Provigil (Modafinil) is a drug classified as a “eugeroic” or wakefulness promoting agent. It is considered one of the most effective medications in treating shift work sleep disorder, narcolepsy, and excessive daytime sleepiness as a result of sleep apnea. Many people have also used this medication on an off-label basis for the treatment of depression, as a nootropic for cognitive enhancement, as well as for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The drug has been on the market in the United States since 1998 and is considered different from amphetamines in its mechanism of action. It elicits a wakefulness effect as a dopamine reuptake inhibitor (DRI), which raises extracellular levels of dopamine. An increase in dopamine increases mental alertness and decreases feelings of fatigue.
Provigil & Weight Loss
The fact that this drug tends to boost dopamine levels and increase overall energy can result in side effects such as weight loss. Many people who take Provigil notice that they lose weight without putting forth much effort. This may be due to the fact that when dopamine levels increase, reward centers get stimulated, leading to feelings of reduced hunger.
Some people have noticed that when they take this drug, they actually forget to eat similarly to if they would have taken an amphetamine. Experimental research suggests that Provigil is equal to amphetamines in its ability to suppress appetite. Although the manufacturer (Cephalon) notes that Provigil isn’t associated with significant weight change, a majority of studies support the idea that it promotes weight loss.
How Provigil Causes Weight Loss
There are a number of different mechanisms by which Provigil is likely to cause weight loss. Many people notice that their appetite is reduced and their energy levels increase. This is likely all a byproduct of elevating levels of dopamine.
- Appetite loss: Many people report feeling less hungry when they first start taking this drug. The reduced hunger is similar to what a person would experience on an amphetamine and both tend to stem from increases in dopamine. When you feel less hungry, it’s likely that you’ll end up consuming less food – leading to weight loss.
- Cognitive enhancement: This drug can improve cognitive function, leading to improvements in mental performance. When cognition is enhanced, many people end up making smarter decisions in terms of diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Although these are indirect effects of improving a person’s cognition, they may be direct contributors to weight loss.
- Dopamine levels: Although this drug’s mechanism of action isn’t well understood, it is known that it increases levels of dopamine. Increasing dopamine leads a person to feel “rewarded” and ultimately less likely to seek out pleasures like food. People with low dopamine tend to feel hungrier and are more likely to compulsively overeat. By increasing dopamine, a person is more likely to feel satiated without actually eating.
- Energy increase: This drug promotes vigilance and can give people a significant increase in energy. The increase in energy often leads to a person engaging in more physical activity and staying busy. People with more energy are more likely to exercise, move around, and accomplish tasks – as opposed to staying lethargic.
- Motivation boost: Many people experience a significant boost in motivation from taking Provigil. This is due to the fact that the drug raises levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter directly tied to motivation. Motivation increases may occur in all areas of life such as exercise regimen and dietary intake – both of which may lead to weight loss.
- Physical activity: If you felt like a total slug prior to taking this drug, it’s likely going to perk you up. Many people experience such an improvement in their energy level that they begin to engage in more physical activity than they did in the past. Any increase in physical activity tends to burn more calories and increase metabolism – both of which are tied to weight loss.
- Side effects: Nearly 11% of people taking this drug experience nausea, a side effect which can make eating very difficult. If you constantly feel nauseous, you’re probably not going to feel like eating much food. Other side effects such as diarrhea and vomiting can contribute to weight loss for obvious reasons.
- Self-control: The fact that Provigil increases cognition and cortical activation tends to result in greater self-awareness and control. People with reduced brain activity in certain regions may have been unable to resist impulses such as eating junk food or watching TV instead of exercising. The increase in cortical arousal may help a person increase their self-control.
- Speeds metabolism: Another theory is that Provigil directly speeds up metabolism. If you were eating the same portions and engaging in the same amount of physical activity pre-drug as during treatment, but ended up losing weight – it’s probably due to metabolic changes.
Note: Keep in mind that the mechanisms by which people lose weight can be different based on the individual. One person may experience heavy nausea and loss of appetite, making it difficult to eat, while another person may experience such an increase in energy and motivation, that they start exercising and eating healthy to lose weight.
Factors that influence weight loss on Provigil
There are other factors that may influence the amount of weight you lose while taking Provigil. These factors include things like: your dosage, how long you’ve been taking the drug, your lifestyle, genetic variation, as well as whether you take other drugs.
In many cases, the dose in relation to your bodyweight can play a role in determining how much weight you’ll lose while taking it. For example, a smaller individual taking a high dose may end up losing more weight than a large person taking the same dose. In general though, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the greater the dose, the more effect the drug will have over your physiological functioning.
The starting dose of Provigil is 200 mg per day, and some argue that there is no additional benefit associated with exceeding this dose for alertness. That said, it is unknown as to whether greater doses would promote greater weight loss. Logically it would make sense that the effect of the drug would be amplified when the dosage is increased, therefore if you don’t want to lose weight, it is recommended to take the “minimal effective dose.”
2. Time Span
The duration over which you’ve been taking Provigil can determine how much weight you lose. Those that have only taken this drug for a very short-term shouldn’t expect immediate weight loss. Most noticeable weight loss will come after a moderate term on the drug (i.e. a full year). After a year or two of treatment, most people notice diminishing returns in regards to how much weight they lose.
This is due to the fact that after a long-term of being medicated, the body becomes tolerant to the effects of the drug. This leads to less significant changes in weight and in some cases, gaining a little bit of weight back that was initially lost. Some case studies seem to indicate that the bulk of weight loss occurs during the first year of treatment.
It is important to consider the fact that your lifestyle and daily habits contribute to changes in weight. People that take this drug, but don’t get a good night’s sleep, fail to manage stress, eat an unhealthy diet, and neglect exercise – may not lose much weight. Someone who makes it a priority to get some exercise, eat healthy foods, and does their best to manage stress may end up losing a good amount of weight. Although many people lose weight regardless of their daily habits, certain individuals are dumbfounded as to why they can’t lose weight and fail to consider that it could be due to their unhealthy lifestyle.
Another factor that is important to consider is that of genetic variation. It is known that differences in genetics predict whether a drug is going to be therapeutic in the treatment of your condition, as well as whether you are going to experience any adverse reactions or side effects.
Fortunately there is new technology in development such as GeneSight which helps identify certain genetic variations and uses them to predict how you’ll react to drugs like Provigil. Genetic differences may explain why some people experience more significant weight loss than others while taking this medication.
5. Other drugs
If you take any other medications, it is important to consider the role they may be playing in your weight changes. If you are gaining weight, it could be due to the fact that other drugs like SSRIs or antipsychotics may be offsetting and/or overpowering the effects of Provigil. Similarly if you are experiencing rapid weight loss, it may be due to the fact that you are on another medication associated with weight loss such as Topamax. If you want to know more about how certain drugs may be affecting your weight, be sure to talk to your doctor.
How much weight will you lose from Provigil?
There’s no telling exactly how much weight you’ll lose from taking Provigil, but some studies suggest that you’ll lose nearly as much as you would on an amphetamine. There have been case studies of people losing up to 40 lbs. in just one year of Provigil treatment. Realistically you may not lose 40 lbs. in just 12 months, but you should expect to lose some weight, especially if you take the drug for an extended period of time. A conservative estimate would be that you’ll lose between 5 lbs. and 15 lbs. throughout your treatment.
Does Provigil make everyone lose weight?
No, clearly not everyone is going to lose weight from this medication – it is not intended for weight loss. Additionally the manufacturers (Cephalon) claim that their studies found that Provigil isn’t associated with any significant weight loss compared to a placebo. That said, a majority of long-term users end up reporting that they lose a fair amount of weight throughout their treatment. If you don’t lose weight, it could be due to a variety of factors discussed above such as: genetics, whether you’re on other medications, lifestyle, etc.
Provigil’s benefits vs. side effects
Assuming you are taking Provigil responsibly to treat a wakefulness disorder like narcolepsy, it is important to weigh its therapeutic efficacy with its side effects. If the drug isn’t really helping enough to keep you vigilant throughout the day, you may need to consider switching medications and/or Provigil withdrawal. Similarly, if you find that the drug works well, but you can’t deal with the headache, nausea, and lack of appetite – you may also want to pursue other options.
Some people who are already thin may consider weight loss to be an unwanted side effect. If you are already skinny and lose a significant amount of weight, you may not be too thrilled with your new look. If you think you’ve lost an unhealthy amount of weight throughout your treatment, be sure to talk to your doctor.
Understanding Provigil’s intended usage…
It is important to understand that while Provigil can be an effective weight loss aid for some individuals, it’s intended usage is to promote wakefulness. Many people end up losing sight of the original condition that they are treating with this drug (e.g. narcolepsy) and end up chasing the weight loss; this is an irresponsible strategy.
Although the drug isn’t commonly abused, it does still have some potential for abuse – hence being a “Schedule IV” controlled substance in the United States. Therefore it is always recommended to take it to treat the condition for which it was prescribed.
Did you lose weight while taking Provigil?
If you took Provigil (or are currently taking it), did you end up losing weight? If you lost weight, feel free to share how much you lost in the comments section below. To help others get a better understanding of your situation, you could include the dosage that you took, how long you’ve been taking it, and why you think the drug made you lose weight.
Also be sure to mention whether you believe certain lifestyle changes or other factors may have played a role in your weight loss. Even if you didn’t lose weight (or gained weight) on this drug, feel free to join the discussion.
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15010183
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16855454
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16075662
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16855454