The Alertness Medication Modafinil
Modafinil is a stimulant that keeps you awake and puts off the need for sleep. It has legitimate medical uses and is also used as a “lifestyle” drug. The side effect profile different from stimulants like methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dextroamphetamine. The physiological action is still not understood. It is different from traditional stimulants, but science has still not fully figured it out.
The chemical name for modafinil is 2-[(diphenylmethyl)sulfinyl]acetamide. The molecular formula is C15H15NO2S. The R enantiomer of modafinil, called armodafinil, is sold under the name Nuvigil. In a press release, the drug company Cephalon said armodafinil lasted longer than regular modafinil
Attention – vigilance – a sustained mental effort – is partly modulated by dopamine and norepinephrine. Stimulants that act on the brain can make us more vigilant. Objective studies have shown that normal people without ADHD experience an attention enhancement when they take Ritalin or modafinil. Response times decrease and problem-solving capacity increases.
Modafinil does not eliminate your need for sleep over the long run. It can help you perform better and forestall the effects of sleep deprivation to some extent. Repeated studies have shown that the physiological need for sleep during sleep deprivation can be reversed only by actual sleep. There is no free lunch.
There has been a lot of talk about modafinil and other “body-hack” drugs in recent years. An article in the Public Library of Science questions the amount of attention these drugs have received in the press: Smart Drugs “As Common As Coffee”: Media Hype about Neuroenhancement
Before taking Modafinil, talk to your doctor about any medical conditions you may have.
Modafinil is FDA-approved for shift-work sleep disorder, narcolepsy, and a form of apnea called Obstructive Sleep Apnea Hypoventilation Syndrome. Doctors sometimes prescribe modafinil to treat other conditions “off-label”. A recent Harvard Medical School study showed good results from tests using modafinil for alleviating the effects of overwork and jet lag. There are a limited number of treatment options for circadian rhythm sleep disorders, so modafinil is another tool in the doctor’s toolbox.
Your doctor determines the right dosage for you. These are some typical doses:
- ADHD (unlabeled use):100-300 mg/day
- Narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea
syndrome (OSAHS): 200 mg/day to start and modified as needed. For
these conditions, the patient takes the modafinil in the morning.
- Shift work sleep disorder (SWSD): 200 mg taken an
hour prior to start of work shift.