Modafinil is one of those things that seem to have come out of nowhere. Nowadays it’s become an extremely popular medicine for a very diverse range of people. But a lot of people find themselves wondering just exactly where it came from. How can something seemingly emerge out of thin air to become a highly demanded substance in a matter of a few short years?
Well, it might surprise you to learn that Modafinil has been around since the 1970s!
It all dates back to the French chemist Michel Jouvet. Jouvet was always interested in sleep, though not in the same way that most of us are in that we always want more of it. Jouvet studied sleep and used new technologies that were available to him in the 1950s, things such as EEG scans which had just been invented. His research resulted in the discovery of sleep stages. Today REM sleep is widely understood to be the crucial time for our bodies’ recovery, and also for dreaming. Back in the 50’s, that idea never existed. Jouvet proved definitively that sleep was much more complex than we had originally thought.
Curiously enough he even performed extensive monitoring of the sleep cycles and dreams of cats, comparing healthy ones to ones with brain damage in order to identify which areas of the brain were responsible for sleep behaviors.
So it’s no surprise that given Jouvet’s interest in the field of sleep study would also lead him to examine common sleep disorders. He started working for Group Lafon in the 1970s. This French pharmaceutical company gave Jouvet the freedom to pursue numerous different compounds in search of reliable cures for sleep deprived patients.
Late in the 70s Jouvet synthesized a large number of compounds, one of which was called Adrafinil. Adrafinil was found to help patients with narcolepsy, a chronic condition in which the patient simply never feels well rested. This leads to falling asleep at inappropriate times, or possibly even dangerous ones. Adrafinil was marketed as a narcolepsy solution in the 1980s and was reported to be quite successful, but unfortunately came with several side effects.
Adrafinil is a “prodrug”, which means it metabolizes into other compounds which create the effects. The primary metabolite of Adrafinil is Modafinil. But Adrafinil didn’t just metabolize into Modafinil, there were traces of other chemicals as well. So later on, in the early 90s, Modafinil was produced alone. This eliminated some of the common complaints and side effects, since the other metabolites would not be created in the body. In 1994 Modafinil was released for prescription in France and has continued to be sold worldwide ever since.
But while Modafinil was originally designed for narcolepsy patients, people soon discovered that its ability to enhance alertness and focus could be useful in other situations. Narcolepsy affects roughly 200,000 people in the US, yet far more people have reported trying Modafinil for other reasons. University students quickly adopted the medication for long study sessions. Around the same time, various military agencies around the world also started employing Modafinil for their soldiers, particularly in the air force. In fact, the United States Air Force used Modafinil in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Today, Modafinil can be found in both generic and brand-name forms, and is available via numerous distributors. Modafinil has stood the test of time, and has proven to be far more effective than common stimulants such as caffeine without the addictiveness and withdrawal symptoms.