Behavioral economic approaches to understanding the relationship between substance-use contexts and outcomes have guided the development of contextual measures (see Pierce, 2012, for a review). For example, a study comparing the effects of rewarding participants for a drug-free urine sample in different types of environments (at a treatment facility, after work, at home, and in the community) suggested that behavioral economic principles could be used to develop a more valid and sensitive measure of drug-free samples (Wechsler et al., 2008). The study found that the results of drug-free samples collected under different conditions did not vary as much as the participants’ self-reports of substance use (Wechsler et al.
Contextual features are particularly useful in measuring environment-related influences on substance use (Pierce et al., 2013), which can be described as the person’s behavior given the conditions or context of the environment in which the person is located. A drug-free assessment is not possible when a person is using drugs. Therefore, one must consider the context of use before making judgments about drug-free outcomes (Pierce, 2012). Researchers who study the relationship between environment and substance use have argued that the context of use is important because it affects the type and amount of substance that is used (Kirby, 2008). Different contexts of use may require different types of treatment approaches (e.g., more intensive counseling for a person who uses alcohol in a context of family conflict) (Kirby, 2008). For example, a person who uses a substance in a family gathering may have different needs than a person who uses alone in an isolated social setting (Smith et al., 2014).
The first section discusses measurement strategies that assess the context in which people use substances and the situational features associated with substance use. The second section discusses measures of drugs and alcohol reinforcement value in the context of substance-using and substance-free behaviors, with emphasis on measures that can be used to assess the relative reward value of substance-related stimuli. The last section presents relative reinforcement value (RV) assessment measures that are used to assess the relative reward value of substances and/or other behaviors in the absence of substance use. These approaches, taken together, provide a model for measuring contextual and situational factors that can be used in assessment and interventions with drug users and alcoholics. 827ec27edc