An Overview of the Clinical Uses, Pharmacology, and Safety of Modafinil

ACS Chem Neurosci. 2018 Feb 21;9(2):151-158. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.7b00374. Epub 2017 Dec 4.


Modafinil (MOD) is a wakefulness-inducing compound prescribed for treatment of excessive daytime sleepiness as a consequence of sleep disturbances such as shift work sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or narcolepsy. While providing effective results in patients with sleepiness, MOD also produces positive outcomes in the management of fatigue associated with different conditions including depression, cancer, or tiredness in military personnel. Although there is clear evidence of the stimulant effects of MOD, current data also show that administration of this drug apparently induces positive neurobiological effects, such as improvement in memory. However, serious concerns have been raised since some reports have suggested MOD dependence. Taken together, these findings highlight the need to characterize the changes induced by MOD which have been observed in several neurobiological functions. Moreover, further work should follow up on the likely long-term effects of this drug if used for treatment of drowsiness and tiredness. Here, we review and summarize recent findings of the medical uses of MOD in the management of sleepiness and fatigue associated with depression or cancer as well as exhaustion in military personnel. We also discuss the available literature related with the cognitive enhancing properties of this stimulant, as well as what is known and unknown about MOD addiction.

Keywords: Sleep; addiction; dopamine; drug; hypocretin; treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / adverse effects*
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / pharmacology
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Modafinil
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Wakefulness-Promoting Agents / adverse effects*
  • Wakefulness-Promoting Agents / pharmacology
  • Wakefulness-Promoting Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Wakefulness-Promoting Agents
  • Modafinil