Efficacy of psychostimulant drugs for amphetamine abuse or dependence

Amphetamine dependence constitutes a public health problem with many consequences and complications. Amphetamine abuse refers to a maladaptive and hazardous pattern of use considered to be less severe than dependence. To date, no pharmacological treatment has been approved for amphetamine abuse or dependence, and psychotherapy remains the best treatment option.

Long-term amphetamine use reduces dopamine levels in the brain. Drugs increasing dopamine and mimicking the effects of amphetamines with lower abuse liability could be used as replacement therapy in amphetamine dependence. Several psychostimulants have been studied recently for this purpose.

In this review, the efficacy and safety of psychostimulants for amphetamine abuse or dependence were studied. We found eleven studies enrolling 791 amphetamine-dependent participants and assessing the effects of four different psychostimulants: dexamphetamine, bupropion, methylphenidate and modafinil. Psychosocial interventions were additionally provided to all participants. The studies were conducted in the USA, Australia or Northern Europe, and study length ranged from 8 to 20 weeks.

Psychostimulants did not reduce amphetamine use or amphetamine craving and also did not increase sustained abstinence in comparison with placebo. Retention in treatment was similar and low with both treatments. Psychostimulants also did not increase the risk of adverse events that were intense enough to induce dropouts.

Research with larger and longer trials is needed to determine whether psychostimulants can be a useful replacement therapy for patients with amphetamine abuse or dependence. The design of future trials should consider the level of dependence at study entry, the potency and the dose of the psychostimulant administered, the length of the trial and the representativeness of included participants.

Authors' conclusions: 

Results of this review do not support the use of psychostimulant medications at the tested doses as a replacement therapy for amphetamine abuse or dependence. Future research could change this conclusion, as the numbers of included studies and participants are limited and information on relevant outcomes, such as efficacy according to the severity of dependence or craving, is still missing.

Read the full abstract...
Background: 

Amphetamine dependence is a public health problem with medical, psychiatric, cognitive, legal and socioeconomic consequences. To date, no pharmacological treatment has been approved for this disorder, and psychotherapy remains the mainstay of treatment. In recent years, psychostimulants have been investigated as a possible replacement therapy.

Objectives: 

To evaluate the efficacy and safety of psychostimulant medications for amphetamine abuse or dependence. The influences of type of drug, type of dependence, comorbid disorders, clinical trial risk of bias and publication of data were also studied.

Search strategy: 

Relevant trials were searched in the following sources: PubMed (January 1966 to 6 June 2012), EMBASE (January 1988 to 6 June 2012), CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library, Issue 5 of 12, May 2012), PsycINFO (January 1985 to 6 June 2012) and the Specialised Register of the Cochrane Drug and Alcohol Group (June 2012). We also searched the reference lists of retrieved trials, the list of studies citing the included trials and the main electronic registers of ongoing trials (ClinicalTrials.gov, International Clinical Trials Registry Platform and EU Clinical Trials Register). Finally, we contacted investigators to request information about unpublished trials. Searches included non-English language literature.

Selection criteria: 

All randomised, placebo-controlled, parallel-group clinical trials investigating the efficacy or safety of psychostimulants for amphetamine dependence or abuse conducted in an outpatient setting.

Data collection and analysis: 

We used standard methodological procedures expected by The Cochrane Collaboration.

Main results: 

Eleven studies were included in the review (791 participants). Studied psychostimulants included dexamphetamine, bupropion, methylphenidate and modafinil. No significant differences were found between psychostimulants and placebo for any of the studied efficacy outcomes. Overall retention in studies was low (50.4%). Psychostimulants did not reduce amphetamine use (mean difference (MD) -0.26, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.85 to 0.33) or amphetamine craving (MD 0.07, 95% CI -0.44 to 0.59) and did not increase sustained abstinence (relative risk (RR) 1.12, 95% CI 0.84 to 1.49). The proportion of adverse events inducing dropout was similar for psychostimulants and placebo (risk difference (RD) 0.01, 95% CI -0.03 to 0.04). The main findings did not change in any subgroup analysis.

Share/Save