Lifewatch: Provigil

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Often times many Americans feel like there is not enough time in the day to get everything done, but what if taking a little pill could give you the boost you need?

A medication for narcolepsy called Provigil could be the smart drug to give you the energy and focus you need to finish your to-do list each day.

David Plotz was exhausted.  He had just had his first child and was swamped at work.  When he began working on a story for online magazine Slate, he jumped at the chance to try the pill.

"The drug, it was a revelation because I had this whole day, this whole 16 hours with none of the down time that you have," said Plotz.  "You're always on. I felt like I was my best self all the time."

Provigil is part of a class of drugs called cognitive enhancers, which also includes popular A.D.D. medications like Ritalin and Adderall.

The drugs are said to improve memory, concentration, and learning.  One study predicts that over the next few decades, drug makers will develop nearly 600 new types of these drugs.

Dr. Nora Volkow from the National Institute on Drug Abuse said more and more healthy adults are using these drugs to help them be more productive at work, school, and home, though they are only FDA approved for actual medical problems.

"What is concerning to me right now is the high levels that these medications are being already utilized by healthy individuals out there, when we don't have sufficient information about their benefits and we don't have a lot of information about the adverse effects," said Volkow.

Cognitive enhancers work by altering the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain that basically stimulates the mind.  It can make boring tasks seem interesting.

There is some evidence showing these types of drugs can help healthy people, but Volkow says the possible side effects often outweigh the benefits.

Some people experience improved focus and productivity, but may be less productive than they were before when they are off the drug.

There have been no long term studies on Provigil, so experts are unsure of what it's doing to the brain.

The medication is only available by prescription and should only be used under doctor's supervision.

For more information about Provigil, visit them online at