Predicting Which Patients Might Benefit from Exercise as a Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorder

Addiction Science Made Easy
October 2021
CTN Research Briefs

Jogging on TreadmillExercise is a promising treatment for stimulant use disorder, but effectiveness hasn’t been clearly shown in a general stimulant-using population, where patients and their responses to treatment are all different.

Examining those response differences to try to identify subgroups for whom exercise would be helpful or not helpful would make it easier for providers to better tailor patient treatments in practice.

To that end, researchers examined data from NIDA Clinical Trials Network study CTN-0037, Stimulant Reduction Intervention Using Dosed Exercise (STRIDE), a randomized controlled trial of 302 stimulant using or dependent participants, in an attempt to identify baseline clinical and demographic characteristics associated with different outcomes between participants in the exercise and health education-only study groups.

Analysis revealed that those who did not benefit from exercise had: 

  • low levels of depression
  • high levels of cognitive and physical functioning
  • lower levels of stimulant craving
  • either low or high maximum systolic blood pressure during exercise
  • either low or high lifetime drug treatments
  • middle level of ASI Family subscale scores

In general, participants identified as less likely to benefit from exercise tended to be more “healthy” from a mental health perspective. Since previous research has suggested that exercise helps with stimulant use through improvements in depression and cognition, it makes sense that those who have low depression and high cognition at baseline would be less likely to benefit from an exercise-based intervention.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate that it is possible to identify patient characteristics before treatment that predict statistically and clinically meaningful response to exercise for stimulant use disorder. If confirmed, these findings could make it easier for clinicians to provide a more personalized approach to stimulant use disorder treatment.

Find the article in the CTN Dissemination Library.

Rethorst CD, et al. Moderators of treatment response to exercise in participants with stimulant use disorder: Exploratory results from the Stimulant Reduction Using Dosed Exercise (STRIDE) CTN-0037 study. Mental Health and Physical Activity 2021 (in press).