So-called "smart drugs" are increasingly being used "off-label" by students and professionals trying to get ahead.
It's called modafinil, and it's going to change your life.
The drug typically is prescribed to treat narcolepsy, but research shows it's effective for much more than that. In short, it makes people smarter.
That is, the drug will sharpen your focus, allowing you to make better decisions and retain more information, deal successfully with new ideas and dexterously handle multitasking.
Modafinil will change your life because you soon may feel like you have to take it if you want to keep up with your professional or academic peers.
"Modafinil is one of an arsenal of drugs, which includes Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta, that are increasingly used 'off-label' by college students and adults seeking greater productivity," Olga Khazan writes for The Atlantic. Read the story.
How does modafinil work? Here's a brief explanation in a study published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology: "Modafinil is an FDA-approved eugeroic that directly increases cortical catecholamine levels, indirectly upregulates cerebral serotonin, glutamate, orexin and histamine levels, and indirectly decreases cerebral gamma-amino-butrytic acid levels." The paper's researchers, from Harvard and Oxford universities, reviewed 24 studies about modafinil's effect on users published over 24 years.
The trend of "off-label" use of the drug is likely to accelerate, seeing as the researchers found that the side effects are about the same as drinking coffee, though there can be significant negative consequences if it's taken in large doses.
UCLA clinical psychiatrist James McGough, who was not part of the European Neuropsychopharmacology study, believes cognitive stimulants such as modafinil offer few dangers for people taking them for reasons beyond their current medically approved uses. He says, simply, "they're safe."
And that may end up being the problem. Writes Khazan:
"Will we soon be locked in a productivity arms race, pumping out late-night memos with one hand while Googling for the latest smart-drug advancement with the other? Some sports organizations, for what it's worth, already ban the use of these drugs without an ADHD diagnosis for the same reasons they ban steroids and other performance enhancers. Will employer drug tests soon screen for off-label modafinil use? Or on the contrary, will CEOs welcome the rise of extra-sharp workers who never need sleep?"
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk have publicly worried about the potential rise of artificial intelligence — that computers will make humans obsolete. But a greater risk might be that we become machines ourselves, increasingly immune to basic human needs like downtime. There's already a term for it: "Extreme worker."
— Douglas Perry
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Why modafinil could be the 'smart drug' that changes your life – OregonLive.com