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Provigil (Modafinil) Withdrawal Symptoms: Does It Have Any?

Provigil (Modafinil) is a drug that promotes vigilance and is considered a “eugeroic” medication. It was originally proved by the FDA to help treat wakefulness disorders and is commonly used in patients with narcolepsy. It has also been found to help people with shift work sleep disorders and excessive daytime sleepiness as a result of sleep apnea. Many people really like this medication because it not only gets the job done, there are relatively minimal side effects associated with taking it.

Many people also use it for off-label purposes as a nootropic or “smart drug” to get a cognitive benefit. It also has been used to help treat depression, chronic fatigue, and is being investigated to help treat cocaine addiction. In other words, there are a variety of uses for this particular drug so many individuals have been taking it. Although there aren’t a lot of commonly reported “withdrawal” effects, many people experience symptoms upon discontinuation.

Factors that influence Provigil (Modafinil) withdrawal

Perhaps the biggest factor associated with Provigil withdrawal is that of “time span” – how long you took the medication. The longer you took it, the more dependent you become on it for everyday functioning. Other factors that are thought to have an influence on withdrawal include dosage, your individual physiology, and whether you quit cold turkey or taper.

1. Time Span

How long have you been on Provigil? If you have been on this drug for years and decide to quit, your withdrawal symptoms may be more obvious than someone who has only taken Provigil for a few months. If you simply take Provigil “as-needed” you may not experience as much of a withdrawal.

2. Dosage (200 mg to 400 mg)

Provigil has not been found to have additional therapeutic effects beyond a dose of 200 mg per day. Some people take up to 400 mg per day, but the extra 200 mg are not associated with any additional benefit. Most people will be on a dose of 200 mg which is the official recommended daily dose. If you take less than 200 mg and find benefit, then you may have less of a withdrawal compared to someone who is on 200 mg or more.

3. Individual Physiology

How you react to quitting Provigil will have a lot to do with your individual physiology. You may not notice any symptoms or you may experience some fatigue. Everyone responds differently when they discontinue a drug like Provigil. A majority of people do not have significant symptoms compared to a psychostimulant medication like Adderall (read: Adderall withdrawal symptoms).

4. Cold Turkey vs. Tapering

Most people have suggested that if you have taken Provigil for an extended period of time (e.g. years) and you quit cold turkey, you will notice withdrawal symptoms. Since you have constantly been feeding your brain a wakefulness promoting agent for such a long period of time, it has become accustomed to receiving the drug every single day.

If you were to stop cold turkey, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms. Tapering is recommended for anyone that has been on this medication daily for an extended period of time. Work with your doctor or gradually reduce your dose over a span of weeks.

Provigil Withdrawal Symptoms: Modafinil Discontinuation

There aren’t any major symptoms associated with Provigil withdrawal, but you may experience something. Most people notice that they are more tired than average, have poorer concentration, and overall low energy when they stop taking this drug. A majority of doctors do not know the long term effects of this medication and don’t know much about the discontinuation effects.

  • Concentration problems: Most people report that they experience “poor focus” when they stop taking Provigil. This may be due to the fact that they had an enhanced cognition while they were on the drug and there is a contrast to functioning without it. This also could be a temporary cognitive slowing as a result of withdrawal.
  • Depression: Although many people do not notice an antidepressant effect from taking this drug, some people do. Additionally, some people experience depression when they stop taking Provigil.
  • Fatigue: If you are taking this drug to treat fatigue and sleepiness and you stop it, it is likely that you are going to relapse. However even individuals that take this drug for ADHD for an extended period of time have found that they experience fatigue during withdrawal.
  • Low energy: Some people have really low energy levels during the first week or two of quitting this drug. Most energy will return within a few weeks of discontinuation.
  • Shortness of breath: There have been reports that people experience shortness of breath accompanied by heart rate changes when they stop the Provigil.
  • Sleepiness: People that were taking Provigil to help treat narcolepsy tend to experience a return in their original sleepiness when they stop taking the medication.

How long does Provigil withdrawal last?

There is no exact timeline for withdrawal from Provigil, but the withdrawal is not known as being a long term ordeal. Many people experience extreme levels of fatigue within the first week that they stop taking it. Some people don’t even notice an effect when they stop taking it, while others revert back to their normal energy levels (e.g. wakefulness pre-Provigil).

It is important to distinguish between “withdrawal symptoms” and simply functioning without the cognitive enhancement that Provigil provides. Most people are going to notice that they have less energy and feel more “fatigued” than their drug-enhanced state of functioning on the Provigil. If you do experience a withdrawal, it probably will not last for more than a few weeks.

If symptoms persist and you had been on this drug for a long period of time, do not rule out the fact that your body and brain are likely trying to cope without the drug. If the withdrawal is severe, you may want to go back on the drug and conduct a more gradual taper in order to minimize the withdrawal effects. If you experienced a “withdrawal” from this medication, please share your experience in the comments section below.

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{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Tammy Cooper July 30, 2014, 8:43 pm

    I have only cut my dose in half over the last week… from 200mg to 100mg. I have felt very depressed and emotional. This has been far worse than any returning sleepiness. To note, I have been treated for depression for years. I strongly discourage those with depression problems from taking this ‘off label.’ As more is discovered about this drug, I believe they will crack down on the dispensing of this drug. They definitely should. I am living proof that the withdrawal is painful. Also to note, I have not changed any other medication during this time and my stress level is relatively low.

  • Roger Vayne October 19, 2014, 1:24 am

    Kicked it 3 days ago, struggling in all areas of life. Feel hungover all day everyday so so tired.

  • Lisa October 21, 2014, 9:36 pm

    I had dr give me the medication for over a yr and it helped. He retired. New dr felt I didn’t need it. My insurance company refused to pay for it. I have a past head injury – I became extremely agitated depressed tired couldn’t function couldn’t think had a break down. I couldn’t tell the difference between my vivid dreams and awakeness. It was hell. Back on the medication and doing well. The Insurance companies shouldn’t be allowed to say what you need.

    • jim March 12, 2016, 7:34 pm

      Right. It is a bad institution. Medicine must be owned by the public!!!

  • tom November 13, 2014, 9:06 pm

    There are definite withdrawal symptoms from discontinuation. I am a pharmacologist and believe me there is no information on modafinil withdrawal in the scientific literature so most doctors don’t know it exists, in fact the “official literature” says there is NO withdrawal effect. I have been using it everyday for a couple of months and apart from feeling very sleepy and unmotivated have experienced some pretty bad depression/emotional moods/loneliness etc. for the past two days.

    This makes perfect sense as the drug made me very outgoing, happy, and energetic. Modafinil is believed to work by raising dopamine levels in the brain, much in the same way as drugs like cocaine. These drugs also have depression and tiredness as withdrawal effects. The good news is that it doesn’t last long. If you are experiencing these effects just realize it is the drug that is causing your depression and it will go away.

    Eventually as more people experience Modafinil withdrawal the industry will have to admit it is (admittedly only slightly) dependence causing. The same thing has happened with almost every other addictive drug throughout history. Heroin, cocaine, valium, Zoplicone etc were all said to be non-habit forming and now the opposite has proved true.

  • CeeJay November 18, 2014, 6:01 am

    I have been on this medication for over a year. My job switched insurance companies and the new insurance company won’t pay for it. The only thing they will pay for is adderall. Still fighting for modafinil. Having horrible withdrawals. Severe fatigue and depression.

  • Alix May 7, 2015, 7:27 pm

    I’ve only been off it for 2 days, and I felt so bad it motivated me to check online. I have a headache, feel achy, can’t concentrate well. I’ll start a task and keep forgetting what I was going to do. I had been on it for around 3 years, and I felt great! I have to go off of it because it interacts with another medicine I must take. I would have liked to go off of it more gradually. My MD gave me Xanax to try to help, but still very tired and sleepy.

  • disaster May 10, 2015, 3:56 am

    I’ve been taking Provigil for nearly a decade for mild narcolepsy. It changed my life and made it possible for me to cope with a demanding career. My husband and I want to get pregnant and I can’t find any information on safety. After growing frustration with doctors, I chose on my own to cut Provigil cold turkey. I’ve managed to minimize my work assignments, but it has still been a disaster.

    I’ve never been this fatigued, my legs buckle under me and my body hurts all over. I had to excuse myself from a work meeting because I was crying (which I never do). I know that I REALLY need this medication, but I REALLY want to have a healthy child. This experience is HELL, but I pray that I’m doing the right thing and that it will work out fine (hence, Pregnant, Healthy, Employed – instead of Childless, Sad and Financially/Career insolvent).

    • sleepy_dude May 11, 2015, 11:40 pm

      You did the right thing. Both myself and my girlfriend are on Provigil for Narcolepsy (what are the chances). Her sleep doc specifically told her to discontinue the drug if she ever she ever gets pregnant, because of the risk of birth defects. Last summer, after being on the medication for several years, took a two month holiday from the drug to reduce the tolerance that I had managed to accumulate. The first couple of weeks were pretty tough, but after about a month I mainly was just dealing with the effects of the Narcolepsy. It will get better. Best of luck, and congrats.

    • Lisa December 6, 2016, 12:46 am

      I had the rare side effects and my doctor couldn’t figure it out. It’s very irritating that they don’t know their own drug. I digress. It will all turn out because I have been on more medications and off of them because of side effects and then I have to withdraw off of them. It is absolute hell and I think these doctors need to do this to themselves and know what it’s like. Please take care and all will be well – hopefully sooner than later.

  • J. Zambardino August 1, 2015, 1:43 am

    I’ve been on Modafinil 100 mg daily for two years for treatment t of chronic fatigue. I was diagnosed eight years ago with CML (chronic myelogenous leukemia). I’m fine except for the fatigue which is a well known side effect. My insurance company is CIGNA, and they use Express Scripts. Every few months they demand a re-evaluation from my oncologist as to why he prescribes it, etc. and while they’re driving him nuts each time, he gladly answers there ridiculous inquiries. This time, they deny receiving his responses, so I haven’t had my medicine for two weeks so far. So, I’ve slept an awful lot, had bad lower abdominal cramps, diarrhea and frustration. Hopefully it’ll be cleared up on Monday ….

  • Tina Marchitto October 9, 2015, 12:50 pm

    I’ve been taking modafinil to treat narcolepsy for 3 years and have trouble with memory and heartburn all the time. Is there anything I can do besides stop taking this drug? Thanks, Tina

  • Barb October 18, 2015, 12:10 pm

    I’ve been on provigil as needed for multiple sclerosis fatigue for about 8 months. I am only able to take 50mg as any higher dose makes me too wired. I have noticed that if I go two days without taking it I definitely get withdrawal symptoms, especially becoming very short-tempered. This drug is a Godsend to me as my fatigue is overwhelming. It has made the difference between laying around with no energy and continuing to work part time. The main side effect for me is headache, with a bit of stomach uneasiness. It is well worth it for the benefits I derive!

  • Lisa January 18, 2016, 6:44 pm

    I have been taking 200mg every day for severe MS fatigue. 2016 came and I was told that it would be $88/month. I usually get extra help from medicaid, and this year there is no COLA, so I still make the same amount of $ as last year. I have been off it since the 14th, and I am now so tired. I do have to drive. I am worried that I will begin to get worse than I was. Well, if I get into an accident, I will instruct my family (sister and father who is in a nursing home), to sue. Any ideas would be appreciated.

  • Victoria February 2, 2016, 7:14 pm

    I just googled withdrawal from modafinil/provigil to try to understand how I’ve been feeling for about the last 3-4 weeks. I feel sad, low energy, and don’t get enthusiastic or excited about anything at all anymore. I feel like I’m walking around dead inside. I’ve made no other medication changes except I did a taper off of 100 mg of modafinil.

    I’d been taking 100mg a day for about 1.5 years for ADHD and concentration difficulty. I have been having trouble with the cost of the medication, lost my insurance, even with patient assistance program, the generic is still expensive, so I made the decision to go off of it. Never realized I would feel like a walking zombie everyday. It’s been almost a month!

    I was hoping this was something else but judging by the comments, it’s the medicine, or lack thereof. I am also very short tempered and everything makes me angry to the point that 2 or 3 people close to me have said something to me about it. Help! I want my life back, without going back on a medication I can’t afford.

  • Linda April 16, 2016, 11:18 pm

    Started over 3 weeks ago for post concussion syndrome. Thought I hit the magic pill! Felt like my old self. Hopeful and excited. Suddenly I started to feel very odd. Not me. Could not identify what was happening.

    Decided to wean off. On day 3 of being a walking zombie. Sleeping day and night, slurring words, upset stomach. Can’t function. Scary! Only short term use. So disappointed and fearful of what this stuff has done.

  • Ken April 18, 2016, 1:14 am

    I’ve had ALS for about 15 years, and it is obviously progressing a lot slower than most. I can’t speak or walk, but a decade ago I asked my Dr., who is an expert on ALS, if cognitive symptoms are part of ALS, because I was showing these symptoms. She said no, but now the medical community says sometimes it is connected to ALS.

    I started Modafinil on 1/8/16 at 100mg daily, mostly because of my cognitive issues, and my fatigue. I was told I should increase it to 200mg on 3/26, which I did, but I only increased it for 5 days, because I would run out of Modafinil, so I cut it back to 100mg.

    About 2 days after I cut the dose in half, I was getting worse. I had more cognitive issues; (reading, spelling, listening, counting, focusing), physical issues; (typing, moving, transferring to my wheel chair) emotional issues; (anger, depression, frustration). About 14 days after I was getting worse, gradually I was almost the same as before I doubled my dose, with all my cognitive, physical and emotional issues.

    My point is that I have only taken Modafinil for about 4 months. When I cut my dose in half, it was obvious that my cognitive, physical and emotional issues got worse for about a week, and I only doubled my dose for 5 days. So be very careful about reducing or stopping Modafinil.

  • Gary kleiner April 30, 2016, 10:11 pm

    Hi, Been taking modafinil for tiredness from sleep apnea 100 mg a day. I feel a little more awake but had a lot of anxiety today. I am medicated for anxiety and depression. I’m on a lot of meds already for sleep, depression, anxiety. It seems like this pill popping never ends. I’m a Christian and I pray to use my illness in my life.

    I wish I felt better so I can be a better person. I’m waiting to see my med doc, I told her about new med. She thinks I can fix everything with deep breathing and positive attitude. I’m just venting my concern over my treatments and how the drug companies are running people’s lives. We get addicted and have no choice but to take a medication.

    I don’t think medicine is tested enough just by watching TV commercials with new meds, they have plenty of side effects. Thanks, Gary Kleiner

  • Addict May 31, 2016, 2:46 pm

    I have a wealth of experience taking all kinds of prescription and recreational drugs, so I feel well positioned to make a judgment about this drug and its harms. I ordered a large supply of modafinil to self-medicate for attention issues, depression and fatigue. I’ve since taken it off and on for about 5 months, at doses of 50-200mg a day, averaging 100mg. This drug causes definite physical withdrawal effects for me, including severe exhaustion and chills.

    In years of using and abusing medications as well as hard drugs I’ve never become so dependent on a particular substance and felt such debilitating withdrawal symptoms to the point where I find myself forced to take the drug just to feel normal and functional, despite hating it and having no psychological desire to consume it ever again. At some point I began snorting the pills as it became necessary to quickly get the drug into my system or risk falling asleep before important meetings or being unable to drive when I needed to.

    There is some debate over whether this route actually works but I can attest that it does work and provides a very fast relief compared to swallowing the pills, and also seems to make 50mg feel like 100 though with less duration (I strongly advise against snorting these pills!). I’ll try to go as long as I possibly can without taking modafinil, until I find myself in an emergency situation and like clockwork I’m putting this poison up my nose again.

    It has caused me to engage in very reckless behavior as it increases my desire to consume other drugs – I’ve taken to drinking more than usual to offset the constant stimulation, but when I drink on modafinil I become overwhelmed with fatigue, stuck in the twilight state that long term use creates where you’re not asleep and not really awake either. I start craving more modafinil so I can stay out and awake, but the long duration of the drug makes it impractical to take at night (though I’ve succumbed to this awful practice on numerous occasions).

    Thus I start craving short acting stimulants like cocaine to keep myself up a little bit longer, and one night found myself befriending a complete stranger on the street and purchasing and smoking crack cocaine – something I never thought I’d ever do, but it felt like a welcome reprieve form the brutality modafinil has inflicted on me. Modafinil does things to my brain that are terrifying to me.

    I haven’t been able to kick it for more than 7 days at a time. After 4 or so days without taking it my body and mind start to approach normalcy, but then some life event will disrupt things and I find myself falling back into it again. I strongly urge anyone taking this drug or considering taking it to exercise extreme caution – what makes it so sinister compared to anything else I’ve used is how benign it seems, allowing it to slowly sink its claws into you without you noticing the harm it’s doing until it’s too late.

    The best way to get off it is to clear your schedule for several days and sleep it off. I’ve also found being in a hot sauna and sweating it out of my system helps a bit. Good luck.

  • JuDee Janowitz June 20, 2016, 2:15 pm

    I had been taking Provigil 200 mg’s 2 x daily for 20 years… but have been regimental for the last 10 years. I was diagnosed with Narcolepsy with Cataplexy in 1996. Lately, past 4 or 5 months I have been feeling I’ll. Body aching, well joints anyway. Severe headaches, not migraine almost like scalp pain. No appetite but always hungry. Yet I would get full with the littlest amount of food.

    My taste buds seemed to be all messed up because some days I hated the taste of my coffee and the next it was good (made same way everyday). It wasn’t that way with just coffee but everything I ate or drank. My mouth always had a real nasty taste to it too. My sleep was not restful nor was there any pattern.. I was emotionally falling apart and simply didn’t care… until I did. Then I decided out of the blue to quit taking my meds cold turkey.

    It is one full week today since my last pill. To be honest I feel better. I do not notice any negative side effects of discontinuing the Provigil. I still takes naps for about 15-25 min. Or so… (as always) but I feel better overall. No noticeable withdrawals. My appetite is back. Food tastes normal. No headaches. I still have joint pain/pressure. I see my doctor on Wednesday and will discuss this with her.

    As far as taking any more meds for Narcolepsy… at this point I am not inclined to. Even when taking Provigil all these years I still needed naps and suffered all the symptoms of Narcolepsy. I thought the meds were helping with my EDS but I am not sleeping any more now than I was a week ago when I was medicated. So why take them?

  • naomi winkelman August 5, 2016, 4:36 pm

    I took it for two months. If I forgot to take it on time, I would become extremely nauseous. When I quit taking it I had withdrawal symptoms like I’ve seen in a cousin of mine when he went through meth withdrawal. I wanted to die. For two days I couldn’t stop vomiting and sh-tting myself and my whole body was in immense pain. I only found laying in a hot bath stopped the vomiting and pain. I was constantly in a bath until this hell was over.

  • PJM September 1, 2016, 11:14 pm

    I take this drug for fatigue related to Multiple Sclerosis. In 2008 I took it for about 3 months (100 mg) when I was experiencing mental fatigue and focus issues at work. I shifted to a very strict holistic health approach and stopped all medicines, went to a 100 percent organic raw food diet for 6 months and about 80 percent raw vegan for 2 years… lots of wheatgrass and sprouts.

    I went through lots of withdrawals the first month… but I am sure it was from other stuff in addition to the Provigil. I’ve been on it again (200 mg) for about 2 years since my MS has worsened (I have been unable to maintain that extreme diet and don’t really want to and many stresses wore me out and caused my MS symptoms to worsen). I take it every day and when I don’t I feel extremely fatigued.

    Sometimes I still feel extremely fatigued but without the drug I find it very difficult to even get off the couch to do something simple like make a cup of coffee. It really helps me live a more full life with my symptoms being as bad as they are. But twice in the past two years I have run into very, very difficult problems getting refills due to insurance and pharmacy mess ups.

    In one case I was off the drug for about 6 weeks and I ended up in deep depression. Now I was off it for a little over a week and, in addition to the fatigue, I had wild mood swings and spent two days this week unable to stop crying. So yes… I have become dependent upon this drug. I am thankful for it right now because the lifestyle changes I need to make to relieve my stress cannot happen overnight.

    But I certainly am working to get more balance in my life, to get my weight down to the thin end of my range (currently I am overweight and it makes the fatigue much, much worse… but it’s a catch 22 because when you are super fatigued the air feels heavy and it is so difficult to move let alone exercise). It is a process. I am taking steps to make life better so I will be in a position to stop the drug.

    But when I get to that point I will taper off very very gradually. The depression is real. The mood swings are real. I just think people should be aware of that. Not getting your prescriptions in a timely fashion is nothing to mess around with with this medication.

  • Jim Johnson September 3, 2016, 1:28 pm

    Most of these comments are complete bunk or likely people confusing other variables with modafinil withdrawal. I have been taking it for over 9 months sometimes as much as 10 days straight. I stop on weekends or holidays, cold turkey in order to give myself a break from it and to reduce any tolerance that may be developing.

    The only thing I notice is the absence of its effects and that I have longer, better sleep (another good reason to take a break from it). I do “miss it” when I stop, but I miss coffee, which I drink every day, more than modafinil and I have worse withdrawal effects from stopping coffee (e.g. headaches, sluggishness etc.) But honestly come on. I have kicked heroin, cocaine and alcohol dependence in the past, and I KNOW what real withdrawal is; modafinil withdrawal, if there is any, is simply a non issue.

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