Clinical and cost-effectiveness of contingency management for cannabis use in early psychosis: the CIRCLE randomised clinical trial

Luke Sheridan Rains, Louise Marston, Mark Hinton, Steven Marwaha, Thomas Craig, David Fowler, Michael King, Rumana Z Omar, Paul Mccrone, Jonathan Spencer, Sophie Colman, Catherine Harder, Eleanor Gilbert, Amie Randhawa, Kirsty Labuschagne, Charlotte Jones, Theodora Stefanidou, Marina Christoforou, Meghan Craig, John StrangTim Weaver, Sonia Johnson, Joanne Taylor

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Background: Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit substance amongst people with psychosis. Continued cannabis use following the onset of psychosis is associated with poorer functional and clinical outcomes. However, finding effective ways of intervening has been very challenging. We examined the clinical and cost-effectiveness of adjunctive contingency management (CM), which involves incentives for abstinence from cannabis use, in people with a recent diagnosis of psychosis.
Methods: CIRCLE was a pragmatic multi-centre randomised controlled trial. Participants were recruited via Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) services across the Midlands and South East of England. They had had at least one episode of clinically diagnosed psychosis (affective or non-affective); were aged 18 to 36; reported cannabis use in at least 12 out of the previous 24 weeks; and were not currently receiving treatment for cannabis misuse, or subject to a legal requirement for cannabis testing. Participants were randomised via a secure web-based service 1:1 to either an experimental arm, involving 12 weeks of CM plus a six-session psychoeducation package, or a control arm receiving the psychoeducation package only. The total potential voucher reward in the CM intervention was £240. The primary outcome was time to acute psychiatric care, operationalised as admission to an acute mental health service (including community alternatives to admission). Primary outcome data were collected from patient records at 18 months post-consent by assessors masked to allocation. The trial was registered with the ISRCTN registry, number ISRCTN33576045.
Results: Five hundred fifty-one participants were recruited between June 2012 and April 2016. Primary outcome data were obtained for 272 (98%) in the CM (experimental) group and 259 (95%) in the control group. There was no statistically significant difference in time to acute psychiatric care (the primary outcome) (HR 1.03, 95% CI 0.76, 1.40) between groups. By 18 months, 90 (33%) of participants in the CM group, and 85 (30%) of the control groups had been admitted at least once to an acute psychiatric service. Amongst those who had experienced an acute psychiatric admission, the median time to admission was 196 days (IQR 82, 364) in the CM group and 245 days (IQR 99, 382) in the control group. Cost-effectiveness analyses suggest that there is an 81% likelihood that the intervention was cost-effective, mainly resulting from higher mean inpatient costs for the control group compared with the CM group; however, the cost difference between groups was not statistically significant. There were 58 adverse events, 27 in the CM group and 31 in the control group.
Conclusions: Overall, these results suggest that CM is not an effective intervention for improving the time to acute psychiatric admission or reducing cannabis use in psychosis, at least at the level of voucher reward offered.
Original languageEnglish
Article number161
JournalBMC medicine
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2019


  • Financial incentives
  • Contingency management
  • Cannabis
  • Psychosis
  • Early intervention
  • Substance misuse
  • Humans
  • England
  • Substance-Related Disorders/rehabilitation
  • Cannabis/adverse effects
  • Male
  • Young Adult
  • Psychotic Disorders/therapy
  • Motivation
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Adolescent
  • Behavior Therapy/economics
  • Adult
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Female


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