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Modafinil Addiction

This entry was posted in Addiction on by .
Medically Reviewed Fact Checked

Last Updated on August 12, 2021 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Below is an overview of research on modafinil addiction, as well as uses of modafinil in the workplace, modafinil side effects, drug-free treatment help for daytime sleepiness, alternatives to modafinil, and modafinil tapering services offered at Alternative to Meds Center.

Modafinil Addiction

Any time a person regularly takes a drug that alters how the brain functions, including modafinil, Provigil, and its other brand name versions, they put themselves at risk of modafinil addiction or dependence, and the potential for adverse effects. These facts remain true whether one’s physician has prescribed the drug or whether one lives in a country where modafinil is available without a prescription.4

modafinil alters dopamine

College students have been inundated with a lot of hype about so-called “smart drugs” like modafinil, used for staying up all night cramming for exams or catching up with backlogged writing assignments. These drugs are nick-named “smart drugs” which makes them seem like a perfect choice for students seeking cognitive enhancement. They are no such thing. Taken regularly, they most definitely can be addictive and can ruin cognitive ability, memory, physical and mental health.1,6,7,8

We can see a parallel in the tsunami of ADHD stimulant drugs that took hold of the entire educational system. Where these drugs were promoted to increase learning potential, according to Currie et al, over the long term, there is “little evidence of positive effects on academic outcomes or schooling attainment. In fact, we find deterioration in important academic outcomes including grade repetition and math scores.”  ~ Janet Currie, Mark Stabile, Lauren Jones, authors 10

Such research over decades shows that stimulant drugs won’t magically raise your IQ or make you smarter. They can harm over the long term. But if you are sleep-deprived, a stimulant such as modafinil will force you to stay awake and alert despite lack of sleep. This is because modafinil, like other stimulants, has the ability to manipulate our natural neurochemistry. The use of stimulant drugs in the field of education has been an experiment of nightmarish proportions. According to the research of Barkley and Cunningham, published in The Journal of Clinical Pediatrics, the use of stimulant drugs in classrooms fails to improve the academic performance of the majority of children put on ADHD stimulant medication.9 As a society, we might ask why the educational system has allowed itself to be manhandled by pharmaceutical manufacturers for so long. If a person continues taking a stimulant drug every day for an extended period of time, there are some definite downsides aside from lack of efficacy. Eventually, the body/brain/nervous system will become compromised and possibly even injured. You can find more about these topics in the section about side effects, below.

Modafinil – Effects On the Job and in the Work Place

modafinil sleepinessSome take modafinil for a condition called “narcolepsy,” or daytime sleepiness. Obviously, falling asleep at work could present critical problems on the job, including safety. For example, an airline pilot can’t fall asleep at the controls, and a truck driver can’t doze off at the wheel. A jet-lagged traveler may find their daytime meeting impossible due to fatigue.

In a 2019 clinical study of adolescents with narcolepsy at Toronto Sick Children’s Hospital, the majority of participants stated there were frustrations over the side effects of and dependence on modafinil or other medication-based treatment.11 Most felt the medication did not fully relieve their symptoms of narcolepsy. However, the holistic treatments that included scheduled sleep times, exercise, and psychosocial support were preferred by the majority of students. Until a curative is found, narcolepsy will continue to be considered an incurable, life-long disorder. Thankfully, researchers like Nishino and Okuro continue to explore new treatment avenues and possible cures for this debilitating condition.12 Additionally, the field of regenerative biology is also exploring stem cell applications to trigger the regeneration of orexin-producing neurons, which could potentially reverse the condition of narcolepsy.13 Other holistic therapies that are available presently, aim to at least reduce the symptoms of daytime sleepiness without addictive medications, such as testing for and addressing any nutritional deficiencies that could be contributing to the condition. Alternative to Meds Center has been working with clients to help resolve such problems for many years, with great success.

Good quality sleep is one of the most important factors allowing for mental clarity, alertness, and energy. You are invited to contact us directly to find out more about effective alternatives to modafinil for improvements in daytime wakefulness, improved mental clarity, increased energy, and better quality sleep.

Modafinil – Know the Side Effects

modafinil side effectsOf concern, modafinil side effects can cause havoc, and even life-threatening reactions such as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, and others.2,5 Even before habitual use causes dependence or addiction, side effects from the drug can be significant, and as reported by the FDA include:

  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Nausea, loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach ache
  • Insomnia

Less common side effects can include these:

  • Tremors, shaking
  • Modafinil-induced psychosis
  • Anorexia
  • Vertigo
  • Liver damage, multiple organ disruption
  • Tardive dyskinesia, especially in the facial muscles, mouth, and jaw
  • Paresthesia, a burning, crawling or tingling, numbness or pins and needles sensation of the skin
  • Ulcers
  • Hallucination, altered perceptions, paranoia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tachycardia (racing heartbeat, pounding heartbeat)
  • Rashes, including life-threatening Stevens-Johnson Syndrome requiring immediate medical intervention.
  • NOTE: these rashes can become permanently disfiguring or disabling even after discontinuing the medication.3
  • and many others.

Modafinil Addiction Treatment Help

finding root cause at atmcOf course, where one has become dependent on a drug to stay awake, most likely sleep issues will need to be resolved to be able to come off the drug successfully. Modafinil tapering can be made easier by utilizing modafinil alternatives (drug-free) for wakefulness. But, most importantly, we focus on discovering and correcting anything found to be a possible contributor to daytime sleepiness, insomnia, sleep disruption, low energy, sleep apnea, and other issues of concern.

Therefore, allergies, diet, accumulated neurotoxin removal, lifestyle, and many other subjects may be productively treated using non-drug-based methods. The transition from drug-dependent to drug-free can be made tolerable and eased using the correct choices for tapering and treatment protocols. Testing and other assessments are used to evaluate the best treatments for each individual upon entry to the program.

Please contact us at Alternative to Meds Center for a thorough overview of the protocols, testing processes, and treatments used in our health-focused, evidence-based modafinil addiction treatment programs.

1. Mariani  JJ, Hart CL, “Psychosis associated with modafinil and shift work.” AM Journal of Psychiatry [INTERNET] 2005 [cited 2021 Aug 10]

2. FDA SAFETY ALERT MODAFINIL/PROVIGIL FDA [INTERNET] Drug label information 2007 Oct [cited 2021 Aug 10]

3. Govt of Canada Recalls and Safety Alerts Bulletin “New warnings regarding ALERTEC (modafinil) and serious rash, allergic reactions, mental health problems – For Health Professionals.” Health Canada [INTERNET] 2007 Dec 21 [cited 2021 Aug 10]

4. Hockenhull J, Wood DM, Dargan PI. The Availability of Modafinil and Methylphenidate Purchased from the Internet in the United Kingdom Without a Prescription. Subst Use Misuse. 2020;55(1):56-65. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2019.1654516. Epub 2019 Aug 20. PMID: 31431114. [cited 2021 Aug 10]

5. FDA label PROVIGIL (modafinil) published 1998 [online] [cited 2021 Aug 10]

6. Elliott GR, Elliott MD. Pharmacological cognitive enhancers: comment on Smith and Farah (2011). Psychol Bull. 2011 Sep;137(5):749-50. doi: 10.1037/a0024119. PMID: 21859176. [cited 2021 Aug 10]

7. Sussman S, Pentz MA, Spruijt-Metz D, Miller T. Misuse of “study drugs:” prevalence, consequences, and implications for policy. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. 2006 Jun 9;1:15. doi: 10.1186/1747-597X-1-15. PMID: 16764722; PMCID: PMC1524735. [cited 2021 Aug 10]

8. Heinz A, Kipke R, Heimann H, Wiesing U. Cognitive neuroenhancement: false assumptions in the ethical debate. J Med Ethics. 2012 Jun;38(6):372-5. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2011-100041. Epub 2012 Jan 6. PMID: 22228818. [cited 2021 Aug 10]

9. Barkley RA, Cunningham CE. Do stimulant drugs improve the academic performance of hyperkinetic children? A review of outcome studies. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 1978 Jan;17(1):85-92. doi: 10.1177/000992287801700112. PMID: 22418. [cited 2021 Aug 10]

10. Currie J, Stabile M, Jones L. Do stimulant medications improve educational and behavioral outcomes for children with ADHD?J Health Econ. 2014;37:58-69. doi:10.1016/j.jhealeco.2014.05.002 [cited 2021 Aug 10]

11. Xiao L, Chen A, Parmar A, Frankel L, Toulany A, Murray BJ, Narang I. Narcolepsy Treatment: Voices of Adolescents. Behav Sleep Med. 2021 Apr 20:1-9. doi: 10.1080/15402002.2021.1916496. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33877929. [cited 2021 Aug 11]

12. Nishino S, Okuro M. Emerging treatments for narcolepsy and its related disorders. Expert Opin Emerg Drugs. 2010 Mar;15(1):139-58. doi: 10.1517/14728210903559852. PMID: 20166851. [cited 2021 Aug 11]

13. Steward MM, Sridhar A, Meyer JS. Neural regeneration. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2013;367:163-91. doi: 10.1007/82_2012_302. PMID: 23292211. [cited 2021 Aug 11]

Originally Published by Diane Ridaeus Published May 13, 2020

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Modafinil Addiction
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