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How Effective Is Modafinil for ADHD?

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  • Written By: Erik J.J. Goserud
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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Modanifil is an analeptic drug manufactured by the corporation Cephalon, and it is marketed most commonly under the brand names Provigil and Alertec, among others. Although health care providers utilize this drug to treat sleeping disorders, it has also been used experimentally for the treatment of other conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). The effectiveness of modafinil for ADHD is debatable among experts, and potential risks associated with taking this drug have prevented its widespread use as regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In 2006, after the success of modafinil for ADHD was observed in a number of studies, the FDA found the drug unfit for use by children. The most alarming reason for the discontinuance of modafinil for ADHD was the potential for the development of Stevens-Johnson syndrome among users. In addition to ADHD, this drug has been experimentally used in the treatment of conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and Parkison's disease as well as others.

Before a person takes a new drug, it is important that he or she weighs the potential risks against the suggested benefits. This same method is often used by the FDA when assessing the uses for new drugs before they enter the market. In the case of modafinil for ADHD, the risks of adverse side effects and development of Stevens-Johnson syndrome proved too great to allow for this drug to be a suggested treatment of attention disorders in youths.

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Stevens-Johnson syndrome refers to a skin disease of mysterious origin, commonly believed to come about due to medication reactions. This disfiguring condition causes the epidermis and dermis to become unattached following cell death and can also cause a number of accompanying mental ailments due its aesthetically compromising nature. Taking modafinil for ADHD has caused the onset of this disorder in a number of studies. The potential danger of using this analeptic drug for ADHD outweighs the proven benefits, and although it may be effective, it is likely not worth the risk of failure.

Analeptic drugs refer to stimulants of the central nervous system. The central nervous system is the control center for most higher functions, including alertness, so stimulating this portion of the nervous system can act to "wake up" the body, often countering the dangerous side effects of sleep disorders. For this reason, modafinil has experienced more widespread use in the treatment of sleep disorders than ADHD.

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