Background: Fatigue is a common symptom of depression, especially the bipolar type. Modafinil is a wake-promoting agent that can alleviate fatigue in depressed patients. Many stimulants used to treat fatigue carry the risk of a switch into mania or hypomania in bipolar patients as well as the risk for tolerance or abuse.
Method: A retrospective chart review was performed on all patients currently being seen in a large outpatient practice who received modafinil at some point during their treatment. Data collected included patient demographics, MiniSCID diagnoses, clinical diagnoses including history of substance abuse, and length and dosage of treatment with modafinil.
Results: Of the 191 patients who were given modafinil at some point during their treatment, 105 patients remained on it for 2 months or more and 37% of these patients were bipolar (18 BPI and 21 BPII). In addition, 86 patients were on modafinil for less than 2 months and 31% of these patients were bipolar(16% BPI and 15% BPII). No patients in any group demonstrated a switch into mania or hypomania while on modafinil. There was also no significant difference in final modafinil dosage between patients who had a positive history of chemical abuse/dependence (290 mg/day) and those who did not (258 mg/day).
Limitations: Retrospective chart review.
Conclusions: Adult affective disorder patients, whether unipolar or bipolar, can use modafinil to relieve symptoms of depression, including fatigue and sleepiness, without risking a switch in their mood or developing tolerance or abuse of this medication.