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Modafinil, best known by the brand name Provigil (and, to a lesser degree, Alertec), is a stimulant used to increase wakefulness in adults suffering from narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In patients with OSA, Provigil is taken concurrently with other medications or treatment procedures, and is not meant to be a replacement for those treatments. The drug supposedly aids wakefulness by altering the neurotransmitters in the brain that control the sleep/wake cycle, though the mechanism causing this action is not understood. Approved by the FDA in 1998, Provigil has since been used to treat Parkinson’s disease, fatigue, and depression (the latter with little success).

Provigil, when taken legal, must be prescribed by a doctor, and dosages should be in accordance with what is recommended. It is usually given to a patient for 12 weeks or less, and must be used as directed. Provigil is generally taken in the morning as a means to counteract daytime sleepiness, and requires about an hour to take effect. The medication must be taken at the same time each day unless advised otherwise by your doctor. Provigil must be stored at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Patients taking modafinil should not stop taking the drug without first consulting their doctors.

For those considering taking Provigil, precautions must be taken beforehand. People allergic to modafinil should stop using the drug immediately, and those prescribed Provigil should refrain from alcohol consumption. It is advised that patients using Provigil refrain from driving cars or operating heavy machinery until the full effects of the medication are known. Grapefruit and grapefruit juice have been known to cause adverse effects when consumed while using modafinil. Before using Provigil, inform your doctor or pharmacist of the prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking.

Tell your doctor if you have experienced or are planning the following:

  • angina (chest pain)
  • cirrhosis or other liver problem
  • kidney disease
  • a heart muscle or valve disorder such as mitral valve prolapse
  • a history of drug addiction
  • if you have recently had a heart attack
  • pregnancy, planning a pregnancy, or are breast-feeding
  • dental surgery

Side Effects

According to the National Institute of Health website, people using Provigil should inform their doctor when experiencing any of the following side effects:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • gas
  • heartburn
  • loss of appetite
  • unusual tastes
  • dry mouth
  • excessive thirst
  • nosebleed
  • flushing
  • sweating
  • tight muscles or difficulty moving
  • back pain
  • confusion
  • uncontrollable shaking of a part of your body
  • burning, tingling, or numbness of the skin
  • difficulty seeing or eye pain
  • vomiting

More serious side effects may include:

  • rash
  • blisters
  • peeling skin
  • mouth sores
  • severe tingling
  • numbness
  • hives
  • itching
  • hoarseness
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • chest pain
  • fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat
  • frenzied, abnormally excited mood
  • hallucinating (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • thinking about killing or harming yourself

Symptoms of an Overdose

In case of an overdose, people are advised to call their local poison centers at 1-800-222-1222. If the person is unconscious, call your local emergency service at 911.
Symptoms of an overdose include:

  • difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • agitation
  • restlessness
  • confusion
  • auditory or visual hallucinations
  • nervousness
  • uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • fast, slow, or pounding heartbeat
  • chest pain
  • nausea
  • diarrhea

More Information

The website for Provigil recommends that people consult their doctor and pharmacy before using the drug. Sober Living’s website contends that Provigil may be helpful in treating cocaine addiction, but also warns of possible addictive qualities. A study conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that, contrary to initial claims by pharmacologists, modafinil does contain addictive properties not yet known when approved by the FDA in 1998. These findings were confirmed in a March 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that the drug affects dopamine levels. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for transmitting signals in between the nerve cells (neurons) of the brain.

A July 2012 Nightline exposé highlighted the use of Provigil by people not suffering from sleep disorders but instead looking to increase their energy and alertness. Long used by soldiers on the battlefield to counteract the effects of sleep deprivation, it has recently become people among civilians looking for energy boosts. While the Provigil website clearly states the drug is not to be used as a replacement for sleep, those using Provigil solely to increase their energy levels often see significant decreases in their sleep times. Long-term effects of modafinil are still not known, as it has only been in use for a relatively short period of time.


  1. “Modafinil.” National Institute of Health. 01 September 2010. Web. 25 July 2012. .
  2. “Provigil.” 16 June 2011. Web. 25 July 2012. .
  3. “Provigil.” n.d. Web. 25 July 2012. .
  4. “Provigil.” Rx List. 29 November 2010. Web. 25 July 2012. .
  5. Edlund, Dr. Matthew. “Provigil” secret uses of stimulants.” The Rest Doctor. Word Press. 31 December 2010. Web. 25 July 2012. .
  6. “Modafinil – Marketed as Provigil an Amphetamine Like Stimulant.” Sober Living. 26 March 2012. Web. 25 July 2012. .
  7. Keim, Brian. “Popular Wakefulness Drug May Be Addictive.” Wired Science. Wired. 17 March 2009. Web. 25 July 2012. .
  8. Newton, Phillip. “From Mouse to Man.” Psychology Today. 26 April 2009. Web. 25 July 2012. .
  9. Chan, Amanda L. “Provigil: Narcolepsy Drug Being Taken By People Without The Sleep Disorder.” The Huffington Post. 19 July 2012. Web. 25 July 2012.

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