Stimulant psychosis: systematic review

Br J Psychiatry. 2004 Sep;185:196-204. doi: 10.1192/bjp.185.3.196.


Background: Psychosis associated with stimulant use is an increasing problem, but there is little research evidence about the nature of the problem and its management.

Aims: To critically review the literature on stimulant psychosis and sensitisation.

Method: Systematic review of studies that have investigated stimulant use and psychosis in humans. The main outcome measures were increases in psychosis with stimulant use, and differences between stimulant users and non-users.

Results: Fifty-four studies met the inclusion criteria. Experimental studies show that a single dose of a stimulant drug can produce a brief increase in psychosis ratings (a "response") in 50-70% of participants with schizophrenia and pre-existing acute psychotic symptoms, unaffected by the presence of antipsychotic medication. Those with schizophrenia who do not have acute psychotic symptoms respond, but less frequently (30%). There has been little research into the longer-term effects of use.

Conclusions: Compliance with antipsychotic medication by someone with schizophrenia will not prevent a relapse or worsening of psychotic symptoms if stimulants are used. Low-dose antipsychotic treatment may be beneficial in stimulant users, to prevent sensitisation.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Psychoses, Substance-Induced / etiology*
  • Research Design
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • Time Factors


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants