World’s First Safe ‘Smart Drug’ May Also Help Patients With This Dangerous Condition

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that affects about 18 million Americans. On an average night, someone suffering from obstructive sleep apnea might stop breathing 60 times per hour. Consequently, sleep apnea may lead to high blood pressure, daytime fatigue, complications with medicines or surgery, and even liver problems.

Fortunately, there are ways to treat it. There are mouthpieces and devices that can help, and patients can opt for medications and even surgical procedures. One such medicine, however, has other effects, and is now being called the world’s first safe “smart drug.”

Harvard and Oxford researchers have found in a new review of two dozen studies that Modafinil, a drug that’s used to treat sleep apnea and narcolepsy but is regularly taken to improve congnitive performance, focus, decision-making skills, and planning skills, can actually boost patients’ brainpower.

Modafinil, which is sold under the brand name Provigil at, likely works by increasing blood flow to the brain, according to researchers.

Other “smart” drugs, such as Ritalin, have serious side effects, such as weight loss, vomiting, vision problems, and even heart palpitations. Though there isn’t a lot known about Modafinil’s side effect just yet, they’re minimal in people who take the drug short-term.

“Modafinil seems to be the first ‘smart drug’ that is reasonably safe for healthy people,” said review co-author Anna-Katharine Brem.

The review, which was published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, analyzes 24 placebo-controlled studies of healthy, non-sleep-deprived people done between 1990 and 2014, allowing researchers to overcome the limits of the studies, such as narrow demographics, and conflicting results, so that researchers can draw an overarching conclusion.

Patients should always be warned about the recommended duration of treatment, which is determined based on the type of insomnia. The risk of developing psychomotor disorders, including impaired driving ability, increases: if you take Ambien from at least 7-8 hours before performing the actions that require high focus and fast speed of psychomotor reactions; if you take the dose exceeding the recommended one; if you combine Ambien with other CNS depressants, ethanol or drugs that increase the concentration of Ambien in blood.

The use of cognitive enhancers is often viewed as cheating, akin to doping in sports. However, a University of Oxford researcher Joao Faiano argues that Modafinil’s use shouldn’t be seen as any different as caffeine’s. If anything, it’s better in that it does more, and doesn’t have the risk of addiction.

Maybe it’s time to put down that hot cup of java, and take a pill, instead.

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