Smart drug? Narcolepsy medication Modafinil could make you smarter

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Could This Narcolepsy Medication Actually Make You Smarter?
By PIX11

Talk about a no brainer! Scientists say there's a pill that will make you smarter with almost no short-term side effects.

It's not the super drug Bradley Cooper enjoys in the movie "Limitless," so you won't be able to access your whole brain, but it will improve your memory, focus and creativity without having to worry about getting addicted.

"It just keeps you awake and alert. That's it," said Dr. Sanjeev Kothare, director of pediatric sleep medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center.

The drug is Modafinil, the generic form of Provigil. It was originally created to treat narcolepsy.

Dr. Kothare says he prescribes it a lot.

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Narcolepsy Pill can make you smarter
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Smart drug? Narcolepsy medication Modafinil could make you smarter
Modafinil Molecule. Modafinil Is A Mood Brightening And Memory Enhancing Psychostimulant Used In The Treatment Of Hypersomnia And Narcolepsy. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
Provigil, a drug manufactured by Cephalon Inc. to treat sleep disorders, is pictured in a pharmacy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., on Wednesday, March 22, 2006. Photographer: JB Reed/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Provigil, a drug manufactured by Cephalon Inc. to treat sleep disorders, is pictured in a pharmacy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., on Wednesday, March 22, 2006. Photographer: JB Reed/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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"Half a dozen times every week."

But for those who don't have to worry about falling asleep in the middle of the day, researchers say Modafinil may actually make you smarter.

Researchers from Oxford and Harvard compared 24 different studies testing normal sleeping people and found that most saw an improvement.

"This is used by all kinds of people who need to perform their best at particular times of the year or days," said Dr. Kothare.

Think CPAs during tax season, or students during final exams.

It's similar to Adderall, but targets a specific portion of the brain, limiting side effects and lowering addiction rates.

Several NYU students that PIX11 News spoke to at Washington Square Park weren't exactly flocking to the drug, but were aware of this sort of study aid.

"I mean you're probably not going to believe this, but actually just caffeine," said graduate student Pam Wu.

Romel Williams, a junior at the school, said he'd never take the drug, but knows friends who talk about using similar drugs to study.

"Actually yeah, I've heard a lot more of my friends talking about getting these types of drugs to use," said Williams. "I think it's easy to get distracted nowadays, especially with your phone and stuff. So they say it makes them focus."

Modafinil is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for cognitive improvement and long-term effects still need to be studied.

So in the short term, Dr. Kothare says using the drug to study for a test could be compared to steroids in sports.

"Just as in sports we do not allow anabolic steroids to be used, would it be unfair to say that those kids who don't use it for a particular exam or event do less better than the ones who use it, are they at a disadvantage? Those are the ethical questions that will come up once this drug has been seen to have effect on cognition and memory."

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