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Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Nicotine)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy was developed as a method to prevent relapse when treating problem drinking, and later was adapted for cocaine-addicted individuals. Cognitive-behavioral strategies are based on the theory that learning processes play a critical role in the development of maladaptive behavioral patterns. Individuals learn to identify and correct problematic behaviors by applying a range of different skills that can be used to stop drug abuse and to address a range of other problems that often co-occur with it.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy generally consists of a collection of strategies intended to enhance self-control. Specific techniques include exploring the positive and negative consequences of continued use, self-monitoring to recognize drug cravings early on and to identify highrisk situations for use, and developing strategies for coping with and avoiding high-risk situations and the desire to use. A central element of this treatment is anticipating likely problems and helping patients develop effective coping strategies.

Research indicates that the skills individuals learn through cognitive-behavioral approaches remain after the completion of treatment. In several studies, most people receiving a cognitive-behavioral approach maintained the gains they made in treatment throughout the following year.

Current research focuses on how to produce even more powerful effects by combining cognitive-behavioral therapy with medications for drug abuse and with other types of behavioral therapies. Researchers are also evaluating how best to train treatment providers to deliver cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Further Reading:

Carroll, K., et al. Efficacy of disulfiram and cognitive behavior therapy in cocaine-dependent outpatients: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Archives of General Psychiatry 61(3):264-272, 2004.

Carroll, K.; Rounsaville, B.; and Keller, D. Relapse prevention strategies for the treatment of cocaine abuse. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 17(3):249-265, 1991.

Carroll, K.; Rounsaville, B.; Nich, C.; Gordon, L.; Wirtz, P.; and Gawin, F. One-year follow-up of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy for cocaine dependence: Delayed emergence of psychotherapy effects. Archives of General Psychiatry 51(12):989-997, 1994.

Carroll, K.; Sholomskas, D.; Syracuse, G.; Ball, S.A.; Nuro, K.; and Fenton, L.R. We don't train in vain: A dissemination trial of three strategies of training clinicians in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 73(1):106-115, 2005.

Carroll, K.M., et al. The use of contingency management and motivational/skills-building therapy to treat young adults with marijuana dependence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 74(5):955-966, 2006.

This page was last updated April 2009