Can Narcolepsy Drugs Be Addictive?

A drug used to treat narcolepsy is increasingly being taken to sharpen mental skills, but researchers now report troubling evidence that it also harbors the potential for abuse. A new study shows Modafinil (Provigil) apparently alters the dopamine “reward system” in the brain.

“This drug does seem to show properties that it can be habit-forming,” said Dr. Richard A. Friedman, director of the Psychopharmacology Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. “This is the first human study that shows that it does cause the release of dopamine, which is a hallmark of drugs of addiction. This is a little bit of an early warning that this drug may not be free of habit-forming properties.”

Friedman also said that he had used the drug for treatment-resistant depression and in people who have circadian rhythm problems who have commonly reported that “they feel really good.”

“It’s important that these medications be utilized under the proper surveillance of a physician,” said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “If you’re taking modafinil without a medical indication, then the risk-benefit ratio becomes very different.”

In addition to being used for sleeping disorders, modafinil is also used to