Provigil (or Modafinil)
December 3, 2001 10:07 PM   Subscribe

Provigil (or Modafinil) is a new drug, announced today. It is currently available for narcoleptics, but it is also available to the general public. It creates a state of wakefulness in users, eliminating the desire to sleep. It does this without the side effects of typical alertness/CNS stimulants (ie amphetimines, or caffeine). Tests have shown that people can stay awake with no loss in cognitive power for up to 96 hours. This is big news -- what would you do with an extra 8 hours in your day? Unlike IT, this really could have an impact on society.
posted by kaefer (52 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I, for one, would be finishing up my research paper proposal without nodding....off...must...sleep...nofalwedsfjk...zzzzzzzzzzz.......

Actually, I'll skip the drug -- gimme the JAVA; that way, at least you can taste it on the way down! As my fridge-magnet says: COFFEE -- You Can Sleep When You're Dead!
posted by davidmsc at 10:17 PM on December 3, 2001 [1 favorite]


I love substituing drugs for health.

Now, at last, I can stay up through an entire campaign of Civilization III.
posted by Down10 at 10:19 PM on December 3, 2001


what would you do with an extra 8 hours in your day?

This isn't a tiny pick-me-up to slightly lengthen your work day, a quick jolt of caffine to help you finish your work, this can keep you up for four days straight.

I can't imagine an application this would help me in, except those times of major procrastination and/or looming deadlines. I suppose I could slack off for a few weeks, and when a project is due for client review, pop a couple of these babies and pile on weeks of work in a few short days.
posted by mathowie at 10:22 PM on December 3, 2001


I saw an X-Files about this. It gives you crazy dream-powers. Beware.
posted by Hildago at 10:31 PM on December 3, 2001


The last thing society needs is a decline in REM sleep. People are cranky enough and tests on mice have shown that a week or two without REM sleep results in the ultimate time saver: death.
posted by skallas at 10:31 PM on December 3, 2001


How do you recover from four days of no sleep? When the drug wears off, do you just collapse or something? Too weird.
posted by nstop at 10:32 PM on December 3, 2001


Sign me up. I could use one or two of those badboys since finals are on the horizon.
posted by catatonic at 10:40 PM on December 3, 2001


I would imagine that being awake 24 hours a day like that would prove to be fairly depressing. I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that . . . yeah, yeah, yeah. What you're going to end up doing is watching tv from midnight until 8am in the morning.
posted by billman at 10:44 PM on December 3, 2001


Ten years from now we'll see the horrible long-term side effects in a generation of college students.

Really though, while this is neat, I am against anything that could (will) exacerbate the already epidemic lack of sufficient sleep in the U.S. The cost is too high to recklessly play with drugs that make it easier.
posted by Nothing at 10:45 PM on December 3, 2001


Drugs like this become a bit of an arms race. What do you do when all your classmates are taking Provigil and are more prepared for exams than you are?

What do you do when the job promotion goes to the keener putting in 16 hour days?

I'm interested to see if this will catch on for general use. As usual, SF has covered this topic already.
posted by kaefer at 10:45 PM on December 3, 2001


There is a very interesting article on this topic in the new issue of the New Yorker magazine (Dec 3rd issue). Apparently the military is a big funder of this research, as they are interested in having a fighting force in which each soldier can stay awake for 1 week at a time (!).

Pessimist that I am, I immediately spun a vision of the future where only the super rich can afford the luxury of "Sleeptime".
posted by puppy kuddles at 10:49 PM on December 3, 2001


Dolphins don't have REM sleep, and those little fuckers are awesome. Perhaps this drug will give us the ability to splash around, turn flips in the air, and eat massive quantities of fish.
posted by chaz at 10:58 PM on December 3, 2001


soldier can stay awake for 1 week at a time (!).

I believe that's what the Nazi's did to further the blitzkrieg. They used either Meth or Barbs... I don't know which one.
posted by geoff. at 11:02 PM on December 3, 2001


Holy fucking cow. Yes, we're definitely in "Beggars in Spain" territory here. This is completely flabbergasting news, I thought that would always be science fiction.

This could be a boon to doctors, firemen, long-haul truckers, and lots of other professions that already rely on (often illegal, but just as often quietly tolerated) stimulants to survive their grueling shifts.

It may allow one to hold a full-time job and go to school at the same time, thereby opening higher education to a whole new crop of students. Hell, I'd probably go back to school if I could still hold down a full-time job. Working two jobs (or one full-time job plus being a stay-at-home homemaker) may well become feasible as well.

And that's just off the top of my head. kaefer is quite right -- this could change a lot of things.
posted by kindall at 11:05 PM on December 3, 2001


Heck, imagine making love all night, and still being alert at work the next day!
posted by kindall at 11:28 PM on December 3, 2001


Drugs like this become a bit of an arms race. What do you do when all your classmates are taking Provigil and are more prepared for exams than you are?

Ever since I was a kid, I've always dreamed of having a magical clock that stops time. I used to have long, drawn-out fantasies of what I'd do. Need to finish a book report, stop time, read the whole book the morning it is due and write up the report. Want to sleep some more? Work until 4am, but then hit the special clock early, get 10 hours of sleep and still get up at 7am.

You can see how this would benefit someone's academic and professional career. Now imagine this pill is sort of like that magic time-stopping clock. You can work hour after hour while people sleep. You can bet people needing every advantage will use something like this.
posted by mathowie at 11:33 PM on December 3, 2001


Most frequently reported adverse events were headache, nausea, nervousness, anxiety, infection and insomnia. Most adverse events were mild to moderate.

One of it's adverse effects is insomnia? What the . . . Also, I'm not into even "mild to moderate" infection or nausea.
posted by raysmj at 12:10 AM on December 4, 2001


If this one has too many side effects for you, within the next decade there will be half a dozen similar drugs for you to choose from. Just like SSRIs. The more I think about it, the more certain I am that this type of drug will have incredible ramifications to society within my lifetime.
posted by kindall at 12:17 AM on December 4, 2001


This could revolutionize transportation as we know it! Imagine hopping on your Segway and being able to drive for 96 hours straight without the mental fatigue! Of course, since you're riding a shitscooter, you'll have to stop every 15 miles to recharge the little bastard. And you couldn't even sleep while it was charging! This will destroy transportation as we know it!
posted by Danelope at 12:32 AM on December 4, 2001


I just wrote the New Yorker about that same article. It reads like a pharmaceutical company wrote it. It discusses narcolepsy and our society's obsession with not getting enough sleep, touched on the issue of the military, then goes right into several pages of gushing praise for this drug and this drug only. "It's completely safe!" say the drug's manufacturers. Well, why wouldn't they say that? It's still not indicated for anyone other than narcoleptics. Stick to crank for now. Or, if you want some real information on it, ask someone who doesn't stand to profit fom it.
posted by jessamyn at 12:38 AM on December 4, 2001


It's very expensive($100 for 18 pills)and has been available for at least two years in Europe and, as I vaguely remember from Googles of yore, for even longer in the U.S.
You have to take a lot of them to get any sort of buzz. It does keep you awake, but just about. If you do bed down, you eventually get to sleep. It's like, well, too much coffee and not nearly as delicious.
It also makes you quite jittery and guarantees an unholy headache when you wake up. So, if you're serious about staying up - for writing or studying - you might as well go for the old Dexedrine.
The problem with amphetamines, though - not with Modafinil - is that, although they're undergoing a sort of renaissance, all they do is extend credit on your waking hours. But you soon pay for those hours, with interest.
I'd give both amphetamines and Modafinil a wide berth, if I were you. But, at a pinch, if you're willing to make the sacrifice and pay with your health, amphetamines are more effective, whereas Modafinil is just annoying.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:24 AM on December 4, 2001


Miguel, have you ever taken Modafinil personally?
posted by jeb at 1:37 AM on December 4, 2001


I want. Now.
One of my longstanding mottos has been, "Sleep is boring. You can't do anything."
posted by Su at 1:52 AM on December 4, 2001


Why wait? You can do a line of crystal meth today. =P
posted by ookamaka at 2:56 AM on December 4, 2001


Folks, I can't believe anybody is entertaining the notion of taking this medication.

The TANSTAFFL rule applies with all pharmaceuticals; you will pay for it. Whether you pay in the short term (headaches, insomnia) or long term (neurotransmitter depletion), you will pay. With interest.

If there was some survival advantage in going without sleep, we wouldn't (as a species) be conked out 8/24. Do the natural thing- gay schlafen.
posted by Alwin at 3:18 AM on December 4, 2001


Damnit. Have they got one that will make me sleep more? I like sleeping.
posted by walrus at 3:31 AM on December 4, 2001


For many years Buckminster Fuller used a cycle of sleep where he would catnap for 30 minutes for every 6 hours of work or so. No drugs. He was careful with his diet, however.
posted by mmarcos at 3:36 AM on December 4, 2001


Speaking as a former Guinness world endurance record holder (uh... non-stop AD&D, since you ask, 84 hours, and we raised bucketloads of money for charity which was the point), I can tell you that you do lose cognitive power long before 96 hours of sleeplessness. You also become less rational, and may start hallucinating.
posted by Hogshead at 4:15 AM on December 4, 2001


oooh no.

i've just done a weekender and by monday morning i felt like i was looking over the cliff of insanity. don't like the sound of this drug.

we're not dolphins.
posted by Frasermoo at 5:16 AM on December 4, 2001


Speak for yourself, mailboxhead!

Do the natural thing- gay schlafen.

Sorry, fignuts, but gay schlafen is hardly a 'natural' thing. It's quite unnatural, as a matter of fact!
posted by Danelope at 6:01 AM on December 4, 2001


(Sorry. It's early, I've only gotten about three hours of sleep, and I accidentally reverted to Sealab 2021. I guess there is something to be said for getting enough sleep...)
posted by Danelope at 6:03 AM on December 4, 2001


There's a reason you sleep. Your body needs it. You can't convince me that this doesn't have some nasty side-effect that either hasn't been documented yet or is being covered up until someone has already gotten richer from it.
posted by goto11 at 6:32 AM on December 4, 2001


VERY VERY bad idea.
posted by rushmc at 7:03 AM on December 4, 2001


Ever since I was a kid, I've always dreamed of having a magical clock that stops time.

You should check out The Fermata by Nicholson Baker for a fascinating treatment of that subject.
posted by rushmc at 7:04 AM on December 4, 2001


If I had eight extra hours a day, I would use them to GET MORE SLEEP!
posted by briank at 7:11 AM on December 4, 2001


I would use this drug for its marketed intent. I am mildly narcoleptic - I've only done that stereotypical/classic "pass out" thing a couple of times, and not for several years. But I do get this ridiculously strong sleepiness, especially in times of stress or other strong emotional states. I can be going along just fine, then quite quickly have to struggle to keep my eyes open. It's not like being tired. It's like sleep has a gravity/strong pull. It would be nice to not get that.
posted by yesster at 7:24 AM on December 4, 2001


sleep is for the weak!
posted by panopticon at 7:24 AM on December 4, 2001


the whole week? cool
posted by walrus at 7:26 AM on December 4, 2001


Heck, imagine making love all night, and still being alert at work the next day!

Heck, imagine being alert at work period!
posted by rodii at 7:45 AM on December 4, 2001


This is scary. I'm envisioning a nightmare scenario in which, a few years from now, the top X% of students at every grad school, college, high school, and possibly even middle school will be taking this drug, simply because it will be impossible to stay competitive otherwise. If you don't take this drug, it will flat-out bar you from reaching anything above a mediocre position in any given field. The standard gimmick will be to take it all during the week, staying up for 96-100 hours straight, and crash-sleeping to make up for it on the weekends. It will shorten people's life spans by 10-20 years, but there are enough super-ambitious folks out there who will consider it worth it.

I know, I know, that's hysterical fear-mongering, but I just can't help it. That's what came to mind as I read the story.

matthowie: I think everybody wishes for that. Time is the big limit on our daily lives. One thing the game "The Sims" got right was that the most critical, limited resource in the game is time. But if everybody has access to this drug, any advantage it provides will be negated. We'll be right back where we started. Our workloads will increase to compensate.
posted by Potsy at 7:46 AM on December 4, 2001


from the yahoo link: Somehow, the drug modafinil makes up for the missing orexin, though scientists are not clear on how it does so.

how reassuring.
posted by lescour at 7:55 AM on December 4, 2001


Miguel - have you ever taken Modafinil personally?

Jeb: Yes, of course. Three boxes worth. I thought it would be good for extended writing sessions and less damaging than amphetamines. It was OK but, as I said, not good or different enough.
I don't take anything nowadays, btw. Just MetaFilter. That generally keeps me going all night.
Of course I've had to take extra-strength Minipost 500 to counter the effects...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:05 AM on December 4, 2001


. I'm envisioning a nightmare scenario in which, a few years from now, the top X% of students at every grad school, college, high school, and possibly even middle school will be taking this drug, simply because it will be impossible to stay competitive otherwise.

What's gonna be worse is when they come out with a memory-enhancing drug that works like strychnine. It'll strengthen the LTP pathway in the brain that forms new memories, allowing the user greatly improved memory function, but will also slightly reduce the memory's tolerance for noise and ability to recognize things and process imperfect information. Loads of people will try it "just once, for this one test" but then get addicted to the performance, or will need it to keep up with the competition at top schools. After years and years of abuse, allowing the user to have a near-photographic memory for any kind of inane detail, they will be unable to recognize friends with new haircuts, or put together a paragraph highlighting the relevant details of a situation, focusing equally on the color of the pavement and the appearance of the mugger.

These people will be completely non-functional in society. They will be able to nothing with their warped brains. They will even sort of lose object permanance, since nothing will seem to be the same object twice to the worst sufferers and they will be institutionalized at huge expense. Chock full of facts, but not functional in any human way. Databanks.

oh, sorry, right...hysterical fear mongering...but just you wait...just...you...wait.
posted by jeb at 9:04 AM on December 4, 2001


Think how much easier this will make those four-day drinking binges though.
Sign me up for a case of this shit!
posted by TiggleTaggleTiger at 9:07 AM on December 4, 2001


I don't take anything nowadays, btw. Just MetaFilter. That generally keeps me going all night...

These people will be completely non-functional in society. They will be able to nothing with their warped brains...
posted by y2karl at 9:14 AM on December 4, 2001


I'm interested to see if this will catch on for general use. As usual, SF has covered this topic already.

Actually the SF story I thought of was similar to Potsy's nightmare scenario. I can't remember the name or author. It's a short story that imagines a brain operation that vastly increases your cognative abilities but the side effect is it makes you blind.

Eventually, anyone who wants to be competetive in the sciences has to choose between success and their sight. All the top scientists (and musicians?) are blind.

You see these kind of tradeoffs in business and academia already. For lots of people, the only way to compete and be a success is to completely give themselves to their work, neglecting family and other relationships. Will sleep be next?
posted by straight at 10:51 AM on December 4, 2001


You're thinking "None So Blind" by Joe Haldeman.
posted by kindall at 10:55 AM on December 4, 2001


Ahah this so fun ! Another drug that helps morons with more money then you to exploit you even more ! Ahaha and you must pay for it ! Oh no please company will pay it for you and I'm throwing a cellphone in the deal too !
posted by elpapacito at 11:40 AM on December 4, 2001


Minor correction, first: dolphins do have REM sleep, though far less than we do (there was a nice chart in Science a couple of months ago--the reigning sleep champion is the platypus, which does 8 hours of REM, and a total of 14 hours sleep, in every 24).

Other than that, Provigil isn't going to replace speed. It puts sleep out of the way for a while, but we're talking 10 or 12 hours: you get up in the morning, take a pill, shower, and have a normal day, maybe a cup of coffee or a pot of tea, and you're reasonably alert, and then you go to sleep sometime after dinner. No big deal, unless you've been sleepy for weeks, months, or years, and getting 8 or 10 hours of sleep a night, consistently, isn't helping. That's the "excessive daytime sleepiness" the page mentions.

The thing they don't mention is that, for many people, it stops working after a while. No withdrawal symptoms from stopping, just that the body stops noticing it. Which is annoying, because then you're back where you started, looking for something to keep you functioning.
posted by rosvicl at 6:56 PM on December 4, 2001


the reigning sleep champion is the platypus

Ok my next reincarnation is sorted ;)
posted by walrus at 3:26 AM on December 5, 2001


As appealing as the "nightmare scenarios" are for sheer entertainment value, the physical need for cellular repair and replacement (which, according to current theory, happens during deeper sleep states than REM) would limit the use of better drugs than this one. Anyone with a wobbly immune system can tell you that a lack of sleep can get physically dangerous quite quickly.

If you're missing all that time you lose sleeping, why not try lucid dreaming instead? Theoretically, there are a lot of things (language practice, "physical memory" practice, meditation) that you could accomplish in your sleep.
posted by blissbat at 10:07 AM on December 5, 2001


I like jeb's take on this. Remember folks, "Dr. Albert Einstein usually slept from 10-12 hours daily, but when he was working on a particularly difficult problem, might have slept as much as sixteen hours in a day."
posted by EngineBeak at 4:33 PM on January 20, 2002


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