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  • Modafinil is a prescription drug sold under the brand name Provigil. As a central nervous system stimulant, it promotes wakefulness and alertness.

    The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies modafinil as a Schedule IV controlled substance. That means it has a relatively low potential for abuse. 

    However, people who do abuse the drug may become addicted to it. Like other addictions, modafinil addiction is a serious disease that may require professional treatment

    What Does Modafinil Treat?

    The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved modafinil to treat the following conditions:

    • narcolepsy (a disorder that causes excessive sleepiness during the day)
    • shift work sleep disorder (a disorder that causes sleeping problems, such as excessive sleepiness or insomnia, in people who work non-traditional hours)
    • obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome (a disorder that disrupts breathing during sleep)

    In addition, some doctors prescribe modafinil off-label to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or excessive fatigue caused by medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. 

    What Is Modafinil Abuse?

    Modafinil abuse occurs when you use the drug in a manner not prescribed by your healthcare provider. For example, you might:

    • take higher doses than prescribed
    • take it more frequently than prescribed
    • take it without a prescription
    • mix it with other drugs
    • crush the pills and snort them 

    Most people who abuse modafinil are high school or college students trying to boost their academic performance. That’s because the drug can significantly improve your concentration, much like Adderall (amphetamine), Ritalin (methylphenidate), and other prescription stimulant drugs.

    Effects Of Modafinil Abuse 

    People who abuse modafinil face the following risks: 

    Increased Side Effects

    The most common side effects of modafinil include:

    • dizziness
    • drowsiness
    • headache
    • loss of appetite
    • nausea
    • diarrhea
    • trouble sleeping
    • sweating
    • shaking

    You’re more likely to experience these effects if you abuse the drug. You may also experience rarer, more serious side effects, such as:

    • trouble breathing or swallowing
    • chest pain
    • fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat 
    • swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
    • anxiety
    • hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there)
    • depression
    • suicidal thoughts

    If you notice these more serious effects, contact your doctor right away.


    If you take a large amount of modafinil, you may overdose. Common symptoms of modafinil overdose include:

    • irritability
    • anxiety
    • restlessness
    • confusion
    • hallucinations
    • shaking
    • nausea
    • diarrhea
    • chest pain
    • slow, fast, or pounding heartbeat 
    • seizures
    • trouble breathing
    • loss of consciousness

    If you think you or someone you know is overdosing on modafinil, seek medical help immediately.


    Many people assume that modafinil isn’t addictive. However, just like cocaine, methamphetamine, and other addictive drugs, modafinil increases the amount of dopamine in your brain. 

    Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) associated with pleasure, reward, and motivation. When you regularly abuse a drug that boosts dopamine, you face a high risk of addiction. 

    Also called substance use disorder, addiction is a disease that makes you feel unable to control your use of a drug.

    Common signs of modafinil addiction include:

    • frequent cravings for modafinil
    • tolerance (needing increasingly higher doses of modafinil to feel the desired effects)
    • physical dependence (feeling unable to function normally without modafinil)

    When you’re physically dependent on modafinil and stop using it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, trouble concentrating, and depression.

    Treatment Options For Modafinil Addiction

    If you or someone you love is addicted to modafinil, seek help at a substance abuse treatment program. You can either choose an inpatient program or an outpatient program

    Inpatient programs are recommended for people with moderate-to-severe addictions, while outpatient programs may work for people with milder addictions.

    Both types of programs offer recovery-focused services such as:

    Medical Detox

    As mentioned above, people who are physically dependent on modafinil may experience withdrawal symptoms upon quitting the drug. During medical detox, doctors will help you reduce or avoid withdrawal symptoms by:

    • instructing you to slowly taper off the drug instead of quitting it cold turkey
    • regularly monitoring your physical and mental health
    • prescribing medications to ease certain withdrawal symptoms

    Mental Health Counseling

    During counseling, a therapist can help you identify your triggers, which are people, places, or other things that make you want to abuse modafinil. You’ll then learn ways to manage those triggers, such as journaling, meditating, or exercising. 

    Your therapist can also help treat any underlying stressors or mental health conditions that contributed to your modafinil abuse in the first place.

    Support Groups

    In a support group, you can discuss the ups and downs of addiction recovery with people who understand. You can also learn important coping tips from group members who are further along in their recovery journeys.

    Aftercare Planning

    Before you leave your treatment program, your doctors will help you design an aftercare plan to reduce your risk of relapse. Most plans include strategies such as:

    • ongoing mental health counseling
    • ongoing support groups
    • nutritional guidance
    • regular exercise
    • assistance with housing, education, or employment

    If you or a loved one struggles with modafinil, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. We provide a variety of substance abuse and addiction treatment services to help you stay healthy and drug-free.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    United States Drug Enforcement Administration - Drug Scheduling
    United States Food and Drug Administration - PROVIGIL (modafinil) Tablets
    United States National Library of Medicine - Effects of Modafinil on Dopamine and Dopamine Transporters in the Male Human Brain: Clinical Implications

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on October 21, 2022
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