According to Australian researchers, a drug used to manage sleep disorders could help ice addicts break the habit, at least by half
The study led by James Shearer of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre , at the University of NSW tracked 80 heavy users of crystal methamphetamine . This was for a period of over 10 weeks. The scientists found that a daily dose of modafinil, marketed as Modavigil in Australia reduced cravings for ice quite significantly. Each user was able to save about $500 a month.
Modafinil keeps nerve cells from re-absorbing dopamine once they release it into the brain. Yet it does not cause the dramatic highs and lows associated with most stimulants. It is water insoluble and is destroyed at high temperatures. This means it cannot be injected or smoked. It reduces the chances of it being abused, and is not addictive.
According to Shearer, all those subjects who either injected or smoked ice at least 20 days a month and spent about $100 a day on the drug, were handed out one tablet of modafinil a day or a placebo.
After 12 weeks, it was seen that those who had been given modafinil were using ice about eight days in every 28 days. This was against the average of 13.5 days, the placebo group used.
It was also seen that 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," says Shearer. "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 adds.
Shearer gives that it would not be used as a maintenance drug, like methadone, but could be given to people along with extensive counseling and support.
The use of ice - crystal methamphetamine, has dipped in recent months for the first time in a decade. Experts have attributed this to the drug's negative effects. These findings were presented yesterday at the World Psychiatric Association Congress in Melbourne.