near-patient testing methods and in the delivery of contingency management.

Contingency management should be introduced to drug services in the phased implementation programme led by the NTA, in which staff training and the development of service delivery systems are carefully evaluated. The outcome of this evaluation should be used to inform the full-scale implementation of contingency management.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)