Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

© 2016 The Cochrane Collaboration. Background: Psychostimulant misuse is a continuously growing medical and social burden. There is no evidence proving the efficacy of pharmacotherapy. Psychosocial interventions could be a valid approach to help patients in reducing or ceasing drug consumption. Objectives: To assess the effects of psychosocial interventions for psychostimulant misuse in adults. Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group Specialised Register (via CRSLive); Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL); MEDLINE; EMBASE; CINAHL; Web of Science and PsycINFO, from inception to November 2015. We also searched for ongoing and unpublished studies via ( and the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) ( All searches included non-English language literature. We handsearched references of topic-related systematic reviews and the included studies. Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials comparing any psychosocial intervention with no intervention, treatment as usual (TAU) or a different intervention in adults with psychostimulant misuse or dependence. Data collection and analysis: We used the standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane. Main results: We included a total of 52 trials (6923 participants). The psychosocial interventions considered in the studies were: cognitive behavioural therapy (19 studies), contingency management (25 studies), motivational interviewing (5 studies), interpersonal therapy (3 studies), psychodynamic therapy (1 study), 12-step facilitation (4 studies). We judged most of the studies to be at unclear risk of selection bias; blinding of personnel and participants was not possible for the type of intervention, so all the studies were at high risk of performance bias with regard to subjective outcomes; the majority of studies did not specify whether the outcome assessors were blind. We did not consider it likely that the objective outcomes were influenced by lack of blinding. The comparisons made were: any psychosocial intervention versus no intervention (32 studies), any psychosocial intervention versus TAU (6 studies), and one psychosocial intervention versus an alternative psychosocial intervention (13 studies). Five of included studies did not provide any useful data for inclusion in statistical synthesis. We found that, when compared to no intervention, any psychosocial treatment: reduced the dropout rate (risk ratio (RR): 0.83, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.76 to -0.91, 24 studies, 3393 participants, moderate quality evidence); increased continuous abstinence at the end of treatment (RR: 2.14, 95% CI 1.27 to -3.59, 8 studies, 1241 participants, low quality evidence); did not significantly increase continuous abstinence at the longest follow-up (RR: 2.12, 95% CI 0.77 to -5.86, 4 studies, 324 participants, low quality evidence); significantly increased the longest period of abstinence: (standardised mean difference (SMD): 0.48, 95% CI 0.34 to 0.63, 10 studies, 1354 participants, high quality evidence). However, it should be noted that the in the vast majority of the studies in this comparison the specific psychosocial treatment assessed in the experimental arm was given in add on to treatment as usual or to another specific psychosocial or pharmacological treatment which was received by both groups. So, many of the control groups in this comparison were not really untreated. Receiving some amount of treatment is not the same as not receiving any intervention, so we could argue that the overall effect of the experimental psychosocial treatment could be smaller if given in add on to TAU or to another intervention than if given to participants not receiving any intervention; this could translate to a smaller magnitude of the effect of the psychosocial intervention when it is given in add on. When compared to TAU, any psychosocial treatment reduced dropout rate (RR: 0.72, 95% CI 0.59 to 0.89, 6 studies, 516 participants, moderate quality evidence), did not increase continuous abstinence at the end of treatment (RR: 1.27, 95% CI 0.94 to 1.72, 2 studies, 224 participants, low quality evidence), did not increase longest period of abstinence (MD -3.15 days, 95% CI -10.35 to 4.05, 1 study, 110 participants, low quality evidence). No studies in this comparison assessed the outcome of continuous abstinence at longest follow-up. There were few studies comparing two or more psychosocial interventions, with small sample sizes and considerable heterogeneity in terms of the types of interventions assessed. None reported significant results. None of the studies reported harms related to psychosocial interventions. Authors' conclusions: The addition of any psychosocial treatment to treatment as usual (usually characterised by group counselling or case management) probably reduces the dropout rate and increases the longest period of abstinence. It may increase the number of people achieving continuous abstinence at the end of treatment, although this might not be maintained at longest follow-up. The most studied and the most promising psychosocial approach to be added to treatment as usual is probably contingency management. However, the other approaches were only analysed in a few small studies, so we cannot rule out the possibility that the results were not significant because of imprecision. When compared to TAU, any psychosocial treatment may improve adherence, but it may not improve abstinence at the end of treatment or the longest period of abstinence. The majority of the studies took place in the United States, and this could limit the generalisability of the findings, because the effects of psychosocial treatments could be strongly influenced by the social context and ethnicity. The results of our review do not answer the most relevant clinical question, demonstrating which is the most effective type of psychosocial approach. Further studies should directly compare contingency management with the other psychosocial approaches.

Original publication




Journal article


Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Publication Date