Smart Drug Modafinil Helps with Thinking Skills
Modafinil is a medicine for people who sleep too much (narcolepsy).
Many people use it without a doctor’s prescription as a “smart drug” to help them think better.
This can help with alertness and focus, like when studying for tests.
Earlier studies showed that modafinil helps sleep-deprived people think better.
- Modafinil’s Uses: Originally for narcolepsy, Modafinil is also used off-label as a cognitive enhancer for focus and alertness.
- Effectiveness in Non-Sleep-Deprived Individuals: Recent studies show that Modafinil benefits those without sleep deprivation, particularly in complex tasks.
- Cognitive Benefits and Side Effects: It improves decision-making and planning but doesn’t significantly affect memory or flexibility. Side effects like insomnia and headaches are mild, similar to placebo effects.
- Ethical and Regulatory Issues: The use of Modafinil for cognitive enhancement raises ethical and regulatory questions, given its non-approval for non-medical purposes.
But, we didn’t know much about its effects on people who get enough sleep – most people who use it.
A new review in the European
Neuropsychopharmacology journal says that modafinil does help these people think better, at least in some ways.
Dr. Ruairidh Battleday and Dr. Anna-Katharine Brem, from the University of Oxford and Harvard Medical School, looked at all the studies on modafinil from 1990 to 2014.
They found 24 studies about the different benefits of modafinil, like planning, decision-making, learning, memory, and creativity.
They discovered that modafinil’s effect depends on the task.
The longer and more complex the task, the more helpful modafinil was.
It didn’t help with working memory or thinking flexibility but improved decision-making and planning.
Most studies found very few side effects, though some people had insomnia, headaches, stomach aches, or nausea – which also happened in people taking a placebo (a fake drug).
Dr. Battleday said this is the first big review since 2008 on modafinil’s effects on people who aren’t sleep-deprived.
The tests used to measure its benefits have changed over time.
Older studies used simpler tests, but newer ones use more complex tests that show modafinil helps with more advanced thinking.
Dr. Brem said their main findings are that modafinil can be considered a cognitive enhancer with few side effects and that we need better ways to test thinking skills.
They also mentioned the importance of considering ethical issues when using drugs to enhance thinking.
Professor Guy Goodwin of the ECNP said this review shows modafinil helps with thinking, not just in sleep-disordered people.
It might be the first real “smart drug.” This raises ethical questions about how we should view and regulate such drugs.
Modafinil is not approved for non-medical use, and it’s unclear how much demand there will be for it and how it will be regulated.
- What is Modafinil?
- Modafinil is a medication primarily prescribed for treating narcolepsy but is also used off-label as a cognitive enhancer.
- How does Modafinil help with cognitive functions?
- Modafinil has been shown to improve cognitive functions like decision-making and planning, particularly in complex and extended tasks.
- Can anyone use Modafinil as a “smart drug”?
- While modafinil is used off-label for cognitive enhancement, it’s not officially approved for this purpose. Its use without a prescription raises legal and ethical questions.
- What are the side effects of Modafinil?
- Side effects include insomnia, headaches, stomach aches, and nausea, but these are generally mild and comparable to those experienced with a placebo.
- What does the recent research say about Modafinil’s effectiveness in non-sleep-deprived individuals?
- Recent research indicates that modafinil can enhance cognitive abilities in individuals who are not sleep-deprived, challenging the earlier belief that its benefits were limited to those with sleep disorders.