The stressors of war are something that the average citizen will likely never be able to fully comprehend. It is a classic scenario of the phrase, “you had to be there,” because the experiences can be so extreme that even the usage of prescribed medication is necessary to help these men and women perform in almost inhuman conditions. One such example is the usage of modafinil, which has become renowned for its cognition-enhancing properties with a fraction of the side effects of Amphetamine use. Banyan’s veteran’s addiction treatment centers are examining modafinil’s military usage and what it could mean as a whole.
Yes, modafinil is a non-amphetamine stimulant that operates in the central nervous system. Because of its wakefulness properties, it is commonly used in patients with conditions that result in excessive daytime tiredness, including:1
It operates by inhibiting dopamine reuptake and has even been shown to minimize the euphoric effects of cocaine. Modafinil, also known by the brand name Provigil, is a controlled substance but at a far lower level than a similar substance like Adderall. If you find yourself struggling with an addiction to any kind of controlled substance, you are encouraged to seek prescription drug addiction treatment that can aid you in breaking free from such dependence.
It is not uncommon for soldiers and other army personnel to go days without sleeping. Unfortunately, these troops are limited by one unfortunate fact: they are only human. According to Jonathan Moreno, a biomedical ethics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, “The human being is the weakest instrument of warfare, [Soldiers] must eat, sleep, discern friend from foe and heal when wounded … The first state to build superior fighters will make an enormous leap in the arms race."2
Throughout history, the use of “go pills” has been a controversial topic amongst medical professionals and military personnel. Before modafinil’s military utilization, more dangerous amphetamines like Adderall and other stimulants were employed as popular stay-awake pills during prolonged missions. However, the US Air Force no longer approved the usage of traditional amphetamines as a result of side effects and incidents related to this drug use.
Modafinil was introduced as an effective pill to stay awake without the presence of debilitating side effects. Soldiers on air force missions have used it to remain alert for 40 hours straight without feeling like they were crashing afterward. Despite seemingly being devoid of side effects, it does not erase the damage that can still be done to the human body during such an intense period of wakefulness.
What is important to consider is that just because someone does not feel side effects does not mean all is well. The human body is not designed to go that long without sleep. There is a reason that an amphetamine user will feel side effects because the body is signaling that what is happening may not be intended. It is understandable that the circumstances of war are far greater than the average person is able to comprehend. Still, the ethics behind “go-pills” should be questioned.
It also raises questions about the utilization of performance-enhancing substances for certain demographics against others. For instance, professional athletes will go through rigorous testing to prove that they are not taking a drug that is intended to enhance their abilities. Where is the limit for military personnel, and why are we so quick to push the bodies of these men and women past normal limits? As the usage of substances to enhance results becomes more normalized in countless groups, it would do many of us well to consider how often we tend to do this in our own lives.
Think about it. How many students have you talked to or heard about that raved and glamorized the effects of Adderall the last time they had a paper to get turned in or an exam to cram for? The phrase “just because we can, does not mean that we should” is something that many people would do well to consider, if only to avoid the possibility of addiction later down the line.
As we continue to grapple with the hold that drugs have on countless citizens, our military rehab center offers a variety of care levels that can address a current addiction that you may be struggling with. For instance, if you are in the midst of an active dependency, our medical detox programs can assist in guiding you through any withdrawal symptoms that present themselves.