By Charissa Echavez, Published In The Science Times

In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of modafinil to help patients who are suffering from wakefulness or sleep-related disorders such as narcolepsy. Since then, it has been used for both on-label and off-label indications.

Modafinil has already been widely used across the U.K. and U.S. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Varsity, almost 10 percent of their students at the University of Cambridge confessed of taking the drug as brain enhancers. And both Oxford University and Harvard Medical School claimed it as the world’s first safe “smart drug” and is indeed effective. Dr. Ruairidh Battleday of Oxford University said that “Modafinil can and does enhance some cognitive functions.” She and Dr. Anna-Katharine Brem of Harvard Medical School assessed various papers on cognitive improvement with modafinil, found 24 papers that studied its different advantages, and learned that its performance-enhancing capacity actually depends per task. What unexpectedly surfaced is that the longer and more complex the tasks are, the more the drug worked.

The well-known ‘study’ drug is believed to enhance creativity and decision-making skills, increase attention span, and improve memory or other aspects of cognition. Although little is known about the real long-term side effects of this drug, interviews from students who have taken modafinil revealed that they usually experience feelings such as restlessness, headache, mood swings, insomnia, confusion and palpitation.

However, the manufacturing company of the drug itself claimed that they produce the drug for the sole purpose of treating sleep-related disorders only. More research should be conducted on both the good and adverse effects of the drug since most of the discussions about this topic are widely based on anecdotes and surveys only. For now, it is helping students boost their grades without actually knowing its cost to their health.

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