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The KIRO Rundown: Should we pay people to stay sober?

Drug users prepare cocaine before injecting inside of a Safe Consumption van set up by Peter Krykant on Sept. 25, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

We pay people all the time to do things they wouldn’t otherwise. Why not apply the same strategy to convince people to stop using substances they’re addicted to?

That’s the basic thinking behind contingency management, an experimental treatment where you offer rewards, often monetary, to addicts for abstaining. The longer the length of abstention, the greater the reward.

Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weighed the pros and cons of this idea, after reading about it in the New York Times.

“Love it, absolutely love it,” Scott said. “Everybody likes rewards. Everybody likes to be acknowledged for doing something right.”

So far, there’s not a lot of support for this kind of treatment, especially compared to how successful it’s been in the clinical trials where it’s been tried.

“One of the things is that it’s a hard sell for any government to budget that kind of money to use for this kind of a program,” Reutin said.

Another suggestion that might be considered radical depending on who you talk to: safe injection sites. They’re back in the headlines after the Seattle City Council started reconsidering their placement. John Curley argues the city shouldn’t stop there.

“Why don’t they just legalize it all?” Curley said. “The reason people are OD-ing is because they’re getting something that’s got too much Fentanyl. You could get rid of the safe injection sites if you just simply legalized it.”

Curley believes a completely legalized system would be safer because the government or private companies could ensure safety.

Also, Dori Monson and Mike Lewis weigh in on whether people experiencing addiction or poverty should get more leniency when they commit certain crimes.

The KIRO Radio Rundown Podcast collects takes from each KIRO Radio host on the biggest stories of the week and puts them in one place. Released Tuesdays and Thursdays by 7 p.m.

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