Token economy has been defined as the system of contingency management whereby target behavior is done by systematic reinforcement. The re-enforcers are the tokens or rather, gifts that can be conveniently exchanged with other re-enforcers. Usually, this is used among children and sometimes adults when seeking to study behavior change or when seeking to modify some behavior, usually by researchers with an aim of minimizing undesirable behavior in the society and promoting good behavior in various set-ups. In carrying out research on the drug abuse among university students in university, the use of this method in studying behavior is most appropriate given the amount of approval it has had and the little criticism it has faced since its time of inception and throughout the time it has been applied.
Drug abuse is a common practice among university students around the world. With the behavior comes a great deal of effects among them poor concentration in class hence poor grades in academic performance, poor general behavior and other psychological, physical and social problems. What has remained a topic of discussion for a long time has been the actual true motivation for these students to smoke, since such things as peer pressure have been found out to be secondary causes of drug abuse.
To determine this whole problem the procedures used in token economy were applied fully. Specifically, chronic marijuana smokers were used and therefore marijuana was used as the re-enforcers. They were used such that, a deal was struck between the researchers and the subject that if they could abstain from smoking for a given period of time, they would be awarded with a roll of the drugs for free, and that the rewards will be coming with a decreasing rate. This can as well be a rehabilitation process as over time the amount of addiction will be reducing.
Token economy has been used over a long time to come up with various results that proved greatly important. For instance, due to its attribute of great flexibility, it has been instrumental in improving such things as reduction in drug abuse, taking care of oneself among others (Maggin, et. al, 2011). It has been found that tokens economy have as well been important in the education sector where it helped reduce problems such as hyperactivity among students in schools( Mottran et.al, 2002). These researches prove how important the concept of tokens economy can be if applied in such a problem as drug abuse among university students.
The participants, setting, and contingency
The participants in this study were in a public university in the south of California State in the United States that were pursuing various courses but more particularity was given to students in the school of business. Fifty-four students aged between eighteen years and thirty, pursuing undergraduate courses were picked for the study, among them thirty-four males and twenty females. The participants were first picked based on their willingness to admit that they indeed were chronic smokers of marijuana then accepting to take part in the token economy exercise. This willingness was a major criterion used as it aimed at minimizing resistance from subjects along the research process. Those that felt uneasy and therefore unwilling were left out ensuring that the selected subjects were sufficient to give credible results for the research.
The setting is in the various halls of residents. The participants were monitored as they lived in their hostels and other halls of residence. This was effective for the fact that, the results were gotten from the subjects right from their natural habitats unlike how it could be if a new environment were introduced to them, for instance a single location where their behavior could be altered by such things as the insufficient inflow of drugs or unavailability of money. This setting was effective as a result of a maintained status quo.
Specifically, the desire and aim of the research was to determine whether or not chronic marijuana smoking could be completely put to an end by one disciplining him or herself not to smoke as frequently as usual. These results would be an eye-opener to knowing what the primary cause of marijuana smoking is- whether it is for psychological or physical reasons. As well this research would seek to comprehensively find out all the possible effects of marijuana use among the students, particularly on their academic performance, their physical health and their relationships with fellow students, the general public and lecturers. Besides, the research would be aiming at finding out ways to reduce marijuana use.
In carrying out the research some key dependent variables were considered. Key among them would be the financial capabilities of the students, the availability of the drugs and the set rules and regulations from their homes of origin, and their effects on the frequency of using the drugs. As well, the period from when they began smoking to the time of the research would be considered together with their ages.
In the research, there were behaviors that were likely to meet the behavior in questions among them alcoholism, injection of such drugs as cocaine and heroin among others. These behaviors were likely to impact on marijuana smokers and hence should be among the few examples of behaviors to be related to marijuana smoking.
Implementing the project
The research was carried by application of the contingency contracting concept. A request was made to the smokers that they avoid smoking for a period of about a week while their patterns were observed. The availability of the drug and their financial capability was not interfered with so that the scenario could be maintained as much as possible. In return for the abstinence, one could be awarded with predetermined amount of the marijuana, each participant stating differently their wish, but with each wish being as reasonable as possible. It is worth noting that the participants did not know each other’s participation, at least the researchers did not make deliberate moves to cause their acquaintances.
It is agreed that one will get their reward only if they do not smoke within that period, a close follow up would be done which would take the form of testing their blood at the end of the period to verify the last time of marijuana use. After the agreement is reached, the researchers did not persuade the smokers against the use of drugs, but relied on the smokers promise not to smoke, upon completing the period, they are awarded while they are denied the award if they break the promise. As well, they would not be given marijuana if they could want to decline the offer for reasons of not wanting to smoke it again, but would instead be offered edible food whose price was equal to the drug’s price. This research took a period of a month.
The award of marijuana though apparently unjustified for the reason that it is a drug, is right since, being chronic, the complete and sudden withdrawal from the drug may cause devastating effects to the user. The award could be a measure of rehabilitation if, after the research, the researcher advised the smokers to increase the time intervals between smoking.
Monitoring and analysis of outcomes
After the research, data was collected through various methods. One of them was oral interviewing where the participants were asked questions to which they responded and which thus got taped and kept. It is through interviews that information regarding causes of addiction was gathered. As well, questionnaires were used at the very initial stages of finding out who could be willing to participate in the research and the general opinion on marijuana use was gathered. The questionnaires and taped conversations were well stored for future use.
In data collection emphasis was placed on such dimensions of behavior as the rate of smoking, the times of drug use, the ease with which the drugs could be obtained, and the amount used in given periods of time. As well, the effect of the set rules and regulations on the availability of drug use was studied. To measure these dimensions included the physical counting of the participants and using data obtained from their responses in making conclusions on the general drug use.
From the collected data, it was realized that of the students that were involved in the exercise, a larger number were in such a chronic state that going a whole day without smoking marijuana proved impossible. However, the other though not as many showed signs of improving by the day as they realized they indeed could do without the drugs. About a tenth of them for instance opted not to take the reward after they had gone for about a week without smoking. Their argument was that it was unnecessary taking the drug again, and therefore could not take the promised reward. This proved to be a good sign, that is to say, tokens economy can greatly assist in research and in shaping good behavior.