Modafinil Stimulant

The interesting thing about Modafinil (brand name Provigil) is not that it can be abused like Adderall and Ritalin, but that it may help treat cocaine addiction.

Modafinil is a stimulant medication that is used to improve wakefulness in adults with excessive sleepiness associated with narcolepsy, shift work disorder and obstructive sleep apnea.  Marketed under the brand name Provigil and taken as an oral medication, Modafinil has an amphetamine-like effect on the brain.  Modfinil has also been

Here is More Detail on The Disorders Modafinil is Intended to Treat

  • Narcolepsy is a chronic disease of the brain that is characterized by an uncontrollable need to sleep.
  • Shift work disorder is a condition cause by disruption of normal nighttime sleep patterns, often due to work schedule.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea is also a condition marked by sleep disruption, caused in this case by pauses in breathing due to airway obstruction.  Each of these conditions results in life disruptions due to serious difficulty in staying awake.

Modafinil is thought to affect chemicals in the brain that control the sleep and wake cycle.  However, the exact mechanism of action is not understood.  It is currently only approved for use by people who have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder.  It is not recommended as a treatment for tiredness and should not be used to make up for lack of sleep.

Although modafinil has been shown to be effective for treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it was judged by the FDA to be unsafe for children with this condition in 2006. This decision was based on side effects that include serious skin rashes.  The drug is being investigated as a treatment option for a wide range of disorders including depression, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and chronic fatigue.

The Potential for Modafinil Abuse

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, modafinil has many characteristics that can trigger abuse and dependence among people who classify it as a “smart drug” and take it to improve cognitive performance.  The study suggests that modafinil may have unexpected side effects and tragic consequences for those who use the drug as a brain boost.

Dr. Nora D. Volkow, author of the AMA study and director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, warns about the dangers of using modafinil without medical supervision.  As with any stimulant, there is a potential for addiction.  Diversion of modafinil for nonmedical use is especially risky because little is known about the drug’s long-term effects.

There is a trend among healthy college students to use drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin as study aids.  Although it was earlier thought that modafinil was not being abused as a cognitive-enhancing drug because it’s less frequently prescribed and at $10 per pill is more expensive, there is anecdotal evidence that modafinil is being obtained online or from physicians for nonmedical use.

Dr. Volkow points out that the patent for modafinil is scheduled to expire in 2012, which could substantially reduce the drug’s price.  This could increase the frequency of modafinil diversion and abuse.

Side Effects of Modafinil

In addition to increased wakefulness, these are some of the possible side effects of modafinil:
•    Headache
•    Nausea
•    Dizziness
•    Nervousness and anxiety
•    Insomnia
•    Upper respiratory tract infections
•    Serious skin reactions
•    High blood pressure
•    Abnormal heart beat
•    Fainting
•    Psychosis
•    Suicidal thoughts

In rare cases, modafinil can cause serious mental changes including depression, confusion, agitation, hallucinations and abnormal thoughts.

Read more about substance abuse.

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