Modafinil was originally developed in France and in 1998, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of narcolepsy. It is a wakefulness-promoting agent (or eugeroic) used in the treatment narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, and excessive daytime sleepiness associated with sleep apnea. It has experienced widespread off-label use as a cognition-enhancing agent and has been associated with and aggrandized by the movie Limitless starring actor Bradley Cooper. In English-speaking countries, it is sold under the brand names Alertec, Modvigil, and Provigil. Modafinil is classified as a schedule IV controlled substance in the United States and is restricted in availability and usage due to concerns about possible addiction potential. In most other countries, it is sold by prescription but is not otherwise legally restricted.
The addiction and dependence liabilities of Modafinil are very low. It is illegal to import by anyone other than a DEA-registered importer without a prescription. Currently, use of Modafinil is controversial in the sporting world, with high-profile cases attracting press coverage since several prominent American athletes have tested positive for the substance which is considered a doping agent. It is also under investigation as a possible medication in the treatment of cocaine and methamphetamine dependence. Seth Fitzgerald of The Drug Classroom and addiction counselor Glen Marshall explore this atypical pharmaceutical which has both unusual mechanisms of action and is increasing in popularity as a study drug on college campuses.