Treatment of stimulant use disorder: A systematic review of reviews

PLoS One. 2020 Jun 18;15(6):e0234809. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0234809. eCollection 2020.


Aims: Stimulant use disorder contributes to a substantial worldwide burden of disease, although evidence-based treatment options are limited. This systematic review of reviews aims to: (i) synthesize the available evidence on both psychosocial and pharmacological interventions for the treatment of stimulant use disorder; (ii) identify the most effective therapies to guide clinical practice, and (iii) highlight gaps for future study.

Methods: A systematic database search was conducted to identify systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Eligible studies were those that followed standard systematic review methodology and assessed randomized controlled trials focused on the efficacy of interventions for stimulant use disorder. Articles were critically appraised using an assessment tool adapted from Palmeteer et al. and categorized for quality as 'core' or 'supplementary' reviews. Evidence from the included reviews were further synthesized according to pharmacological or non-pharmacological management themes.

Results: Of 476 identified records, 29 systematic reviews examining eleven intervention modalities were included. The interventions identified include: contingency management, cognitive behavioural therapy, acupuncture, antidepressants, dopamine agonists, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, disulfiram, opioid agonists, N-Acetylcysteine, and psychostimulants. There was sufficient evidence to support the efficacy of contingency management programs for treatment of stimulant use disorder. Psychostimulants, n-acetylcysteine, opioid agonist therapy, disulfiram and antidepressant pharmacological interventions were found to have insufficient evidence to support or discount their use. Results of this review do not support the use of all other treatment options.

Conclusions: The results of this review supports the use of contingency management interventions for the treatment of stimulant use disorder. Although evidence to date is insufficient to support the clinical use of psychostimulants, our results demonstrate potential for future research in this area. Given the urgent need for effective pharmacological treatments for stimulant use disorder, high-quality primary research focused on the role of psychostimulant medications for the treatment of stimulant use disorder is needed.

Grant support

This research was undertaken, in part, thanks to funding from a MSFHR/St. Paul’s Foundation Scholar Award which supports Dr. Nadia Fairbairn. Evan Wood is supported by a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Addiction Medicine. Kanna Hayashi is supported by a CIHR New Investigator Award (MSH-141971), a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) Scholar Award, and the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation. Dr. Seonaid Nolan is supported by the MSFHR and the University of British Columbia’s Steven Diamond Professorship in Addiction Care Innovation. Rod Knight is supported by a Scholar Award from MSFHR. A European Commission grant (701698) and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (671 397968, 422332) grants support Dr. Klimas.