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Managing Narcolepsy with Stimulants

The abstract below summarizes an article on narcolepsy written back in 1998.  The article explains narcolepsy and the symptoms most likely in those that suffer from it.  Of particular importance the article argues that excessive daytime sleepiness is the most ‘debilitating’ symptom and that psychostimulants such as Modafinil present the best treatment option.  The article argues that this is due to their relative lack of side effects and lower abuse potential when compared to other stimulants.


What this means for the bigger picture

The suggestion that drugs such as Modafinil can be used to combat excessive daytime sleepiness is potentially great news for sufferers of narcolepsy and/or other sleeping conditions such as insomnia.  Additionally the article will add to an ever growing body of knowledge that supports the use of drugs such as Modafinil to promote wakefulness.



The article summarized a broad array of useful information regarding narcolepsy and possible treatments; however it was written back in 1998.  This means that more than fifteen years of scientific study and investigation have happened since.


So what does this mean for Modafinil?

Although the article doesn’t suggest a mechanism through which Modafinil works, it does recommend the drug as a valid treatment for excessive daytime sleepiness.  This alone should merit further investigation and scientific study.

Moreover, if the article is correct in its assertion that Modafinil can improve wakefulness with less side-effects and a lower abuse potential than other stimulants it could become a preferential alternative across a broad array of uses.


Further Reading

This study offers an evaluation of the abuse potential of Modafinil versus amphetamines.

There’s also this mice-based study into the treatment of narcolepsy by the University of Texas Midwestern



See below for the complete abstract with key findings in bold.



Narcolepsy. Signs, symptoms,
differential diagnosis, and management
Green PM, Stillman MJ
Kalamazoo Neurology, Mich., USA.
Arch Fam Med 1998 Sep-Oct; 7(5):472-8


Narcolepsy is a chronic neurologic disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy and less often by hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis. While patients report excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy as the more frequent symptoms of this condition, excessive daytime sleepiness is generally believed to be the most debilitating. Narcolepsy often is undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for a variety of reasons. Although confirmation of an initial diagnosis requires monitoring of physiologic variables conducted at a sleep center by specialists, the primary care physician has a critical role in the identification and management of this incurable affliction. This article provides recommendations for the diagnosis and management of narcolepsy. The cataplexy associated with narcolepsy can be managed with tricyclic antidepressants. The excessive sleepiness is managed with stimulants but newer agents, such as modafinil , which will be marketed as modalert, and selegiline hydrochloride, with fewer adverse effects and less abuse potential, may offer means of promoting daytime wakefulness. Groups such as the National Sleep Foundation, Washington, DC, and the Narcolepsy Network, Cincinnati, Ohio, can provide patients with needed support and information.