Provigil Addiction And Abuse. How To Treat Modafinil Addiction?

Last Updated: July 2, 2021

Authored by Roger Weiss, MD

What is Modafinil? Modafinil is a eugeroic or wakefulness-promoting drug originally developed and manufactured in France in the 1970s. Initially indicated for the treatment of narcolepsy, Modafinil quickly gained prominence as a wakefulness-promoting drug with a broad spectrum of applications including sleep-deprived military personnel and factory workers. Modafinil works by selectively inhibiting dopamine reuptake leading to increased concentrations of the neurotransmitter in the brain. This leads to increased wakefulness and alertness. When taken for performance-enhancing purposes, Provigil abuse often occurs. This, over time, leads to Provigil addiction, a substance abuse state that requires medical intervention.

What Causes Modafinil Addiction?

What Does Modafinil Do?

Provigil pills
Modafinil is classified as a Schedule IV drug (PDF) and is approved for specific therapeutic uses but with a relatively low physical addiction rate. Modafinil is approved for on-label treatment of narcolepsy, idiopathic hypersomnia, shift work sleep disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness. It also uses to reach a recreational high effect of Modafinil. Off-label uses include as a cognitive enhancer and an overall performance enhancing drug. Modafinil excels in these uses because of its quick action and few short-term side effects involved. When a person takes Modafinil, they gain clarity of mind, they can focus on tasks longer, and they can go with little to no sleep for extended periods. These effects make it attractive to persons hoping to increase their stamina and performance and may include college students, shift workers, amateur athletes and those in the entertainment industry. Such drugs as Provigil and Nuvigil are very similar and exude the same effects in the body, although differ in side effects.

Modafinil Abuse Potential

While Provigil has few known short-term effects, its cognitive and performance-enhancing effects that can make patients abuse it. When a person first starts taking Modafinil, the effects are quick and, in a manner, magical. However, as the person continues taking it, they may feel as though it is not having the desired effect. In other cases, the person may hope to further heighten the effects they currently have by increasing the dose.

The Signs and Symptoms of Provigil Abuse

What is Provigil Used For?

The rise of so-called smart drugs has led to the increased off-label use of Provigil. One primary driver is the biohacking movement that claims to enable people to bio-hack their brains and bodies to enhance performance and cognitive capabilities. When taken this way, Provigil addiction provides an escape from normal life by giving the person an enhanced means of experiencing reality. However, as Modafinil also has limitations, this may prove to be a source of frustration for the person taking it, especially if they are still unable to achieve what they aspire to even while on it. The result is a spiraling cycle of increasing dosages and an amplified sense of hopelessness when their hopes are not realized. Modafinil uses with other illicit drugs is also a possible outcome for persons abusing the drug.

Provigil Abuse Signs

What is a drug Modafinil major abuse sign? Generally, a person with a Provigil addiction will be taking more than 1200 mg/day. When this happens, some signs can identify such a person.
Modafinil addiction and abuse signs include:

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

Other signs may include drug seeking tendencies such as doctor shopping and prescription drugs diversions. Persons with a Provigil addiction will also often exhibit mood swings and character changes, indicative of their states when they are on Modafinil and when they have not taken a dose.

Provigil Addiction Statistics and Facts

Office worker taking a pill and holding a blister hands close up with desktop on background.

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 leads to tolerance and the development of drug cravings. Anything that alters the reward systems of the brain can lead to addiction.
That is why, much as there is not much data on Provigil addiction statistics, it is a ticking time bomb affecting the brains of persons dependent on it in a manner not yet fully understood by the medical community. For a person with a Modafinil addiction, it may not be a physical addiction with attendant physical symptoms, but the psychological dependence does kick in, especially when they realize life is not the same without it.

Social Trends

Modafinil addiction is a social pandemic waiting to blow up. Considered a smart drug, Provigil addiction, especially among young people working in high-stress environments, 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 are taking it find it hard to cope after they stop taking it. They can no longer stay up late as they could, 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.

Treatment and Recovery for Modafinil Abuse

Modafinil addiction treatment is recommended for persons taking it beyond its prescribed dose limits and uses. For a person taking over 1200 mg of this drug, some side effects of Provigil can point towards substance abuse and a need for treatment. These symptoms 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.  If a person with a Modafinil addiction experiences any of these symptoms, they should consider seeking treatment for substance abuse disorder.
Treatment options for Modafinil addiction may include one or a combination of the following drug addiction treatment methods:

  • Counseling: As most Modafinil addictions are psychological and behavioral, individual or group counseling can help realign the person for recovery.
  • Inpatient or residential treatment: These provide an oasis of treatment 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 a treatment option that allows the person to live at home but maintain regular treatment sessions at a health or rehab facility.
  • Medication:As Modafinil 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 the treatment of 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.

Provigil Hidden Dangers

Provigil and other smart drugs are the Pandora’s box of performance-enhancing drugs. With so much hype surrounding Provigil, there is little talk about its hidden dangers.

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.

Page Sources

  1. Schmidt A, Müller F, Dolder PC, Schmid Y, Zanchi D, Egloff L, Liechti ME, Borgwardt S. Acute Effects of Methylphenidate, Modafinil, and MDMA on Negative Emotion Processing. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2018 Apr 1;21(4):345-354.
  2. Ramachandra B. A Critical Review of Properties of Modafinil and Analytical, Bioanalytical Methods for its Determination. Crit Rev Anal Chem. 2016 Nov;46(6):482-9.

Published on: April 18th, 2017

Updated on: July 2nd, 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.