Modafinil – Effects on the Brain

Modafinil is a well-known wakefulness enhancing drug, sometimes referred to as eugeroic which means good arousal. It is the first in its class of wakefulness-promoting medicines. It is often prescribed for the treatment of medical conditions causing excessive sleepiness such as narcolepsy(excessive daytime sleepiness), shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) which often occurs in people who do rotational shift jobs, those who work at night and present with sleepiness during normal working hours of the day or those with  difficulty staying asleep during normal sleeping hours at night. It is also used to prevent excessive sleepiness caused by obstructive sleep apnea (this is a condition in which a person briefly stops breathing during sleep)

Modafinil was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998 for the treatment of excessive sleepiness of hypersomnia and sleepiness caused by conditions such as SWSD and obstructive sleep apnea because of its effect on neurotransmitters (substances in the brain) which control sleep/wake cycle. Modafinil acts as atypical dopamine reuptake inhibitor thus increasing the amount of dopamine neurotransmitter in the brain, though its mechanism of action is not fully understood, it is a structurally unique central nervous system stimulant and is medically classified as Guanfacine extended release dopamine reuptake inhibitor. It is well known that most brain stimulants cause varying degree of withdrawal problems, however, the uniqueness of Modafinil and its specificity of function cause less severe withdrawal problems though if taken in very large quantity or unprescribed can be habit forming, it has low abuse potential and is classified as a schedule IV drug.

Modafinil, though approved by US FDA for the treatment of hypersomnias and excessive sleepiness caused by OSAHS and SWSD, its effect in boosting cognitive function in both healthy and people with other brain conditions cannot be overemphasized.

In patients suffering from brain cancer or undergoing brain cancer treatment, it is usually a difficult time characterized with bouts of mood swing and fatigue, research has however showed that patients who buy Modafinil have an improvement in their cognitive function, improved mood, and less fatigue. A study was done which was presented at the 42nd annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting and the results showed that Modafinil use in brain cancer patients improved cognitive ability by about 21%, mood improvement by 35%, and lessened fatigue by 47% thus presenting a renewed hope for patients suffering from brain cancers.

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Modafinil is prescribed for children from the age of 16 years and above and generally for all adults. It is a very safe drug to use, and described by people as the world’s first safe smart drug. To determine its safety, studies were conducted and it showed that the risks associated with the use of Modafinil were minimal compared to the benefits of using it, studies are still ongoing on risks associated with long-term use of Modafinil.

Modafinil consists of both active and inactive ingredients, it is marketed under the trade name Provigil and its active ingredient is Provigil Modafinil. The active ingredients include cellulose, povidone, lactose, pregelatinized starch, microcrystalline, croscarmellose, and sodium.

It is an oral drug and comes in 100mg or 200mg dosages. It is a prescription drug in the united state, however in some countries it can be sold over the counter. It is rapidly absorbed following oral ingestion and is effective within 2 hours of intake, it acts specifically on specific areas of the brain which control sleep/wake mechanism and hence increase alertness and improve cognitive function.

The unique effect of Modafinil on the brain has made it a widely used drug among astronauts, military and it is made available to the crew on the international space station.

Modafinil helps improve decision making, enhance executive brain performance, helps individuals who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) stay focused and also helps improve focus in healthy people before exams.

The side effects of Modafinil are usually tolerable and the benefit far outweighs the side effects which may include a headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth, constipation, gas, sweating, loss of appetite, upper respiratory tract infection among others. Before taking this drug, it is important to tell your doctor if you are taking birth control pills or implants because Modafinil may cause decrease effectiveness of these drugs, and you may require an additional non–hormonal form of birth control. It is also important to inform your doctor if you are on other medications such as Propanolol, Warfarin, Theophylline, Valium Tricyclic antidepressants or other stimulant medications. Also let your doctor know if you have the following medical conditions before taking Modafinil, left ventricular hypertrophy, chest pain, unstable angina, kidney disease, liver disease, a history of mental illness, high blood pressure, history of heart attack or irregular heart beats

Modafinil is generally well tolerated with a low incidence of adverse effects, a number of people who buy Modafinil “off label”  which means using the drug for other conditions not primarily approved by FDA is increasing and this is because of its effectiveness in improving creativity, problem-solving and mood. Also in brain cancer patients, it helps them overcome the challenging effects and live a quality life