Is Narcolepsy Med Modafinil Also A 'Smart' Drug?

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A narcolepsy drug that is widely used off label by students off label under the belief that it will improve their studying and academic performance may actually enhance a person’s ability to think creatively and solve problems.

After reviewing 34 studies of modafinil (Provigil), which is approved to improve wakefulness in adults with excessive sleepiness associated with narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, or shift work disorder, researchers found that the drug is able to improve attention, learning and memory, as well as increase fluid intelligence.

The cognitive benefits of the modafinil were most apparent in longer and more complex tasks, the researchers reported in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology.  They also found that the drug has few side effects, with only some instances of headache, stomach ache, nausea and vomiting.

“In the face of vanishingly few side effects in these controlled environments, modafinil can be considered a cognitive enhancer,” study author Anna-Katharine Brem, PhD, of University of Oxford, England, said in a statement. “However, we would like to stress the point that with any method used to enhance cognition, ethical considerations always have to be taken into account.”

Is Narcolepsy Med Modafinil Also A 'Smart' Drug?
Modafinil (Provigil) may actually improve attention, learning and memory.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of modafinil (Provigil) as treatment for people suffering from sleep disorders such as those who have narcolepsy, a brain disorder which causes an individual to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times or to experience excessive sleepiness.

Most of the drug's users, particularly students, use it off label when studying for exams believing that this could help them focus regardless of lack of evidence that the drug can work this way.

A review of 24 modafinil studies, however, has shown that modafinil actually works as a "smart drug" for some individuals. The findings, which was published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, suggest that in healthy people, the drug can improve attention, learning and memory as well as increase what is known as fluid intelligence, or a person's ability to solve problems and think creatively.

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