Saturday, August 22, 2015

smart drug modafinil safe for widespread use


reason |  Good news, overachieving students, ADHD-havers, Limitless fans, and pillheads everywhere: A meta-analysis of the data on "smart drug" modafinil has found that yes, it's safe, and yes, it's effective as a cognitve enhancer.

Published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, the review covers 24 placebo-controlled studies of modafinil—also known by the brand name Provigil—that were conducted between 1990 and 2014 on healthy, non-sleep deprived individuals. "Such an analysis overcomes some of the limitations of each of the smaller studies, such as narrow demographics or conflicting results, and draws an overarching conclusion," notes Quartz writer Akshat Rathi

Officially sanctioned in the U.S. to treat sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, modafinil is sometimes prescribed off-label to treat conditions like depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Parkinson's disease. It's also become popular as a cognitive enhancer, or nootropic. A 2008 poll from science journal Nature found that 44 percent of its readers had tried modafinil. And while less popular than Adderall, it's also a hit among college students as a study aid. 

Without a prescription, modafinal is still pretty easy for Americans to purchase online from foreign pharmacies (where it's sold under names such as Modalert, Modvigil, and Alertec), albeit also pretty illegal. Some countries, such as India and Mexico, neither classify modafinil as a controlled substance nor require buyers to have a medical prescription; in others, such as Canada, Australia, Germany, and the U.K., it's not a controlled substance but a prescription is required. In the U.S., however, it's both a Schedule IV controlled drug and prescription-only. 

Could that change? In the new review, researchers found that "modafinil appears to consistently engender enhancement of attention, executive functions, and learning," all without "any preponderances for side effects or mood changes." Modafinil "appears safe for widespread use," concluded researchers, calling it "one of the most promising and highly-investigated neuroenhancers to date."