A research has revealed that the medication used for the treatment of sleep disorders could help ice addicts cut their drug use to half.
The study, led by James Shearer from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW, followed 80 heavy users of crystal methamphetamine over 10 weeks and found a daily dose of modafinil, marketed as Modavigil in Australia, significantly reduced their cravings for ice, saving each user about 500 dollars a month.
Modafinil prevents nerve cells from re-absorbing dopamine once they release it into the brain but does not cause the dramatic highs and lows associated with most stimulants. It is not water-soluble and is destroyed at high temperatures so cannot be injected or smoked, reducing the chances of it being abused, and is not addictive.
James said the users, who all either injected or smoked ice at least 20 days a month and spent about 100 dollars a day on the drug, were given one tablet of modafinil a day or a placebo.
About 12 weeks after the trial, those who had been given modafinil were using ice about eight days in every 28, compared to the placebo group who were using an average of 13.5 days.
After 22 weeks, those on modafinil were using 11 days a month, and the placebo group 16 days.
"Six months after the trial, we still have better outcomes," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Shearer, as saying.
He added: "It is the first medication to show a demonstrable positive effect in heavy methamphetamine users and represents a major medical breakthrough in Australia.
"Modafinil doesn't give them that euphoric feeling, but it does give them a bit of get up and go."
He said that like methadone, it would not be used as a maintenance drug, but could be given to people in conjunction with extensive counselling and support.
The use of crystal methamphetamine has decreased in recent months for the first time in a decade, which experts have attributed to the drug's negative effects.
Ice use has been associated with a steady rise in psychosis cases and deaths in recent years.
The study's findings were presented at the World Psychiatric Association Congress in Melbourne.