Modafinil is a stimulant prescription-only medication, often referred to as a “smart drug” or “study drug”, that can lead to addiction when misused.
In this article on Modafinil, we will look at the clinical on and off-label uses and answer the question: Does it increase cognitive ability? We will also look at who is most likely to abuse this drug and how an addiction to Modafinil can develop.
Additionally, we will look at the short-term and long-term effects of using and abusing Modafinil and the treatment options available if you or a loved one have a problem.
What is Modafinil?
Modafinil (Provigil) belongs to a class of medications that are stimulants and has wakefulness-promoting agents. It works by stimulating the central nervous system (CNS) and promoting wakefulness.
Like all medications, Modafinil has side effects, some more common than others and some more serious than others. These side effects can occur at therapeutic doses and during Modinfinil abuse and addiction.
Common Side effects of modafinil:
- Blocked or runny nose
- Suppressed appetite
Rarer more serious side effects of modafinil:
- Mood swings
- Changes to vision
- Vision loss
- High or low blood pressure
- Heart pounding, palpitations or arrhythmias
- Sore throat and mouth
- Memory Loss
- Panic and extreme anxiety
- Skin blistering and peeling
- Allergic reaction: anaphylaxis
- Changes to blood sugar
- Skin rash and hives
- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
The above list is not inclusive, and Modafinil has many potential side effects. Any side effect that is severe or troublesome should be reported to your prescriber immediately. In cases of allergic reactions, vision loss or heart problems, immediate emergency care should be sought.
A person that abuses Modafinil or has developed an addiction to Provigil is more likely to develop severe side effects due to taking too much and overloading their system.
What Modafinil treats: Clinical Uses
You may be prescribed Modafinil if you suffer from a condition that causes excessive daytime sleepiness, such as narcolepsy, constructive sleep apnea and sleep work shift disorder.
Sleep work shift disorder can cause a person to have difficulty staying awake and getting to sleep when their shifts change. Modafinil is a medication that can assist a person in staying awake during working hours.
Modafinil is also used alongside breathing devices or other treatments to prevent daytime sleepiness caused by obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome. This is a sleep disorder where a person briefly stops breathing or breathes shallowly many times whilst asleep. Because of this, they often feel excessively tired during the day as they have not had adequate rest during the night.
Is Modafinil addictive? Can it lead to dependence and addiction?
Modafinil is not known to be physically addictive. However, the fact that a person can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the medication contradicts this.
Additionally, physical dependence is only one symptom of addiction. Most signs of addiction relate to behavioural changes and behaviours around psychological dependence.
It is not recommended that anyone with a previous history of drug or alcohol addiction takes Modafinil.
As addiction creates long-lasting changes in the brain, the brain is already primed for addiction and could potentially latch on to any substance that positively changes the way the person feels.
Modafinil off-label uses and treatment
As Modafinil promotes alertness, some people, such as students and those who work long hours, may abuse this drug; self-medication is dangerous and can lead to addiction.
Research shows that Modafinil is useful in treating a number of off-label conditions and illnesses.
One study found that Modafinil may be useful in treating the excessive daytime sleepiness that can be associated with psychiatric drugs. Additionally, it was found to help promote wakefulness in those with dementia caused by brain trauma.
Modafinil and ADHD
Modafinil (Provigil), dubbed a “smart drug”, has been shown to have greater success than a placebo for the treatment of ADHD – attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults and children. However, the benefits have to be weighed up with modafinil’s side effects in each individual case.
Side effects of Modafinil can include insomnia, headache and reduced appetite, which can be counterproductive. Further studies are required to establish Modafinil’s long-term efficiency in treating patients with ADHD.
Can “Smart drugs’ make you smarter?
Many mistakingly believe that so-called smart drugs can increase a person’s cognitive ability when in reality, all they do is promote alertness and attention. This has been backed up by scientific research into the cognitive effects of Modafinil.
Research into the efficiency of drugs like Modafinil and their ability to enhance cognitive function in persons without ADHD or a sleep disorder concluded that Provigil had limited potential in this area. In short, “Smart drugs” may keep you awake longer but have no effect on your cognitive ability.
Does Modafinil make you feel high if you abuse it?
Whilst Modafinil is seen as having a low potential for abuse, research shows that therapeutic doses increase dopamine levels in the brain, which creates a mild euphoria. Wherever dopamine is artificially increased in the brain, there is a risk of abuse and addiction.
Potentially, a person who abuses Modafinil, particularly at non-therapeutic doses, would feel euphoric and high.
More research is needed on a wider cross-section of people to truly understand the exact mechanisms and effects of Modafinil on the brain.
Modafinil’s Legal Status in the UK
Modafinil (2-[(diphenylmethyl) sulfinyl] acetamide) is a synthetic drug and a prescription-only medication in the UK. In the UK, Modafinil is commonly sold under the brand name Provigil, amongst others.
In the UK, it is legal to possess Provigil, but illegal to supply it without a prescription. Therefore, sharing or selling your medication to anyone else is illegal and something that you could be prosecuted for.
Modafinil is unfortunately widely available to purchase on the internet, from UK websites without a prescription. Research conducted on internet websites selling Modafinil found that buyers are encouraged to purchase in bulk to receive greater discounts. Because of this, there is a greater risk of misuse and abuse of Modafinil when purchased in this way and, ultimately, addiction.
Signs of Modafinil Addiction and Abuse
Whilst Modafinil is a non-amphetamine psychostimulant, it can be abused for its stimulant effects. Amphetamine-based stimulant drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall are also touted as study drugs and can be abused for the same reasons.
An increasing number of students abuse drugs such as Modafinil to lengthen their study periods. By doing this, they expect that their exam results will be better than without the use of Modafinil. Abuse of Modafinil does not come without risk and is especially dangerous in children and teenagers.
If you are worried that your child or loved one is abusing Modefinil or a similar prescription stimulant such as Adderall or Ritalin, the following signs of Modefinil abuse should be watched out for.
Physical signs of Provagil (Modafinil) abuse and addiction:
- Insomnia and staying awake for long periods of time
- Dizziness and fainting
- Excessive thirst and dehydration
- Tight muscles or pain when moving
- Burning, tingling or numbness sensations of the skin
- Digestive issues
- Loss of appetite/weight loss
- Difficulty seeing or eye pain
- Mouth sores
- Skin picking
- Changes in mood, appearance and hygiene
Behavioural signs of Modafinil abuse and addiction include:
- Secretive behaviour
- Defensiveness when challenged
- Changes in sociability
- Mood swings
- Isolating from family and friends
- Doctor shopping, buying Modafinil without a prescription online or from friends
There are other signs that could indicate that your child or loved one is abusing or misusing Modafinil. Please call us directly to discuss any concerns you have.
Modafinil Abuse, Addiction and Overdose
If you take too much Modafinil at once or within a short space of time, you will be at risk of overdose. Mixing Modafinil with other substances, such as Cocaine or alcohol, also increases your risk of developing overdose symptoms.
Signs of Modafinil overdose include:
- Insomnia – being unable to sleep
- Severe Agitation
- Changes in heart rate, palpitations and arrhythmia
- Changes in blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Feeling very restless
- Hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
- Nervousness and feeling on edge
- Feeling or being sick
If anyone taking Modafinil shows the above signs of overdose, they should seek immediate urgent medical attention.
If you or a loved one have taken too much modafinil but still feels well, you should still seek medical advice.
Provigil overdose is most likely to happen when a person takes numerous doses over a short period of time or mixes Modafinil with alcohol, drugs or other prescription stimulants.
Those that have developed a high tolerance, dependence or addiction to Modafinil are also more likely to overdose by taking too much Modafinil in one go.
Death and Birth Defects Caused by Modafinil
Whilst many people can take Modafinil and suffer no adverse effects, the FDA have had 9,916 reports (1999) of adverse events for the brand name Provigil and Nuvigil as well as their generics, modafinil and armodafinil. From the collective data, 4,291 reports were serious events, and 384 were deaths.
It is unknown how many of these Modafinil-related deaths were attributed to abuse, addiction or caused by therapeutic doses.
Additionally, In June 2019, Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland issued a warning that modafinil is suspected of causing birth defects when taken by pregnant women. Some of these birth defects could potentially lead to death.
Modafinil, alcohol and marijuana
One of the more common side effects of Modafinil is feeling dizzy and experiencing nausea. Mixing alcohol or cannabis (weed) with Modafinil can increase these symptoms and cause the onset of mental health issues. It is therefore recommended that you do not drink or take drugs whilst taking Modafinil.
If you suffer from alcohol dependence or addiction, you should let your doctor know before taking Modafinil. The same goes for cannabis or any other recreational drug.
Modafinil will interact with certain medications also, so please discuss this with your doctor, even if the medications you are taking are unprescribed.
If you have a dual dependence on Modafinil and any other drug, including alcohol, we can help. Please contact us to learn about our bespoke medical detoxes tailored to your treatment needs.
Modafinil Dependence and Withdrawal
It is not safe to suddenly stop taking Modafinil if you have become used to taking it. In instances where Modafinil dependence has developed, withdrawal symptoms will develop upon stopping the drug.
Symptoms of Modafinil withdrawal include
- Nausea and vomiting
- Brain fog
The severity of Modafinil withdrawal can range from person to person and depends on the use of the drug. Those that are dependent on large doses of Modafinil have been taking the drug for a long time, or suffer from Modafinil addiction are more likely to experience more uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
The onset of withdrawal can begin as soon as the effects of Modafinil wear off (12 to 14 hours). Less in cases of more frequent dosing, tolerance and abuse. Most symptoms are generally mild and can be managed at home with your doctor’s supervision. However, in the case of Modafinil addiction, symptoms can be more unpleasant and last for longer.
Modafinil can stay in your system for up to 4 days after your last dose.
Modafinil withdrawal symptoms can be lessened with a tapering-off regime advised by your doctor. Alternatively, they can be successfully managed with a medical detox.
Help for Modafinil addiction and dependence
Whilst it is rare for a person to be addicted to Modafinil, it does still happen. Addiction is much more than a physical addiction to a substance. It is a complex psychological disorder. More often than not, addiction requires professional input or rehabilitation for an affected person to get well and stay well.
At Detox Plus UK, we have access to some of the UK’s best addiction treatments and rehabs that treat mental health conditions as well as addictive disorders. We have the expertise and resources to help you or a family member make a full and lasting recovery.
Call us today at 02072052734. We offer bespoke recovery solutions for complex problems and are here to help you every step of the way.
Q&A’s on Modafinil (Provigil)
What is the genius pill millionaires use?
Some have dubbed the stimulant drug Modafinil the “genius pill”, along with other nicknames such as “smart drug” and “study drug” for its ability to enhance attention, alertness and memory. Some private healthcare providers are now prescribing the drug off-label to doctors, judges, entrepreneurs and surgeons.
The famous Hollywood film “Limitless” starring A-List star Bradley Cooper, although a science fiction movie, played a struggling writer who was able to unlock all areas of his brain with a smart pill which enabled him to become a billionaire. Students struggling with studying were inspired by this to search for a real-life alternative smart drug.
Who should not use Modafinil? Can it lead to addiction?
If you have ever suffered from a substance abuse disorder, especially to stimulant drugs such as amphetamines or cocaine, you should not use Modafinil.
You should also tell your doctor if you have, or have had, any of the following conditions before taking Modafinil:
- Cirrhosis or other liver problems
- Kidney disease
- High or Low blood pressure
- Any kind of heart problem or disease
- A history of mental illness
- Alcoholism or drug addiction
- Are you pregnant, or are you planning to become pregnant
A history of mental health illness, alcohol or drug addiction will make you more predisposed to developing mental health issues and addiction issues with Modafinil.
Can Modefinil cause hypersexuality?
Modafinil is usually safe to take but can have some unwanted side effects, such as headaches and nervousness. In some rare cases, taking modafinil can increase sexual libido and cause hypersexuality. However, this is not a known side effect. This rare side effect is more likely to happen in a person who already suffers from bipolar disorder or mania, as during mania, a person can become hypersexual.
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- Provigil and Nuvigil Side Effects:https://www.drugwatch.com/provigil-and-nuvigil/side-effects/
- Modafinil: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a602016.html
- Off-Label Uses of Modafinil: https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/ajp.158.8.1341
- A review of the use of modafinil for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16623645/
- Efficacy of Modafinil as a Cognitive Enhancer: https://journals.lww.com/psychopharmacology/Abstract/2019/09000/The_Efficacy_of_Modafinil_as_a_Cognitive_Enhancer_.7.aspx
- Effects of Modafinil on Dopamine and Dopamine Transporters in the Male Human Brain. Clinical Implications: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/183580
- The Availability of Modafinil and Methylphenidate Purchased from the Internet in the United Kingdom Without a Prescription: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31431114/
- Modafinil pronounced as (moe daf’ i nil): https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a602016.html#brand-name-1
- Provigil and Nuvigil Side Effects:https://www.drugwatch.com/provigil-and-nuvigil/side-effects/
- Provigil and Nuvigil Lawsuits:https://www.drugwatch.com/provigil-and-nuvigil/lawsuits/
- A novel study of screening and confirmation of modafinil, adrafinil and their metabolite modafinilic acid under EI-GC-MS and ESI-LC-MS-MS ionization: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846503/
- Can a pill make you smarter? The controversial topic of Nootropics: https://www.verywellmind.com/can-smart-pills-really-make-you-smarter-4164623
- Psychopharmacology Hypersexuality after modafinil treatment: a case report: https://psychiatry-psychopharmacology.com/en/psychopharmacology-hypersexuality-after-modafinil-treatment-a-case-report-132320