Do creative arts therapies reduce substance misuse? A systematic review

Karen Megranahan*, Michael Thomas Lynskey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The complexities of substance misuse treatment indicate a need to consider the efficacy of creative arts therapies for those who find it difficult to verbalise their emotions and feelings. The focus of this systematic review is to identify and critically evaluate studies on the effectiveness of creative arts therapy interventions for reducing substance misuse, aiming at reaching some conclusions on the subject. Research studies employing randomised control trials (RCT's) and controlled clinical trials were identified across eight academic databases. A total of 3204 records were found out of which 381 were duplicates and a further 2818 were excluded as not meeting the inclusion criteria. Five RCT's met the inclusion criteria and related to music. The effect size (Cohen's d) of reported outcomes showed a strong positive effect for music therapy to enhance contemplation (0.9), treatment readiness (0.76), motivation (0.54) and reduction of cravings (−0.54). The results of this review should be interpreted with caution because of the small number of studies found and the difference in the treatments employed. However music therapy may be valuable in treatment plans for substance misuse. Further research is warranted to examine the long-term effectiveness of music therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-58
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Addiction
  • Creative arts therapies
  • Music therapy
  • Substance misuse
  • Systematic review


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