Modafinil: why it's really the 'not-so-smart' drug

Modafinil: the risks versus benefit

All medicines have side effects to varying degrees, although not everyone will experience every side effect. The extent to which we are prepared to suffer a side effect depends on the severity of the illness being treated. A painkiller being used to treat a simple headache would not be very popular, if, for example, it caused hair loss. What's worse - a mild headache or losing your hair? But if you were being treated for cancer, losing your hair might be a small price to pay for spending extra months or years with your loved ones. This is an extreme example, but it demonstrates the balance that has to be found between the risks a medicine has and the benefits it gives.

As a pharmacist, for me there is no such thing as a 'safe' medicine - any drug can cause problems and especially if it's being used in ways the manufacturer did not intend. If you are young and healthy, not being treated for any illness, what level of side effects would be acceptable to you?

A full list of all the side effects that may be experienced when taking a medicine can be found in the manufacturer's patient information leaflet. Here are just a few common or very common side-effects associated with modafinil:

Headache, dizziness, pins and needles, abdominal pain, nausea, dry mouth, diarrhoea, indigestion, constipation, nervousness, insomnia, anxiety, depression, abnormal thinking, confusion, irritability, racing pulse, palpitations.