Agonist-like, replacement pharmacotherapy for stimulant abuse and dependence

John Grabowski, James Shearer, John Merrill, S. Stevens Negus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

244 Scopus citations


Stimulant abuse and dependence are disproportionately problematic due to the combination of legal and social issues added to the serious behavioural and biological features of the disorders. These problems are compounded by adverse consequences for families and society. Illegality and stigma multiply the consequences of use and difficulties in providing treatment. Specific behavioural interventions have been demonstrated as useful in treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs). Medications also have an important role in treatment. Effective agonist and antagonist pharmacotherapies as well as symptomatic treatments exist for opioid and nicotine dependence. Neither agonists nor antagonists have been approved as uniquely effective for treatment of stimulant abuse or dependence. Still, promising results are emerging for an agonist-like or 'replacement' strategy paralleling that for nicotine and opioid dependence. Supporting data have emerged from both preclinical and clinical research environments. There are scientific, clinical, social, and legal impediments to application of an agonist-like approach to stimulant abuse and dependence. Some resemble past and current concerns about opioid replacement. Others are unique to the stimulant agents, effects, and clinical features. Here, the authors consider (1) agonist and antagonist pharmacotherapy strategies; (2) preclinical research, including methodological approaches, opioid and nicotine replacement, and agonists for stimulant dependence; (3) clinical reports with stimulant medications in cocaine dependence, and the amphetamine replacement strategy for amphetamine dependence; (4) application of agonist-like/replacement strategies, including clinical requirements and risks; and (5) directions for research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1439-1464
Number of pages26
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2004


  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Stimulants
  • Substance dependence


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