What is Modafinil?
Modafinil belongs to a group of drugs and smart powders known as eugeroics or wakefulness-promoting agents. Such medications are often used to treat wakefulness disorders — technically known as hypersomnia — such as obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy.
It should be noted, in passing, that the same drug may be marketed under a variety of brand names, which sometimes vary from country to country, and Modafinil is no exception. Its brand names are:
- Provigil in the United States, Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa
- Alertec in Canada
- Modavigil in Australia and New Zealand
None of these names will be used in this article; only the generic name modafinil will be utilized.
One of the key questions regarding modafinil is whether it should be taken in daily doses of 100, 200 or 300 mg. Typically, it is sold in tablets of the first two masses, and 200 is the typical recommended dosage taken each morning, with or without food. There are those who recommend taking 100 mg during the first week, especially for those who have never taken it before and thus need to become accustomed to its effects. The human body has been known to tolerate up to 400 mg of modafinil per day, but it is not clear if there are additional benefits from anything higher. Like any drug, modafinil can be very harmful or even fatal if taken in a large enough dose. It is important to consult a physician or pharmacist about what dosage is best for you.
Unlike many other energy boosters such as caffeine and amphetamines, modafinil does not normally have awful side effects. However, various types can occur, just as with any drug. The following are among them, though none is common:
- chills or fever
- sore throat
- memory problems
- shortness of breath
- difficulty in urinating — or increased urination and thirst
- unusual bruising or bleeding
- dizziness or fainting
- unsteadiness or clumsiness
Check with your doctor if any of them occurs. Overdose may cause excitement, increased heartbeat or blood pressure, or insomnia, in which case you should report to the emergency room.
If taken properly, modafinil can work its benefits, which depend, to some extent, on your professional and personal life. The range is especially great for shift workers, students who are looking for an edge or those who are suffering from sleep disorder or depression. For the college student, modafinil can increase alertness and improve the ability to perform many mental functions; it is therefore spoken of on campus as a “smart drug.” It also provides that badly-needed energy boost without producing the unpleasant side effects, as mentioned in the previous section.
There are both long- and short-term effects of using modafinil. Some of the long-term ones reported by some individual or other (some of these are taken from http://www.quora.com/What-are-the-long-term-effects-of-modafinil-use) are:
- reduced risks of Parkinson’s disease
- decreased oxidative stress levels in the brain
- hampered ability to process natural language
- dry and sore mouth
- loss of control over sleeping habits; decreased sleep also results in higher acidity levels in the stomach and mouth, which in turn can cause dental decay
As yet, pharmacologists know little about what long-term benefits and damage modafinil can cause.
Now for the short-term effects. These include:
- increased energy levels; how long these may last vary from person to person. Some users have retained high energy levels all day, but others report that it wears off rather quickly.
- loss of agility and balance, increased incidence of falls
- wobbly movements, including shaky hands
- memory loss
- reduced release of catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT)
There is much that is not known to the pharmacological world about how modafinil works; consequently, scientists are continually conducting research on the drug. In 2006, the Air Force Research Laboratory published a 24-page report called “A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Investigation of the Efficacy of Modafinil for Maintenance Alertness and Performance in Sustained Military Ground Operations,” which may be viewed online in PDF form. The results of their studies provided some evidence that “modafinil partially attenuates the performance decrement caused by sleep loss in field environments, thus increasing the likelihood of successful mission accomplishment.”
The drug was originally developed in France in the 1970s by Lafon Laboratories, specifically by Michel Valentin Marcel Jouvet, who is now Emeritus Professor of Experimental Medicine at the University of Lyon. Because it did not produce anxiety or other such side effects, the way amphetamines often do, the drug, which was then called Adrafinil was considered superior to those drugs. It was classed as a stimulant.
In 1986, modafinil was offered in France as an experimental method of treating narcolepsy; eight years later, it was prescribed there under the trade name Modiodal, in in another four, it found its way to the United States, where its trade name has been Provigil (see the introduction). Not until 2002 was it approved for use in Great Britain.
Much of modafinil’s recent history, beginning in 1990, has involved patent protection and anti-trust laws. That year, the chemical composition of the medicine was covered in U.S. Patent 4,927,855. Other patents were issued in the following decade, but in 2010 the original one expired.
Stacking is when more than one nootropical drug (memory enhancer) are used in combination. The effects of modafinil stacks can be very powerful and often include increased histamine levels and increased alertness and focus. (Histamine plays a role in local immune responses and also serves as a neurotransmitter.) When taken in combination with piracetam, in particular, modafinil has produced effects that are greater than those that either could have had by itself. Memory, reasoning, perception and the functions of the sensory system are improved enormously.
Final thoughts on Modafinil
Modafinil is a drug that has been approved by the FDA for combating attention and other disorders. Some of its effects are known, but there is much that doctors and scientists still do not know, and studies have yet to be performed, though research will undoubtedly increase in the future.