14 Aug Does modafinil permanently change your brain?
Modafinil used for brain power has emerged to be the king of smart drugs which promises enhanced memory, increased focus and maximised productivity. Apart from being used for its traditional purposes of narcolepsy, sleep apnea and shift work, it is being extensively used off-label by individuals for its cognitive enhancing functions.
Veteran Users or beginners are often worried about the long term effect of modafinil on our brain.
Here in this article we will try to elaborate on the facts of using modafinil long term before that we should first understand the mechanism of modafinil.
How does modafinil work?
Modafinil used for brain power is a drug with multiple actions which affects several neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain transmitting signals between cells.
- Modafinil affects the dopamine system and dopamine increases ability to think and plan.
- It affects norepinephrine which can again increase alertness and enhance focus.
- histamine can keep you awake.
It is believed to enhance short-term memory by as much as 10%, through its influence on a neurotransmitter called glutamate.
Side effects of Modafinil When compared to other nootropics modafinil can be labelled as a safe and well tolerated drug. No potential risk has been associated with long term use of the drug till date. Some mild side effects may be observed in people introduced to the drug. Common Symptoms may look like- (6) (7)
- Fluctuating BP
Some of the severe side effects which is less commonly noticed includes:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Bruising and bleeding
- Severe skin rashes Having said that the side effects are nearly non-existent in users (i.e., Only about 17% of the users get affected)
Only if any such effect occurs that is mainly due to overdose or wrong timing of drug ingestion. No deaths from modafinil overdose have been recorded ever.
What happens if we use modafinil over the long term?
No long-term study on modafinil has been conducted till date with any proven potential risk. That does not mean using modafinil for prolonged time can permanently improve the cognitive function of an individual and the person lives like a superman his entire life! The effects of modafinil on the brain are short term and last about the half-life of the drug; it does not modify your brain permanently. We, from our past experiences, can suggest occasional use of the drug in moderate quantities for extracting its benefits.
Many researchers warn that using the smart drug in the long-term may cause a risk of psychological and physical dependence. However, it is very rare for such side effects to appear, and may be more likely when the drug is misused or abused or used in high doses over a long period of time. Rarely will an individual experience any withdrawal symptom on stopping modafinil. Dr Peter Morgan from Yale University states “If somebody takes modafinil long-term, they may develop some of the same deficits in slow-wave sleep as cocaine users,”.
He believes prolonged use might have an effect on memory, so he says “Nicotine is an amazing cognitive enhancer, purely from a lab perspective! But for people who use nicotine chronically, we know their baseline cognitive function goes down and the nicotine is maybe bringing them back up to normal. So now nicotine is no longer a cognitive enhancer, it’s a cognitive normaliser. Because of chronic use, the brain has adapted and without it, you’re performing at a lower level. There’s no reason to think that modafinil would be any different.” (15)
Another research study by Dr Nora Volkow and colleagues suggests that higher doses of 400mg can cause effects on areas of the brain generally involved in substance abuse and dependence. As various researchers suggest, we can conclude that prolonged use of modafinil in excessive doses might affect brain health. Being said that, if taken in right doses following simple methods like splitting doses, following a schedule and avoiding frequent use, any long-term side effect can be avoided. You can follow this article here to know how to maximize the cognitive enhancing benefits of modafinil by minimizing the risks and side effects