The National Sleep Foundation suggests that the average teen needs about 9.25 hours of sleep each night to function at peak levels. Teenagers are often loath to go to sleep at a decent hour. Yet as they have homework assignments to complete, computer games to play and television programs to watch. These sleep-deprived teens can walk through the day like zombies, unable to focus and yet unwilling to change their habits. Furthermore, some sleepy teens become so desperate for a solution that they begin to search for pharmacological remedies. Therefore, many turn to the prescription drug Modafinil.
The Basics of the Drug Modafinil
The researchers who developed the drug Modafinil were looking to help people with narcolepsy. People with this disorder can nod off at a moment’s notice. Their constant attempts to stay awake can leave them feeling depressed and isolated. Modafinil was designed to help, as it can boost feelings of wakefulness and alertness. Furthermore, people with narcolepsy can get through the day without enduring sudden sleep, and their whole lives might improve in the process.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug only for the treatment of narcolepsy. However, research suggests that doctors are providing this medication for all sorts of disorders, including:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic fatigue
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that prescriptions for the drug Modafinil rose 15-fold between 2002 and 2009. This is likely due to this kind of off-label prescription technique. Since this drug is prescribed often, it’s likely that many teens see the pills in the family medicine cabinet. Dabbling in the drug might be easy, since the drug seems to have saturated the marketplace so completely.
Media Focus on the Drug Modafinil
While teens might be tempted to try medications that they find in the family home, some are also avid drug researchers. They scour the Internet for stories about new drugs that can provide them with intense benefits. The simple mention of the drug Modafinil in mainstream media might tempt teens to abuse it.
New York Magazine discussed the abuse of the drug in March of 2013. This article suggested that Wall Street workers took the drug to stay awake and handle the demands of stressful jobs. Warnings about the dangers of the drug were included at the end of the story. But teens might have been tempted by the visual distortions, extreme focus, and happiness described as effects of the drug Modafinil. According to Fox News, a month’s supply of the drug is available online for about $90, and it’s typically imported from India.
Why Teens Use the Drug
Some teens might load up on the drug Modafinil in preparation for major exams or other school-based deadlines. Others might just buy the drug with the intention to experiment, and then find that they can’t stop using the drug once they have started. As a result, dependence can sneak up on a teenager.
Teens might believe that they’re taking a benign drug to help them get through a difficult or busy time. But they’re taking a serious medication that can cause long-term damage or lead to addiction. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association makes the risk of addiction in people who take this drug all too clear. Here, researchers provided people with Modafinil, and then used PET scans to measure changes inside the brain. Addictive drugs cause changes in the way the brain produces or handles the neurotransmitter dopamine. This substance is associated with a feeling of pleasure or euphoria. The drug Modafinil suppresses the function of cells that recycle excess dopamine. As a result, people who took Modafinil were awash with dopamine, experiencing euphoria as well as wakefulness.
Studies like this seem to suggest that the drug Modafinil isn’t quite as benign as users might believe.
The Effects of Modafinil
The medication causes the same kinds of brain changes seen in people who abuse cocaine. Most experts agree that these changes are devastating.
People in the clutches of drugs like this often develop tolerance. As a result, they find that they must increase their drug use to feel the same effects. They also begin to design their lives around the use and abuse of drugs. It’s not a happy life, and it’s not productive. But Modafinil abuse can lead to this kind of persistent damage. Consequently, the damage can have a lasting impact.
The National MS Society suggests that people can develop medical problems while taking the medication, including:
- Allergic reactions
- Suicidal thoughts
Typically, a person with a prescription who experienced these problems would see the prescribing doctor and ask for help. However, teens who are abusing this medication might be reluctant to ask for help. They also might allow the symptoms to continue for long periods of time as a result. It’s also important to mention that the safety of the drug has not been tested in people who are younger than 17, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Young people who were included in clinical trials developed rashes and other serious side effects. Researchers determined that they weren’t the ideal market for the drug Modafinil. Hence, parents need to be vigilant.
Side Effects in Teens
Teens who abuse the drug Modafinil may experience all sorts of side effects that researchers never anticipated. This is because young people weren’t expected to take the medication regularly.
It’s also hard to know how common or how serious side effects might be, because people who are addicted take larger doses of drugs. Researchers focus on therapeutic doses in their work, trying to determine results when using the drug as prescribed. But teens who abuse the drug Modafinil might be taking doses that researchers never considered. Therefore, the medical consequences they face might be much more intense.
Find a Solution
It can be difficult to confront a teen about an addiction issue. It is even harder if things seem to be going well. Teens who have soaring grades, good focus, and a will to get things done seem to merit praise, not punishment. It’s important to remember, however, that teens might be paying a terrible price for their success. And they might desperately want to change their lives for the better.
An addiction treatment program, such as the program at Newport Academy, can help. We help teens achieve a balance between health and success. We can help your child learn how to experience happiness and peace without leaning on any addictive substance.