Can stimulants treat stimulant use disorder?

This ‘systematic overview of reviews’ assembled the evidence for stimulant use disorder treatments from the systematic reviews of literature.

Stimulant use disorder remains a prominent issue worldwide, although evidence-based treatment options are limited.

This systematic overview of reviews aimed 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.

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 and categorized for quality as ‘core’ or ‘supplementary’ reviews. Evidence from the included reviews was further synthesized according to pharmacological or non-pharmacological management themes.


Of 476 identified records, 29 systematic reviews examining eleven intervention modalities were included. The interventions identified included:

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 overview do not support the use of all other treatment options.


Citation: Ronsley C, Nolan S, Knight R, Hayashi K, Klimas J, Walley A, et al. (2020) Treatment of stimulant use disorder: A systematic review of reviews. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0234809

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