Can Modafinil Help with Depression?

The Modvigil Blog continues to examine the potential applications for Modafinil. Despite its lengthy existence, it seems that we are just beginning to discover the true potential of this pill for a number of complicated disorders. Recently I posted an article about Modafinil treating ADHD symptoms. But did you know that Modafinil also has been tested to aid patients with depression?

Depression is an extremely complex condition that has yet to be completely understood by neuroscientists and psychologists alike. It’s understood that there is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes its victims to feel prolonged sadness, lethargy, and a lack of motivation and desire to live. This can be brought on by a number of reasons. Indeed, depression is often caused by a traumatic event such as the loss of a loved one, a divorce, financial worries, or other problematic events common to life. However, it doesn’t always arise from a logical source. Many people find themselves depressed for no apparent reason, and this can make overcoming the depression even more difficult as there is no obvious issue to solve.

Regardless of the cause of depression, one issue is that it tends to linger and can become a chronic problem lasting years. People who have experienced this type of depression describe it as being a horrendous experience, deflating one’s sense of joy and self-worth to sometimes suicidal lows.

Medical treatment for depression has advanced steadily throughout the years. Ever since the discovery of serotonin as a brain transmitter, and then the understanding of chemicals’ effects on the brain, we’ve realized that it’s possible to correct that imbalance using drugs. If you’re an American citizen, you’ve undoubtedly watched dozens of commercials advertising these medicines on almost every channel. Anti-depressants have become a billion dollar industry in their own right.

How can Modafinil Help with Depression?

Firstly, Modafinil’s exact mechanism of action in the brain is so far uncertain and there are only theories which scientists are working to confirm. It’s unlikely that Modafinil directly treats the chemical imbalance that spurs depression onward. Instead, Modafinil seems to have the ability to counteract some of depression’s symptoms.

Consider for a moment the way a depressed person usually feels. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are common. In addition, sufferers of depression lose interest in their regular activities. Concentration is reduced as a result of this lack of interest. Appetite and sleep are often deregulated, with some patients overdoing one or the other, or both, or perhaps underdoing them entirely. A depressed person usually seems out of energy and lacks a certain ‘spark’ in life.

Now, contrast those symptoms with the way Modafinil makes the average user feel. People feel invigorated, having more energy to perform every sort of task at hand. Concentration and focus greatly increase, making even the most mundane activity bearable and easy to manage. Appetite is usually reduced, but is also simultaneously regulated as people will tend to eat more in the evenings to compensate. Sleep is likewise put under the user’s control; you’ll sleep after the pill wears off, having spent a lot of useful energy during the day. As most Modafinil users will attest, an early-morning dose gives you a new outlook on your usual activities.

This was confirmed in a minor yet very interesting clinical trial. 21 depressed patients were given varying doses of Modafinil in addition to their usual anti-depressant drug. 43% of these patients showed a more than 50% improvement to their score on the Major Depression Inventory, which is a test used to measure depression. Interestingly, the scores dropped in a wide variety of categories. Hostility for example is common in depression, and it was also reduced in Modafinil. This would seem somewhat counter-intuitive as a large number of Modafinil users report feeling more irritable or testy.

So Should I take Modafinil for Depression?

This is merely my assumption, and I’m not a doctor nor do I claim to give any accurate medical advice, but it seems that Modafinil is likely endowing these depressed patients with that missing spark, that extra chemical motivation needed to get up and seize the day. Indeed, the researchers found that somatization (the creation of symptoms with no apparent cause) was reduced, precisely the thing that makes depression so hard to treat.

While this was only a very early clinical trial, it’s backed up by some user experiences as well. An interesting sample from Erowid, submitted in 2006, showed a depressed person who experienced lethargy and an intense desire to sleep. It seems that Modafinil removed that desire, and this seemed to break the cycle of depression.

So if you or someone you know is depressed, and has been sleeping excessively and showing a lack of motivation or energy, perhaps it would be wise for them to visit a doctor to investigate Modafinil as a potential cure for this dearth of dynamism. When combined with an anti-depressant that treats the chemical imbalance responsible for the depressed state, it may prove very useful. Of course, more data needs to be brought in before this is considered an on-label treatment, and it will likely be some time before we get to that point. But for now, it seems that Modafinil is showing promise in yet another area.

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