Psychosocial therapeutic interventions for volatile substance use: a systematic review Academic Article uri icon


  • AIMS: Volatile substance use (VSU) is associated with a range of adverse outcomes, including cognitive impairment and death. It occurs disproportionately within young and marginalized populations. A previous international systematic review of VSU treatment identified no relevant studies. This paper reports on a systematic review of a range of study types concerning psychosocial interventions for VSU. METHODS: Search parameters were developed using the Population, Intervention, Professionals, Outcomes, Health care setting and Contexts (PIPOH) tool with input from an expert committee. Included were randomized controlled trials (RCTs), comparative studies with or without concurrent controls, case series studies and grey literature, published in English during 1980-2010. RESULTS: The initial search identified 2344 references. After two screening phases, 23 studies of VSU therapeutic interventions remained. Of these, 19 concerned psychosocial interventions, which we discuss as: case management; counselling; recreation and engagement programmes; and residential treatment. Studies were conducted in Australia, Canada, the United States, United Kingdom and Brazil. No RCTs were identified and studies were generally of low evidentiary levels. CONCLUSIONS: Even when a range of study types are included, clear conclusions for volatile substance use psychological treatment are not supported, but three intervention types merit further examination: family therapy, activity-based programmes and Indigenous-led residential approaches. Future volatile substance use research could be enhanced by developing and validating outcome measurement tools. Robust multi-site studies are also required.

publication date

  • 2012