Is Provigil Dangerous?
The media has recently begun focusing on the drug Provigil, touting it as a "Viagra for the brain." Though this drug is meant to treat people with sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and those who work irregular hours, many healthy people with none of the above conditions are also taking it as it improves concentration. It supposedly gives people huge amounts of energy and the ability to concentrate for long hours without getting tired (one IT programmer said he can code for 12 hours straight while on Provigil. Many people swear by this new drug, even though most are reluctant to admit that they are taking it. This would mean that they are getting an edge on others not necessarily because of their talents or work ethic, but because of popping a pill. Very few people have any side effects, though there has not been enough time to follow up on any long term effects of the drug.
Provigil lets people be physically and mentally alert for unnaturally long periods of time. If something is "unnatural", then it is safe to assume that it is not healthy. Just like steroids allow athletes to train for superhuman amounts of time without them feeling tired, Provigil does the same for the brain. However, steroids only block muscle fatigue and heart strain from registering with the brain, meaning that muscles get strained and tired just the same, but users' brains don't register this fact. This is what often leads to over training, heart failure on the field, and serious sports injuries and burn out. It is likely that Provigil also allows people to not realize how they are straining their brains, which might eventually conceivably lead to mental problems, such as mental fatigue and even insanity.
One TV report showed how a man who swears by Provigil was asked to stop taking it for three days and take a cognitive test and compare the results with when he was on the pill. The man inevitably did better when on the pill, and reported feeling "out of it" and "just not right" when he was off of it. This sounds like the same sort of reaction that anyone who has become dependent on a substance feels. Alcoholics feel "out of it" and "not themselves" when they suddenly stop drinking, and only feel "like themselves" when they take that next drink. This is worrying, as people may become dependent on Provigil and end up only being able to function with this drug. If for some reason the FDA were to ban it in the future, we would be left with Provigil addicts who can no longer function in their jobs or at home.
Provigil is used overwhelmingly by white collar professionals and athletes who want to work more and become more "successful." It is no wonder that people look to any edge they can get in this economy to stay competitive. The man mentioned above actually said he wouldn't even mind if Provigil shortened his life by a few years in exchange for the way he feels when he's on it. That is quite a worrying statement coming from an executive VP, husband and father. Success and competition are pushing people to excel even if it shortens their lives.
It is not known what health problems Provigil could cause in the future. Even though most doctors warn about this, it is relatively easy to get the drug prescribed by a doctor or to buy on the internet. Only time will tell.