A contingency management intervention to reduce cannabis use and time to relapse in early psychosis: The CIRCLE RCT

Sonia Johnson*, Luke Sheridan Rains, Steven Marwaha, John Strang, Thomas Craig, Tim Weaver, Paul McCrone, Michael King, David Fowler, Stephen Pilling, Louise Marston, Rumana Z. Omar, Meghan Craig, Jonathan Spencer, Mark Hinton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Cannabis is the most prevalent illicit substance among people with psychosis, and its use is associated with poorer clinical and social outcomes. However, so far, there has been limited evidence that any treatment is effective for reducing use. Contingency management (CM) is an incentive-based intervention for substance misuse that has a substantial evidence base across a range of substances and cohorts. However, to date there have been no randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of CM as a treatment for cannabis use specifically in psychosis. Objective: To conduct a RCT investigating the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of CM in reducing cannabis use among Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) service users. Design: The CIRCLE (Contingency Intervention for Reduction of Cannabis in Early Psychosis) trial was a rater-blinded, multicentre RCT with two arms. Participants were randomised 1: 1 to either an CM arm, in which participants received CM for cannabis use alongside an optimised treatment-as-usual programme including structured psychoeducation, or a control arm in which participants received the treatment as usual only. Setting: EIP services across the Midlands and the south-east of England.Participants: The main eligibility criteria were EIP service users with a history of psychosis, aged 18-36 years, and having used cannabis at least once per week during 12 of the previous 24 weeks. Intervention: The CM intervention offered financial incentives (i.e. shopping vouchers) for cannabis abstinence over 12 once-weekly sessions, confirmed using urinalysis. The maximum value in vouchers that participants could receive was £240. Main outcome measures: The main outcome was time to relapse, operationalised as admission to an acute mental health service or hospital. The primary outcome was assessed at 18 months post inclusion using electronic patient records. Secondary outcomes assessed the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the intervention, for which data were collected at 3 and 18 months. Results: A total of 278 participants were randomised to the CM arm and 273 were randomised to the control arm. In total, 530 (96%) participants were followed up for the primary outcome. There was no significant difference in time to admission between trial arms by 18 months following consent (hazard ratio 1.03, 95% confidence interval 0.76 to 1.40). There were no statistically significant differences in most secondary outcomes, including cannabis use, at either follow-up assessment. There were 58 serious adverse events, comprising 52 inpatient episodes, five deaths and one arrest. Limitations: Participant retention was low at 18 months, limiting the assessment of secondary outcomes. A different CM intervention design or reward level may have been effective. Conclusions: The CM intervention did not appear to be effective in reducing cannabis use and acute relapse among people with early psychosis and problematic cannabis use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)vii-108
JournalHealth Technology Assessment
Issue number45
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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