Modafinil: Research Suggests Risk for Addiction in Vulnerable People

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The general problem of prescription pill abuse is well known to predominantly include prescription painkillers. However, addiction to these types of medications does not stop at just the pain alleviation variety. Other types of medications such as Ritlin—used to treat ADD and ADHD (and many others), contain the potential for addiction.

A new research study has now focused on the effects of even more obscure types of medication, which large amounts of the population may not be aware of. The drug modafinil is a prescription medication that treats narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a mental disorder that causes individuals to fall asleep spontaneously and randomly throughout the day…without any control over when or how it happens. Narcolepsy has proven to be a dangerous disorder in which individuals who suffer from it will fall if standing or sitting, and potentially experience serious injuries such as contusions, cuts, broken bones and other such injuries. Individuals who suffer from narcolepsy are often unable to operate machinery or drive motorized vehicles.

Modafinil works by enhancing cognitive abilities. It allows for individuals to stay awake more than usual, and can also restore some normalcy to daily life. However, it has been found that modafinil affects the activity of dopamine in the brain in such a way that it presents the potential for abuse and dependence. These findings were published in the March issue of JAMA.

Modafinil, although primarily a sleep deterrent drug, has also been commonly used to treat other cognitive dysfunction in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, ADD and ADHD to name a few. There are known precautions that physicians must take into consideration before prescribing the medication, as it is known to produce psychoactive and euphoric effects, which can be very similar to other stimulant drugs.

The study published by JAMA focused on healthy men, or men who do not have a physical or psychological need for Modafinil. Just as there are many prescription-painkiller addicts who do not suffer from chronic or long- term pain, it is important to understand how this drug will affect people who do not need help staying awake. In these healthy men the increase in dopamine and the euphoric effects were similarly experienced as in individuals who did suffer from narcolepsy or another psychiatric disorder that would warrant the prescription of Modafinil. This has dubbed Modafinil as another prescription medication that has a potential for abuse or dependence; if prescribed, modafinil should be handled carefully in terms of dosages, storage, and the sharing of the medication.

As with other prescription pills, Modafinil can cause dependence even in individuals who genuinely need the medication to function on a more normal level. People who are vulnerable to addiction, or have a history of addiction in their family should be aware of the potentially addictive effects it contains.

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