What is Modafinil? Provigil Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction

Last Updated: October 12, 2021

Authored by Roger Weiss, MD

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Modafinil smart drugs are stimulants that work by selectively inhibiting dopamine reuptake in the brain, leading to increased concentrations of the neurotransmitters there. These effects, in turn, reduce sleepiness and increase alertness, making the drug a powerful option for performance enhancement.

As is often the case with performance-enhancing drugs, there are health risks of abuse, dependence, and addiction here, albeit in rare cases. On that note, this text provides information about the causes of abuse, the effects of dependence, and the symptoms of addiction with Provigil use.

What is Modafinil?

This is a eugeroic or wakefulness-promoting medication originally developed and manufactured in France in the 1970s. Is Provigil a stimulant? Yes, Provigil drug class is stimulant, and Modafinil schedule is Schedule IV controlled substance according to information from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). In many cases, it is referred to by its brand name – Provigil.

Identifying the drug is fairly easy. Modafinil itself is a white to the off-white, crystalline powder inside Provigil tablets.

Those Tablets Contain 100 mg or 200 mg of Modafinil as the Active Ingredient, and the Following as Inactive Ingredients:

  • croscarmellose sodium
  • lactose monohydrate
  • magnesium stearate
  • microcrystalline cellulose
  • povidone
  • pregelatinized starch
Woman is Checking Pill Ingredients

Initially indicated for use in treating narcolepsy, Modafinil tablets quickly gained prominence for their effects as wakefulness-promoting, sleepiness reducing drugs, proving useful in a broad spectrum of contexts such as helping sleep-deprived military personnel and factory workers. It remains effective for narcolepsy too.

Considering the fact that the Modafinil schedule is that of a controlled substance, the possibility of facing legal issues as a result of possession, purchase, or sale of Provigil is an important consideration to make. So, is Modafinil legal?

First off, Modafinil smart drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States for two decades, so it is safe to possess and be used – as long as you have a doctor’s prescription.

Further information from research shows that other countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, The Netherlands, Germany, Canada, and Mexico also allow the use and purchase of Provigil from licensed pharmacies based on a prescription for the treatment of narcolepsy and other relevant conditions.

However, without a prescription, the reverse is the case. Schedule IV controlled substances are deemed to have a  lower potential for abuse and misuse in comparison to Schedules I, II, and III, but they are still only allowed under specific guidelines.

The prescription must be obtained from a pharmacy licensed within the country, so this means that one can not legally purchase the medication for import and use from overseas.

To make sure that these laws are taken seriously, charges, fines, and other penalties are in place for anyone that breaks the legal guidelines for possession or use of Provigil.

What Causes Modafinil Addiction?

Information about Provigil shows that there is a low liability for abuse and dependence, but it does exist. This is a direct result of Provigil’s effects as sleepiness curbing performance enhancers, as these types of drugs typically alter the brain’s functions.

When these functions are altered for a sustained period of time, a level of dependence can occur that leads to abuse and then a full-blown substance abuse disorder.

Modafinil Abuse Potential

When a person takes the dose long-term, there is a tolerance build-up that may require using stronger doses to achieve the same effects. In other cases, the person may just hope to heighten the effects they currently have by increasing the dose, even without the build-up of Modafinil tolerance.

So, is Modafinil dangerous? One could argue that there is the potential for its effects to be. The drugs work by forcibly triggering the release of dopamine in the brain, and once this supply is cut off, it can be hard for things to go back to normal.

Thus, it may be said that the most dangerous aspect of Provigil use is the abuse potential resulting from dependence. When this happens, a person with a Modafinil addiction is unable to return to their normal cognitive capabilities after being on it for long. This makes the addiction dangerous.

The Signs and Symptoms of Provigil Abuse

There are specific signs to look out for when trying to figure out if a person is abusing or addicted to Provigil.

If treated as individual symptoms, each one by itself may not be enough to make the decision, but when one notices that there are several symptoms being exhibited, then there may be a need to pay extra attention and seek medical help.

Provigil addiction is not a common phenomenon, but there are instances. Also, abuse is not restricted to taking large doses alone, it also applies where Provigil is used without a prescription and using it as a cognitive enhancer.

Doctor and Patient

Physical Signs And Symptoms Of Provigil Abuse

These are the more noticeable indications of Provigil abuse. It is much harder to hide these because they can appear in obvious forms, especially if one knows what to look out for.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Addiction and Abuse Here Include:

  • Tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Rhinitis

Some of these are also associated with other conditions, so it might be beneficial to look at psychological signs too, before actively treating the situation as one of Provigil abuse.

Psychological Signs And Symptoms Of Provigil Abuse

These may typically require extra attention to be noticed. They are also more easily noticed by people that were close to the individual beforehand, as they can tell more easily which behaviors are out of character.

Psychological Signs and Symptoms of Addiction and Abuse Here Include:

  • Heightened excitation and agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Aggressiveness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nervousness
  • Sleep disturbances

Other signs may include visiting multiple physicians to obtain multiple prescriptions or transferring Provigil from the person it was appropriately prescribed for to someone else without a prescription.

Persons with a Provigil addiction will also often exhibit mood swings and character changes, indicative of their states when Provigil is used vs another medication.

Provigil Addiction Statistics and Facts

Stimulants are generally subject to the potential for abuse, and Provigil here is not different.

There is less information on Modafinil addiction statistics and the impact of the drug on overall dependence levels compared with other commonly abused stimulants (e.g cocaine). However, there remains a need to be aware of the health risks involved with using Provigil.

Provigil Addiction Facts

Provigil is a psychoactive drug that crosses the blood-brain barrier, affecting brain neurons directly. When this happens in a sustained manner, the neural pathways in the brain become altered. This can lead to tolerance and the development of cravings.

To back up this fact, studies have been carried out to stress the importance of heightened awareness about the abuse and dependence potential of the drug. One such study confirmed that the drug acutely increased dopamine levels and blocked dopamine transporters in the human brain.

For this reason, the scarcity of data on Provigil addiction statistics is not enough to negate the fact the drug can be a ticking time bomb when usage is not properly monitored and managed.

 

Social Trends

Modafinil abuse disorder is a social pandemic waiting to blow up. Considered a smart drug, Provigil addiction, especially among young people that work in high-stress environments that often call for less sleep, is on the rise.

Considered to give an edge over the competition, Provigil has become a cultural icon of getting ahead. The challenge with this narrative is that persons who are taking it run the health risk of finding it hard to cope after they stop the dose.

They can no longer avoid sleep and stay up late as they used to, and they cannot perform at elevated levels of cognitive awareness as they could on Modafinil. This not only leads to dependence but also creates a mediocre quality of life for the person taking it.

Getting off a Provigil addiction early and rebalancing one’s life can help prevent more serious issues such as depression and suicidal ideation.

What is Modafinil Withdrawal?

Addiction can be dangerous both physically and psychologically, so it is vital to get treatment and detox as soon as possible. Despite this, Modafinil withdrawal itself isn’t without its dangers.

The Provigil detox process may be an arduous one, due to the severe Provigil withdrawal symptoms one may go through. Withdrawal will be a difficult time, bringing both physical and psychological effects of its own which can plague the individual with pains and mental challenges that are difficult to overcome alone.

This is why it is so important to get the most suitable recovery plan for the user, where one may get support.

Woman is Suffering from Stress

Provigil Withdrawal Symptoms

These withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological.

They Include:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Mood lows
  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Sleepiness
  • Anhedonia
  • Dysphoria
  • Insomnia
  • A rise in body temperature
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness

Withdrawal is difficult to deal with, and even worse when one tries to go through it alone. It is important to consult with a medical professional to help manage these symptoms before they become severe, as well as tell loved ones about it to receive moral and emotional support.

Modafinil Detox Treatment

Starting treatment as soon as possible is vital in any recovery. Modafinil withdrawal recovery is no different. There are some treatment programs ready to treat you most suitably and effectively, from inpatient to outpatient options, as well as counseling and psychotherapy.

Treatment for Provigil withdrawal, whether it is completed as an inpatient or as an outpatient, will help you to stay clean and find effective ways of dealing with cravings and side effects. Whether you benefit from supervision or freedom, there is an ideal program to efficiently detox and overcome the substance abuse disorder.

Once detox is completed, it is essential to stay on track with your recovery. For many addicts, cravings will continue to a lesser degree and therefore still be an issue. This is why it is important to have techniques for dealing with cravings, as well as still attending therapy sessions.

These sessions and techniques will help an individual to stay on track after their detox is complete, giving them a chance of staying sober. It is vital that one keeps attending these sessions. The life after addiction will continue to improve, and the user will feel the health benefits, especially neurologically.

Duration of Modafinil Detoxification

Detox is a tough process so many people like to know, how long does withdrawal last?

Modafinil withdrawal time does vary slightly from person to person. However, there is a reasonable range to help gauge how long a user will have to suffer withdrawal effects.

Most Provigil withdrawal symptoms will show themselves within the first week of withdrawal, with most users being extremely fatigued during that period. Other users will merely return to their old symptoms of narcolepsy.

The main issue with withdrawal is that many of the symptoms are blurred in with a user’s reaction to no longer functioning with cognitive enhancement. This means it is difficult to understand where they end.

Despite this, it is believed that symptoms will begin to weaken after the first week and physical indications will continue no longer than four weeks. On the other hand, psychological indications may last a long time, especially if the user doesn’t receive any counseling or psychotherapy.

Withdrawal is often easier if the user decides to taper off from their usage. This means they gradually reduce their dosage to lessen the withdrawal symptoms.

This is also a much safer way of withdrawing than going cold turkey, despite it taking a long time.

Treatment and Recovery for Modafinil Abuse

Addiction treatment is recommended for persons taking it beyond its prescribed dose limits and uses. For a person taking a dose of over 1200 mg of this medication, some side effects of Provigil can point towards substance abuse and a need for professional medical help.

These include a skin rash, blisters, hives, swelling, mouth sores and fever, shortness of breath, dark urine, among others. Some of them can eventually lead to Provigil-induced weight loss.

Other less commonly-reported but more serious symptoms in post-marketing surveillance include Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis, and drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS).

If a person with a Modafinil addiction experiences any of these symptoms, they should consider seeking treatment for substance abuse disorder.

Treatment Options May Include One or a Combination of the Following Methods:

  • Counseling: As most Modafinil abuse disorders are psychological and behavioral, individual or group counseling can help realign the person for recovery
  • Inpatient or residential: These provide an oasis of options and hope for the person by taking them out of the stressful environment that may have brought on the addiction
  • Outpatient programs: Intensive outpatient programs provide an option that allows the person to live at home but maintain regular sessions at a health or rehab facility
  • Medication: As this addiction rewires the brain, the drug is used to help prevent withdrawal effects and return the brain to its previous state
  • 12-step programs: Highly useful in managing other addictions like alcohol and cocaine, this program offers a community-based treatment option.
  • Peer and recovery support: This involves working with other recovering peers who can help provide support in attending addiction rehabilitation clinics, restructuring one’s life, and altering dangerous drug habit-fostering habits
Patients Rehab and Treatment

Provigil Hidden Dangers

Modafinil smart drug and other similar medications of Modafinil drug class are Pandora’s box of performance-enhancers. With so much hype surrounding Provigil, there is little talk about its hidden dangers.

By altering the reward pathways of the brain, Modafinil tolerance is created, eventually leading to dependence and abuse.

Persons with a Provigil addiction expose themselves to not only substance abuse but also a heightened detachment and alienation from reality which is more painful during Modafinil withdrawal.

As they crash back to reality every time the high wears off, the person may end up feeling as though life without Modafinil is unbearable. For such a person, treatment is the only option to prevent these thoughts from escalating into harmful actions.

Additionally, the psychoactive and euphoric effects of Modafinil can affect a person’s moods, perceptions, thoughts, and emotions in such a way that the absence of the drug brings negative iterations of these feelings.

Long-term use of Provigil is even riskier because it can cause significant disruption to regular sleep patterns. There is the tendency for things to get to the point where one feels neither sleepiness nor wakefulness, which is unhealthy for the body.

Summarily, there are many use cases where Modafinil can be beneficial for use – especially short-term. However, just like other stimulants with similar functions, there are health risks associated with using the drug, and these health risks are enhanced when the drug is not used according to prescription.

It is important to have a conversation with a qualified doctor about safety issues associated with using Modafinil – especially when dosing on other types of supplements or medications. This will enable the doctor to offer advice and avoid potentially dangerous situations using Provigil.

If you or a loved one are struggling with dependence on Modafinil or other stimulants, reach out to a medical professional close to you for advice on rehabilitation and necessary steps t0 take moving forward. The earlier, the better.

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Page Sources

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Published on: April 18th, 2017

Updated on: October 12th, 2021

About Author

Roger Weiss, MD

Dr. Roger Weiss is a practicing mental health specialist at the hospital. Dr. Weiss combines his clinical practice and medical writing career since 2009. Apart from these activities, Dr. Weiss also delivers lectures for youth, former addicts, and everyone interested in topics such as substance abuse and treatment.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.