Being impulsive killed Romeo, the star of Shakespeare’s greatest story. The dramatist knew humans better than anyone. Impulsiveness is the driver behind many of our greatest problems: Alcoholism, obesity, addiction, just to name a few.
But what does it really mean to be impulsive? And what does any of this have to do with modafinil? A recently-published study from the University of Warwick and the Imperial College of London reveal that modafinil helps to curb impulsive tendencies. This is big news. Millions of people deal with conditions related to impulsive behavior, and modafinil could be the cure.
The meaning of impulsive
You probably think of being impulsive as a general personality trait. An impulsive person does what they feel like doing, right? No second thoughts. While that’s partially true, it ignores the science behind impulsive behavior. The truth is right in the word.
An “impulse” medically speaking is just a signal in your brain. Neurotransmitters trigger impulses that guide your actions. Hunger is an impulse that tells you to eat, for instance.
Fortunately, as humans, we have some ability to control our impulses. You don’t stop whatever you’re doing and devour food the minute your tummy rumbles. But what if your brain gets a little wonky? What if those impulses get harder to control?
Impulsive disorders are extremely common
Addictions of any sort are forms of impulsive disorders. Whenever your brain likes what you’re doing it releases dopamine which is the brain’s way of saying “do that again.” Dopamine feels good! Most drugs that people abuse release heaps of it. That makes their impulses much stronger, and harder to resist.
But as your body becomes desensitized to the constant dopamine rush, you need more to feel satisfied. That’s why you see addictions gradually increase over time. Whether it’s alcohol, hard drugs, or even food, the price of resisting the impulse goes up as your body becomes physically dependent on the chemical in question. Withdrawal symptoms make quitting seem impossible. Really, the phrase “monkey on your back” describes the impulsive nature of addiction to a T.
Can modafinil make you less impulsive?
So naturally, if you wanted to help someone kick an addiction, you’d try to reduce the severity of their impulses. Make them less impulsive. Well, that’s precisely what this study did. It focused on obesity. In many cases obese people struggle to control their impulses for food. Sugar is highly addictive. It, like cocaine or heroin, releases dopamine in large amounts.
The study gave 60 men three different options: Placebo, Atomoxetine, and modafinil. There were 20 in each group. The only group that showed reduced impulsive behavior took modafinil.
Only healthy people were included in the study. The goal was to see if modafinil reduced innate impulsive behavior. If it did, they theorized, then it would be useful for people struggling with addictions.
Modafinil has already been proven to help curb cravings for methamphetamine addicts. Studies like this show that it reduces impulsive actions even in healthy individuals. That could make you much more productive. Instead of caving in to your impulsive desire to sit and watch TV or play a video game, maybe you can get more work done. Modafinil continues to find novel applications for all types of people, and we hope this study is just the start of what’s to come in 2017.