One of modafinil’s most surprising potential uses is in its ability to treat addictions. Studies have strongly supported modafinil as an aid to recovering addicts, particularly for cocaine use. But what does the data say about methamphetamine?
The global meth problem
Meth might not be the first drug you think of when addiction comes to mind, yet in many countries it’s extremely prevalent. Around 18 million Americans have tried meth recently, and as many as some 12 million are regular users.
Meth is very popular in Europe, particularly in Scandinavia. In Thailand, for instance, meth is so widespread that it can be found in common markets right next to vegetables and chicken, despite its illegality. In Australia where it is very difficult to get drugs, meth can go for over $300 per gram.
Recent Thai news reported that the government is contemplating decriminalizing the drug since users are afraid to seek help due to the strict drug laws currently in place. They also believe that using modafinil can help these addicts.
The multiple-Emmy-winning series Breaking Bad revolved around meth. Clearly meth is a global issue that has made its way into our pop culture.
Modafinil as a treatment for Meth abuse
Currently there is not much information on modafinil for meth addiction. The most recent study with positive results came in 2010 and was carried out on rats. The idea was to get rats addicted and then see if modafinil could reduce their regular use. The study was successful, although not enough to get the rats to stop taking meth altogether.
When it comes to actual human trials, the evidence is slimmer and less encouraging. The largest study comes from 2011 where 210 participants were placed into three equal groups of Placebo, Modafinil 200mg, and Modafinil 400mg. Over 12 weeks of monitoring the study found that neither group outperformed the others.
What they did find was that patients were not regularly taking their modafinil which may have been the problem. When they looked at all 210 participants, those who consistently tested positive for modafinil were likely to have longer runs of abstinence. So perhaps modafinil helped out.
Another 2009 study, this one on just 71 people, came up empty handed and found no evidence to support modafinil use.
Why modafinil might work
Critics of these studies point out that modafinil has potential that simply hasn’t been realized yet. Since modafinil is very safe and well tolerated, and non-addictive, it could be very helpful. On top of that, it improves cognition and mood, two areas that are dramatically affected by meth withdrawal.
Will we see Modafinil Clinics in the future? Probably not, at least not without greater funding into these studies.