IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Employment as a Drug Abuse Treatment Intervention: A Behavioral Economic Analysis


  • Kenneth Silverman
  • Elias Robles


Epidemiological data and experimental research in the fields of operant conditioning and behavioral economics suggest that employment may be useful in the treatment of drug abuse. The conditions under which employment should decrease drug use depends on a range of environmental contextual factors, some of which have been classified or suggested by adapting the economic concepts of income, substitutability and complementarity, and opportunity cost to the analysis of behavior. A job can occupy a substantial portion of a person's day with work, thereby reducing the amount of time available for drug consumption (i.e., employment reduces behavioral income for drug use). Because money buys drugs, monetary pay for work may increase or sustain drug use, suggesting a potential undesirable by-product of employment (i.e., money and drugs appear to be complementary reinforcers). Finally, employment may decrease drug use to the extent that drug use results in loss of wages or job (i.e., employment may impose an opportunity cost of drug use). This paper reviews research in these three areas with the goal of identifying an effective employment-based treatment intervention for chronically unemployed methadone patients, a group of individuals sorely in need of effective interventions to reduce their drug use and improve their employment status. Research on behavioral income restrictions, reinforcer substitutability and complementarity, and opportunity cost suggests that the utility of employment as a drug abuse treatment intervention depends, in large part, on the extent to which employment is used to arrange substantial monetary reinforcement for drug abstinence and opportunity cost for drug use.

Suggested Citation

  • Kenneth Silverman & Elias Robles, 1998. "Employment as a Drug Abuse Treatment Intervention: A Behavioral Economic Analysis," NBER Working Papers 6402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6402
    Note: EH

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dennis, Michael L. & Karuntzos, Georgia T. & McDougal, Gail L. & French, Michael T. & Hubbard, Robert L., 1993. "Developing training and employment programs to meet the needs of methadone treatment clients," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 73-86.
    2. Gfroerer, J.C. & Brodsky, M.D., 1993. "Frequent cocaine users and their use of treatment," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 83(8), pages 1149-1154.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Matilde Machado, 2005. "Substance abuse treatment, what do we know?," The European Journal of Health Economics, Springer;Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gesundheitsökonomie (DGGÖ), vol. 6(1), pages 53-64, March.
    2. Machado, Matilde P., 2003. "Substance abuse treatment: what do we know? an economist's perspective," UC3M Working papers. Economics we035621, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Departamento de Economía.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Kenneth Silverman & Elias Robles, 1999. "Employment as a Drug Abuse Treatment Intervention: A Behavioral Economic Analysis," NBER Chapters, in: The Economic Analysis of Substance Use and Abuse: An Integration of Econometric and Behavioral Economic Research, pages 279-310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Michael L. Dennis & Mark A. Foss & Christy K. Scott, 2007. "An Eight-Year Perspective on the Relationship Between the Duration of Abstinence and Other Aspects of Recovery," Evaluation Review, , vol. 31(6), pages 585-612, December.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6402. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: the person in charge (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.