Modafinil: What is it and is it beneficial to me?

Modafinil (brand name Provigil), is a medication prescribed to patients suffering from sleep disorders like sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, and shift work sleep disorder. Narcolepsy is a brain and spinal chord disorder that is usually diagnosed by the individual having an unnatural recurrent and undesirable urge to sleep. Sleep apnea is a condition where the patient will stop breathing for extended periods of time during their sleep cycle which causes waking and disturbed sleep. Shift work sleep disorder is a condition characterized by the person having an unnatural circadian rhythm due to working night shift or swing shifts.

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This medication is taken orally and promotes wakefulness in patients by stimulating the brain and, like amphetamines, triggers increased dopamine to be released and then repressing the reuptake of the chemical into nerves.This drug was approved for use in the US by the FDA in 1998 and is considered to be a schedule IV drug due to the risk of addiction or dependency. It is prescribed by your doctor in up to a 400 mg dose and should be taken upon waking by those suffering with sleep apnea and narcolepsy, and an hour before your shift if you suffer from shift work sleep disorder.

While the dosage should not exceed 400 mg per day, the higher dosage may not have any significantly different effects than the 200 mg dose or some even lower. This medication has a generic option so that the cost can be kept reasonable even for those who may not have insurance. On average in the US, modafinil costs about $34 per month and is usually covered in some percentage by most insurances.  Like any medication there is risk of side effects such as headache, nausea, and a jittery feeling.

These are all common with amphetamine type drugs but should be talked about with your doctor if you experience any of these. A pharmacist will be able to answer any questions you have regarding the medication and should be utilized if you have any questions that your doctor was unable to answer. If you are taking any other medications always check with your doctor about how adding in modafinil will affect the effectiveness of the medications you are on.

Medications like hormone based contraceptives may have decreased effectiveness and this should be talked about with your doctor to ensure you are getting the full benefit of not only the modafinil, but your other medications as well. The effects of modafinil have not been extensively studied in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding but the risk of premature birth or miscarriage are significant so it is not recommended for women who are breastfeeding, pregnant, or think they may be pregnant. To know if modafinil is the best fit for you, speak with your doctor so you can decide the best plan of care for you.