Association between chronic psychoactive substances use and systemic inflammation: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Radhouene Doggui, Wafaa Elsawy, Aldo Alberto Conti, Alexander Mario Baldacchino*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


This systematic review and meta-analysis assess the change in inflammation biomarkers level among chronic psychoactive substance users. To meet the required inclusion criteria, all studies had to describe human participants with an age ≥18y., experiencing chronic psychostimulant (nicotine, amphetamine, cocaine), sedative (benzodiazepine, opioids) and/or cannabinoid use. The comparison group was defined as healthy participants. Studies where included if they reported at least one of the pro/inflammatory biomarkers. Study bias was examined by Funnel plots and heterogeneity by computing the I2 statistics. Only 21 eligible studies were selected based on 26216 study participants. A small and significant effect size of 0.18mg/L (95% CI:0.10-0.27) was detected in favor of chronic smokers (z=4.33;P<0.0001). There was evidence of publication bias for studies measuring IL-6 and IL-10 association with cocaine and IL-6 in association with cannabis. In summary, except for chronic tobacco users, there was no evidence of association between other chronic substances abuse and inflammatory levels. More studies are needed to inform policy and decision makers about the utility of anti-inflammatory based targeted intervention programs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-220
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Early online date24 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Alcohol
  • Cytokines
  • Opioids
  • Nicotine
  • Stimulants
  • Bioinflammatory markers
  • Chronic psychoactive substance use


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