Psychosocial interventions in stimulant use disorders: A systematic review and qualitative synthesis of randomized controlled trials

Riccardo De Giorgi, Carolina Cassar, Gian Loreto D'AlÒ, Marco Ciabattini, Silvia Minozzi, Alexis Economou, Renata Tambelli, Franco Lucchese, Rosella Saulle, Laura Amato, Luigi Janiri, Franco De Crescenzo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Stimulant use disorders are highly prevalent with a large burden of disease. Most clinical guidelines recommend psychosocial interventions, but there are no clear hierarchies or indications. Moreover, these interventions have been reported unevenly in the literature. Identifying the most suitable treatment for each patient therefore represents a major challenge. In this review, we describe all psychosocial interventions for stimulant use disorders investigated in randomized controlled trials-including contingency management, cognitive behavioral interventions, community reinforcement approach, 12-step program, meditation-based interventions and physical exercise, supportive expressive psychodynamic therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, family therapy, motivational interviewing, drug counseling-, and we synthesize the main findings of these studies. Similarities and differences between treatments are highlighted, suggesting that distinct psychosocial interventions can be relevant for certain patients' groups but not for others. Conversely, several interventions can be equally effective in similar clinical contexts, suggesting that a shared element such as therapeutic alliance is key. Finally, combined approaches emerge as a viable option for people with complex needs. Future studies will need to benchmark psychosocial interventions in stimulant use disorders and ascertain markers of response with a view to individualized treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-255
Number of pages23
JournalRivista di Psichiatria
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2018


  • Amphetamine
  • Cocaine
  • Psychosocial interventions
  • Stimulant use disorders
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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