We know drug addiction. But do we know food addiction?
Highly palatable foods, like addictive drugs, are something many people get hooked on to.
Is modafinil (commonly called Provigil) is the answer?
Junk food can trigger ‘happy hormones’, like dopamine, making the brain associate tasty food with happiness and release more dopamine.
The pleasure or reward signals from these foods can cause signal hijacking, i.e. signals of satisfaction or fullness sent by the hypothalamus are overridden. Thus, the person keeps eating even when full.
This can lead to obesity and a vicious circle of compulsive eating.
The preoccupation with junk food makes the person lose control over their eating habits and they tend to overeat more often than not.
In fact, sugar can hijack your brain in a manner similar to drugs like cocaine and heroin. It has been seen that between cocaine and sugar, mice tend to pick sugar every time!
Modafinil (Provigil) For Food Addiction
Modafinil, a non-addictive smart drug used for enhancing cognitive function without the side effects of traditional stimulants (basically, you don’t become jittery). It promotes wakefulness without any side effects.
In recent years, scientists have found a new use for this drug, commonly known as Provigil, which is treating food addiction.
While it can’t be labeled as a cure, it can surely support the recovery when paired with coping mechanisms and lifestyle changes.
Researchers recently proposed that Modafinil and can help treat people living with food addiction by reducing their impulsiveness. However, the physiology behind the mechanism is yet to be determined as food addiction is driven by the impulse that arises from stress, sadness, guilt or shame.
The drug has a real potential to help those living with the disorder. However, it also means that many trials are needed to be done before is considered a viable treatment.
Also, medication isn’t a cure for addiction and it is just a tool that can help a person break the chains. A support system needs to be put in place in order to combat food addiction. Here are a few ways you can begin:
Understand food addiction
Understanding the root of the problem can help you accept food addiction as an illness and not a choice.
Initially, your addiction is out of your control but it can be curbed. The recovery only begins when you offer yourself the freedom to make mistakes. Try not to feel ashamed when you make one.
Doing so will eventually get you to the point where you will have control over your addiction. Remember that you will get there; relapse is not a sign of weakness or failure.
Develop a support system
Also, you must have a support system in place. you will have someone to talk to about your addiction and this someone can both help you and motivate you to achieve your goals.
Having a conversation with close friends and family keeps people motivated, which is another way of avoiding a relapse.
When you need someone to be honest with your family and friends will find ways to support you.
Replace food with other activities
Addiction is driven by the reward-pleasure mechanism, which is why it is important to replace food with other activities.
You can make a list of healthy things that you like to do, some hobbies that you would like to pursue and make an action plan for these activities whenever impulse hits you.
Instead of eating, you can switch to your hobby.
As the brain operates in patterns, it will be uncomfortable at first; however, as time passes by your brain will be conditioned to these healthy habits.
When All Else Fails
As discussed earlier, modafinil is not a replacement of the conventional addiction care methods. It is a tool for medical assisting the entire process. Usually associated with narcolepsy and sleep apnea, it may also prove helpful against food addiction.
Researchers at the University of Warwick in the UK found a link between impulsive behavior associated with food addiction and the working of Provigil or modafinil.
The mechanism behind the working of this medicine is yet to be determined. The drug is believed to alter the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and dopamine.
Since impulsive eating is a way of increasing the dopamine levels, introducing a drug that can do the same can help in controlling compulsive eating.
The drug was tested on 16 men between the ages of 19 and 32, who were put into three groups.
Group one received modafinil and the second group was given atomoxetine, the drug used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), while the third one was given a placebo, an inert pill (e.g. sugar pills).
It was concluded that impulsiveness of the group given modafinil was much less than the other two groups, which showed approximately the same degrees of self-control.
It can be said that modafinil improves self-control, which can help the person take the right decisions in order to curb obesity. It could also help them control their desire for junk food.
Side Effects Of Modafinil
There is an array of benefits associated with modafinil. The side effects are not as many as the benefits.
While it is non-addictive and non-stimulant by composition, some rare cases of dependency have occurred. Also, it is known to not sit well with alcohol and other medications like birth control pills.
It is also known to trigger fatal reactions in those with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, which is in itself a very rare disease (1 to 2 cases per million). There are alternative drugs like Racetams, but they are not without side effects either.
The rules and regulations are different in countries around the world regarding the sale and purchase of Modafinil.
In India, it is a Schedule H drug, but in the USA, it is Schedule IV drug. You might find it over the counter as well but self-medication is harmful, no matter how you try to justify it.
Instead, contact a doctor who can then determine if your food addiction requires a boost of this drug.