Motivated by failing grades and inspired by Hollywood, many teens have turned to modafinil for academic performance enhancement. The drug is dangerous for children to consume, however, and can lead to addiction.
Modafinil is a stimulant prescribed to treat narcolepsy and shift work sleep disorder. The most popular brand of modafinil is Provigil. Widely available on the internet, the drug is also used nonmedically without a prescription.
Stimulants like Adderall, Ritalin and modafinil have grown popular in recent years with teens looking for a boost in school. Although modafinil isn’t an amphetamine like Adderall and Ritalin, it has roughly the same effects. These types of drugs stimulate the user’s brain, altering the natural flow of neurotransmitters. The end result leaves abusers with an intense sense of focus, little to no appetite and little to no need for sleep.
Such pills have also gained fame after Hollywood blockbusters like the 2011 film “Limitless” starring Bradley Cooper show a pill as the key to unlocking super-human smarts and corresponding success. The NZT 48 pill described in the movie is a work of fiction, but many teens looking for an easy answer to their academic woes have fallen for claims that modafinil is the next best thing — a study aid drug that can help boost grades.
Modafinil is a dangerous drug to be abused, however. There are two reasons:
- It can cause a large number of serious side effects — especially in children
- It can cause psychological dependence.
As with any prescription medication, modafinil carries many side effects. It’s mostly known for its effects on sleep — voiding abusers of their need for sleep, which is why many students use the drug as a study aid.
If your child exhibits one or more of these symptoms combined with other signs of drug abuse, they may be using modafinil:
- Trouble falling or staying asleep
- Excessive thirst and dry mouth
- Tight muscles or pain that may cause difficulty moving
- Burning, tingling or numbness of the skin
- Gas, diarrhea or constipation
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty seeing or eye pain
Modafinil also causes more severe side effects, including:
- Peeling skin
- Mouth sores
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, or limbs
- Suicidal thoughts
Additionally, clinical trials saw many pediatric patients developing rare and life-threatening skin conditions, such as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. For this reason, it’s recommended children do not take modafinil.
The danger to taking prescription medications nonmedically is a lack of oversight. If a person with a modafinil prescription experiences side effects, their doctor can adjust the dosage and eliminate these dangerous complications. Abusers of this drug don’t have this luxury, however, so they are more likely to experience side effects that could land them in a hospital.
If prescribed, a typical dose of modafinil is 200 mg once a day. Consuming any more than this amount could lead to overdose.
It is possible to overdose on modafinil, especially if combined with other drugs or alcohol.
Many symptoms of modafinil overdose are the same as the drug’s severe side effects. If a person were to experience these side effects and took large amounts of the drug, they should contact a poison control center or call 911.
Modafinil overdose symptoms include:
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Chest pain
- Slow, fast or pounding heartbeat
- Uncontrollable shaking of a body part
Mixing Modafinil with Drugs or Alcohol
Literature from modafinil prescription manufacturers state users should avoid drinking alcohol while taking modafinil. Modafinil has been known to cause dependence, so users with a history of substance abuse and addiction are also not recommended to take the drug.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies modafinil as a schedule IV controlled substance. Although schedule IV prescription drugs are controlled and are not available over the counter, they are considered to have a low potential for abuse and dependence. Modafinil was designated a schedule IV drug in 1999.
The Controlled Substances Act categorizes drugs and other substances into five different schedules. The scale spans from schedule I — the most dangerous drugs, which do not have any medical purpose and are likely to cause dependence and be abused — to schedule V — medications with a low potential for abuse, but do contain small amounts of narcotics. Each year the DEA publishes an updated list.
Modafinil is available as a prescription drug, brand-name Provigil, in the United States and England. As a schedule IV drug, it’s illegal to buy, use or possess the drug without a prescription in the U.S. Those with a prescription can get it filled at their local pharmacy or drug stores.
The drug is becoming more and more available, however, thanks to the internet. People can order modafinil from across the world privately and anonymously, skirting the law and a doctor’s supervision. Watch out for other names for modafinil, including variants of “daffy.”
Modafinil has a potential to be addictive, especially when teens hoping to score higher grades or cram for exams continually take high doses without a doctor’s supervision. Though research shows users are very unlikely to develop a physical addiction, there is a risk of psychological dependency.
Just like any other medical condition, drug dependency and addiction require medical attention. The sooner your teen gets this help, the sooner they will learn to curb their cravings, avoid using other substances and begin living a healthy life. It’s ok to be nervous or embarrassed during this time — a societal addiction stigma has taught us to close our eyes to the disease, rather than accepting it and seeking help.
And that help is only a phone call away. Our free, confidential hotline is available to you 24/7. Give our expert recovery advisors a call if you have questions or want professional advice about addiction and teen drug rehab. The hotline is always free, with no strings attached.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.