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New drug trashes your body while keeping you awake

By: Cindy Napoles

The days of reaching for coffee or an energy drink in order to stay awake long enough to finish up the term paper that’s due tomorrow may be over.

Modafinil, a pill that revs up the central nervous system without the jitteriness of caffeine is starting to find itself in the hands of college students looking for a quick fix to beat the droopy eyelids and saliva dribble often associated with late night studying.

In 1998 the FDA approved Modafinil, which is sold under the brand name Provigil to treat narcolepsy, a severe sleep disorder. But earlier this year, the FDA broadened its uses to include sleep apnea, a narrowing of the airways, and sleep problems caused by shift work. An effort by Cephalon, the company who makes Provgil, to have the FDA approve the pill for excessive sleepiness from any cause, has been rejected… but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to get their hands on a prescription.

Although few numbers are available experts believe modafinil is starting to have an underground life as a pick-me-up for college students, those who work graveyard shifts, and anyone else trying to burn the midnight oil.

Provigil claims to have few side effects – most of them rarely worse than a mild headache or slight nausea.

But while this little white pill might sound like what people struggling to stay awake are looking for, it certainly isn’t a cure.

Scientists warn that cutting back on sleep, even by one hour a night, can have long-term effects on performance, blood pressure and heart rate.

Dr. Ronald Chervin who was involved in clinical trials of modafinil and is the director of the Univesity of Michigan’s Sleep Disorders Center is quoted in the New York Times as saying that 21 hours without sleep is equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .08, which is illegal in many states… including Florida.

Sleep experts are worried that modafinil will become the latest lifestyle drug and hope that college students will find more productive ways to beat the sleepiness.

One helpful way is to try and nap during the day.

Salvador Dali, the artist once said he could work for days by taking short naps.
So while many products promise to keep us bright-eyed and bushy tailed, the healthiest way to stay alert is by getting enough sleep.

0 0 246 01 October, 2004 Health, Lifestyle, News October 1, 2004

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