Modafinil’s low potential for abuse proven by studies
One of the reasons modafinil has been praised as an effective treatment for so many conditions is that it has a very low potential for abuse. But just what does that mean? What constitutes abuse? And what is a low potential? To answer these questions we need to analyze what scientists and researchers examine as criteria for abuse, and explore modafinil’s effects in controlled studies.
How abuse is defined
Drug abuse is effectively the use of any drug with negative consequencces beyond the expected side-effects of the drug itself. So it’s not abuse to take your chemotherapy medicine just because it has some negative consequences, nor is it a problem to take some illegal drugs provided they don’t cause you significant problems.
But what researchers have to consider is the potential for abuse. This is determined by a number of factors, and a full guideline by the FDA outlines some of the most important variables.
Laboratory tests will give rats an option to eat a regular food pellet or press a lever for a pellet that contains the drug being tested. If the rat consistently selects the drug, then it’s clear that it has a higher potential for abuse.
Tests are also done to figure out what effect the drug has on the brain. Dopamine is particularly a concern. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that tells your brain to do something again by giving it a pleasurable feeling. A high dopamine response is characteristic of cocaine for example.
Modafinil’s potential for drug abuse
Modafinil has been shown to increase dopamine uptake, causing mild sensations of euphoria which some users report. In a similar study, it actually multiplied the effects of cocaine significantly.
Another study showed that it has a very low potential for abuse compared to common amphetamine drugs, which are often used for the same effects. Ritalin and Adderall fall into this category. Users did not feel the urge to re-dose, a very important indicator of safety, as that urge is connected to addiction.
Is off-label use abuse?
This question is one of the big ones pushing further research into modafinil’s potential for abuse. As many students and young workers take modafinil for off-label benefits, there is concern that they may develop a modafinil habit.
The key thing to consider is whether your modafinil use is affecting your life in a negative way. If you can’t function without it, then maybe it’s a problem. If you’re taking too much and losing sleep, which leads to taking more modafinil the next day to compensate, then you’re in a potentially dangerous loop.
Be conscious of how you use your medicine and avoid patterns of behavior that put you at risk. Modafinil itself is relatively harmless and unlikely to become a problem, but when misused it could lead to that exact situation.