If you’re in high school or college – or parent someone who is – you’ve probably heard about the trend of people abusing ADHD medication like Adderall and Ritalin for their stimulant properties. People take them to stay awake, so that they can work or study without taking a break for sleep, and many believe that they can give you a clarity of thought to retain information better. Of course, misusing these medications is dangerous, and studies have shown that taking amphetamines in adolescence can have long-lasting effects on brain development. There is another medication, however, that has the potential for all the productive benefits without any dangerous side effects. Modafinil (brand name Provigil) is a synthetic stimulant used to treat narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and shift work sleep disorder. It may be habit forming, but it’s far less addictive than Adderall and Ritalin. The best news? There’s evidence that it can be used to treat stimulant drug abuse.
Modafinil is so effective at normalizing cognitive function in people who are sleep deprived that it’s used by astronauts on the International Space Station. The United States military has also tested it on soldiers, who are frequently sleep deprived by must remain constantly vigilant.
In the UK, Australia, India, Germany, Canada, Mexico, and other countries, modafinil is a non-controlled prescription drug, but the United States has it classified as Schedule IV, the same as medications like Xanax and Valium. Why aren’t we taking more advantage of this drug? The DEA classified it back in 1999, which not much was known about it. Their reasoning was that the behavioral effects brought on by modafinil were similar to other stimulants, like cocaine, even though it only works indirectly on the dopamine system. While it’s true that many addictive drugs interfere with the release of dopamine, modafinil doesn’t have nearly the same effects, and most people who take it never really feel high.
It’s this relationship to dopamine that makes modafinil an effective way of treating cocaine and amphetamine addiction. Because it has stimulant properties, it can help offset the withdrawal symptoms when one stops using. It improves cognition and mood but does not have euphoric effects. In 2005, researchers supported by the National Institute for Drug Abuse determined that modafinil can enhance behavioral treatment for cocaine addiction. In the study, 62 patients had individual sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy twice weekly. 30 received daily doses of modafinil, while the rest had placebo. More than twice as many modafinil patients as placebo patients (33 percent as compared to 13 percent) were able to remain abstinent for three weeks or more.
Despite these promising results, as long as modafinil isn’t FDA approved for addiction treatment, insurance companies won’t pay for it for that use.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.