Modafinil has gained notoriety as the drug of choice for a potentially fatal condition known as Narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder in which biochemical disturbances can precipitate sudden sleepiness or total lack of sleep like in Insomnia. Modafinil is now being studied for its effects on wakefulness and whether it is a Nootropic.
Here are a few of the benefits of using Modafinil:
Modafinil is Neuroprotective
Recent clinical trials concluded that Modafinil reduced lipid peroxidation induced by another drug MPTP in Mice. MPTP is a neurotoxin often used in clinical studies to induce “controlled” damage in laboratory conditions. Modafinil significantly reduced the glutamate induced damage to the neurons. MPTP induced parkinsonian-like movement disorders in mice, along with induction of free-radicals production. While Modafinil was not directly able to neutralize the effects of the neurotoxin, it reversed the damages and restored the locomotor abilities in just two weeks!
Modafinil also successfully neutralized the free-radical scavengers that this neurotoxin induced. Inflammation causes the release of reactive oxygen species at the site of Injury. Reactive Oxygen Species are basically supercharged Ions with penetrating effects on the cell-wall of invading microorganisms. However, Normal cells in our body are also susceptible to these effects, and prolonged inflammation can have a significant impact on the surrounding normal tissue. Modafinil, being a powerful reducing agent accepts the excess electrons from these Reactive Oxygen Species and makes it incapable of causing more damage.
Further, Modafinil is also instrumental in increasing the Glutathione levels of neurons. Glutathione is a protective organic neurotransmitter.
Modafinil enhances Neurocognition
Reduced sleep can severely hamper cortical activity in the Brain. Sleep Deprivation is a common symptom of people who abuse stimulants like caffeine, heroine and cocaine. Modafinil specifically enhances the IQ in patients who are sleep-deprived by increasing the cortical activity. Interestingly, this increase in IQ was evident in people with average IQ more than in people with a higher (resting) IQ.
Modafinil when studied in these rat mice showed an increase in working memory, attention and impulse control as well as reasoning and other higher level functions.
Understanding humor, specifically Satire involves a lot of parts of the brain, working in coherence and is considered a “Complex Neural Task” with involvement of multiple cortical regions and sub-cortical pathways. In comparison to Caffeine and other Amphetamines, Modafinil ranks best in understanding humor, over the other two stimulants. This is a phenomenal finding that warrants the question, “Is Modafinil THE stimulant Nootropic” that we all need?
Cautions and Contraindications
While Modafinil can enhance your mental acuity and IQ considerably, Modafinil has some serious adverse effects as well. Of particular importance is Modafinil’s exacerbation of mood disorders. Bipolar disorder is a mood-disorder characterized by Heightened and agitated mania and on the other end is depressive episodes characterized by apathy and suicidal tendencies. Modafinil can precipitate Manic episodes in individuals with Bipolar Disorder. Mania is characterized by Psychosis and Hallucinations of the auditory and visual types. In a sense, the stimulant effect is super-exaggerated in mood-disorder individuals and thus it is absolutely contraindicated in such patients.
In other susceptible individuals Modafinil can precipitate Attention Deficit Hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Given its high-performance ability Modafinil can be the drug of choice for abuse as well. In Schools and other High-performance, High Stress work spaces, Modafinil is regarded as a god-send because it allows to improve concentration abilities despite the lack of sleep.
Irrational and Non-judicious use of Modafinil (as in abusers) can result in heightened activity with minimal rest. This results in the development of a full-blown Chronic Fatigue syndrome (With depression). Modafinil can also impair the Liver and Kidneys, the sites of its metabolism – leading to elevated Hepatic Enzymes and Jaundice and/or damage to the Nephrons of kidneys, resulting in electrolyte imbalances in blood and dehydration.
The above mentioned Indications are proven and are many, however the serious side-effects associated with Modafinil along with its potential for abuse begs the question: “Is Modafinil really a Nootropic”?