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Is Provigil Addictive?

Addiction Risk Seen in Wakefulness Drug Provigil
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Provigil: How Addictive Is It?

David Weinshenker, PhD, associate professor of human genetics at Emory University, Atlanta, has performed some of the mouse studies Volkow cites.

Weinshenker agrees with Volkow that Provigil shares at least one brain receptor with cocaine, but he downplays the drug's addiction potential.

"What is Provigil's street value? It is zero. There are not addicts walking around buying and selling modafinil," Weinshenker tells WebMD. "Most people who take Provigil don't report euphoria or being high. They don't even report feeling particularly stimulated, like caffeine. In terms of addiction and withdrawal, it just doesn't do that."

Weinshenker notes that because of Provigil's relative safety, its possible benefits are being explored for a wide number of disorders, including ADHD, autism, and depression. He says the drug offers a major benefit over amphetamine-like stimulants in that it promotes wakefulness without the sleep rebound -- a need for extra sleep when the drug wears off.

Weinshenker and Vogel both note that because it blocks the brain receptors needed by cocaine and methamphetamine, researchers are exploring whether Provigil might help wean addicts from these life-threatening addictions.

But Volkow maintains that because drugs have very different effects in different people, Provigil may very well be dangerously addictive to vulnerable individuals.

"A vulnerable person would be anyone who has a present or past history of addiction, whether to alcohol, nicotine, or cocaine," Volkow says. "Or, your family history may indicate your risk, if you have close relatives with a history of addiction. But if you don't have this history, it does not mean you are completely safe."

Anecdotal evidence of Provigil addiction can be found on the non-judgmental Erowid web site, in a section where drug users report their experiences.

"It is now day 5 and I am back up to 1200 mg per day and cannot imagine not having this stuff," writes one user, who started off with one 200 milligram pill from her husband's Provigil prescription. "I guess I’m the one person out of a million that can actually get addicted to this miraculous 'non-addictive' drug."

Along with Xanax and Ambien, Provigil is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule IV drug -- a controlled substance with low potential for abuse relative to Schedule III drugs such as codeine or anabolic steroids.

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