Provigil dubbed 'Viagra for the brain'

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by Dr. Art Mollen, Special to azfamily.com

GMAZ interview by Scott Pasmore

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 10:36 AM

PHOENIX -- Provigil may be "Viagra for the brain," decreasing extreme sleepiness due to narcolepsy and other sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea. It is also used to help you stay awake during work hours for people with schedules that interfere with a normal sleep routine, often referred to as shift work sleep disorder.

Provigil works to increase wakefulness, by affecting certain chemicals in the brain that control the sleep/wake cycle. Headache, nausea, nervousness, anxiety, dizziness and difficulty sleeping are common side effects.

Serious side effects include chest pain and fast/pounding/irregular heartbeat.

This medication should not be used if you have certain medical conditions, including heart problems or hypertension. Provigil helps keep you awake and reduces excessive daytime sleepiness and improves alertness.

Provigil is FDA-approved for promoting wakefulness in people with narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and shift work sleep disorder. Headache is the most common side effect.

In addition to promoting wakefulness, however, Provigil can also boost intellectual creativity.

There is an increasing use of this medication, and people have promoted the off-label use of stimulants and Provigil as cognitive enhancers with the belief that these drugs are safe.

Provigil blocks dopamine transporters, the molecules that remove dopamine from brain synapses. This increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, the brain’s “reward” mechanism.

Addictive drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine trigger the same mechanism, although much faster and more powerfully than Provigil.

Provigil shares at least one brain receptor with cocaine, but is not the drug’s addiction potential.

People who take Provigil don’t report euphoria or a high. Provigil’s relative safety and its possible benefits are being explored for a number of disorders, including ADHD, autism, and depression. The drug offers a benefit over amphetamine-like stimulants in that it promotes wakefulness without the sleep rebound.

Drugs have very different effects in different people. Provigil could be dangerously addictive to vulnerable individuals.

Along with Xanax and Ambien, Provigil is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule IV drug.

It is not an amphetamine or stimulant and it doesn’t make you high.

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Dr. Art Mollen's practice is located at 16100 N. 71st St. in Scottsdale. For more information, call 480-656-0016 or log on to www.drartmollen.com.

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