Off-label Provigil might be addictive

Remember all those scientists who admitted to Nature that they sometimes used Provigil--Cephalon's stay-awake drug for folks with sleep apnea/narcolepsy/shift work syndrome--to make them more productive? Well, they might want to turn their more-productive brains toward analyzing the potential risks.

A new study shows that Provigil isn't the benign little puppy it seemed to be. Word was, Provigil was less likely to be addictive than other stimulants because it doesn't boost dopamine levels. But researchers used PET scanning to find that, lo and behold, Provigil actually does raise dopamine levels. Not as much as amphetamines do, but as much as the ADHD stimulant Ritalin (methylphenidate) does.

Study author Nora Volkow, who's director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said she hopes this small study inspires others to dig deeper into the potential risks of using Provigil off-label. A risk-free drug to make people better, smarter, faster--"that is like fairy tales," she told the Associated Press. "We currently have nothing that has those benefits without side effects."

For its part, Cephalon said people shouldn't pop Provigil willy-nilly: Jeffry Vaught, chief scientific officer, called Provigil "a very serious medication for serious medical disease. This is for pathological sleep disruption, not for people who've stayed awake for 24 hours."

- read the USA Today story
- check out the article from the Associated Press