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Armodafinil Side Effects & How to Avoid Them

Armodafinil is a popular medication that most individuals looking to gain a competitive edge in their workplaces or schools depend on because of its cognitive enhancing benefits. The interesting thing about it is the fact that it poses far fewer side effects compared to most alternative “smart drugs.” Regardless, it would be much better to rip the benefits of this drug without having a headache or anything, wouldn’t it?

Armodafinil Side Effects

Read on to discover the secrets of this drug and how to get the best out of it.

What Is Armodafinil Used For?

Armodafinil, marketed under the brand name Nuvigil, is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat individuals suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness caused by 3 major sleep disorders [1]:

  • narcolepsy;
  • shift work sleep disorder (SWSD);
  • obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Although the drug is approved only for the aforementioned uses, it is more commonly used off-label by working-class individuals and students alike to increase performance. People who use armodafinil off-label believe it offers the following benefits:

  • increased alertness;
  • laser-sharp focus;
  • boosted memory retention;
  • increased motivation to work;
  • faster mental processing speed.

While thousands of people across the world use armodafinil mainly for these off-label benefits, the FDA doesn’t support it. However, its continued use for this purpose remains on the rise, and this points to only one conclusion – the drug works!

Armodafinil is produced by Cephalon Inc., and it was approved by the FDA in June 2007 [2]. Do you know what’s intriguing about this drug? It’s the fact that scientists are unable to explain exactly how it works, even when they know so well that it is not only effective but also safe. Well, some have linked its wakefulness-promoting effects to its ability to alter the levels of dopamine and serotonin, among other chemicals, in the brain that regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

Armodafinil is safe for use – if used correctly. It is advisable to consult a doctor before taking this medication or any other.

Does Armodafinil Have Fewer Side Effects Than Modafinil?

Side Effects

Yes, armodafinil has fewer side effects. It may be considered a new and improved version of modafinil. Its effects last slightly longer, and the cognitive-enhancing/wake-promoting benefits remain constant throughout the time it lasts in the body.

It’s worth noting that armodafinil is 1.33 times stronger than its counterpart. Research has shown that a 150 mg strength of it produces the same effects as the 200 mg strength of modafinil [3]. Armodafinil’s ability to provide the same effects as modafinil at a lower strength is the reason it poses fewer side effects. Here’s an analogy for further clarification.

Mr. A wants to take modafinil for its cognitive-enhancing effects. So he starts with modafinil 100 mg (the lowest available dose of this drug) but does not experience any results. He then tries the 200 mg dose on another occasion and finds that it works perfectly, but there’s a little problem. He experiences headaches, nausea, and stomach upset each time he takes this dose, and it makes it difficult to focus on his tasks.

What does Mr. A do?

He gives armodafinil 150 mg a shot. It works perfectly, providing him with all the much-needed benefits, only this time without the side effects he was experiencing earlier.

It’s worth noting that armodafinil doesn’t pose the same risk of side effects to everyone; this may be attributed to the differences in biological makeup. There are many individuals who reap all the benefits without experiencing any side effects. However, for as many who find modafinil a little too stimulating, armodafinil might be a better option. Note that this does not necessarily mean that modafinil is less safe and effective.

Armodafini’s minimal side effects coupled with its slightly longer duration of action make it a favorite of many “smart drug” enthusiasts.

Long-Term Side Effects of Armodafinil

Extensive clinical research shows that armodafinil is well-tolerated and has a low potential for long-term side effects. The response from the research participants also showed that the possible negative reactions were of mild to moderate intensity [4].

For reference, here are the possible long-term adverse effects that may result from taking this drug.

Dependence and Addiction

Dependence and addiction are some of the concerns of individuals using armodafinil long term. However, studies suggest that the probability of them occurring is very slim. Since the drug’s approval in 2007, several thousands of individuals have used it, and yet there have been almost zero reports about addiction.

We say “almost” because there was this one case of an individual who developed a dependence on the drug. However, a follow-up on the case revealed that the individual was equally addicted to several other substances [5].

Note that it’s important to keep the use of armodafinil to a minimum (1 to 3 times per week) to reduce the chances of addiction. Also, avoid overdosing on it.

Weight Loss

Weight loss has been found to be one of the long-term side effects of armodafinil in certain individuals, especially those who are overweight [6]. In fact, some individuals use it to achieve dual results in one shot: to enhance cognition and shed weight.

Weight Loss

The concept behind the drug’s weight-cutting effect in overweight individuals is that since it promotes wakefulness and increases alertness, it helps the users become more active. And this, in turn, brings about gradual weight loss, with emphasis on the word “gradual.”

However, it’s worth noting that this effect is uncommon in individuals who have a healthy weight.

Mania

Mania is a mental illness characterized by mood swings: excitement, overactivity, and delusions. Although there have been no reports of armodafinil being a direct cause of it, there’s been a case in which a schizophrenia patient experienced it [7].

There’s a very low chance for individuals with a psychological disorder to experience mania due to armodafinil use, let alone healthy people. However, the need to use the drug exactly as prescribed by a doctor can’t be overemphasized.

Short-Term Side Effects of Armodafinil

Every drug has side effects, and armodafinil does too. However, when compared to other “smart drugs,” it has some of the rarest occurring and mildest negative reactions.

Interestingly, only a handful of people who take it experience adverse effects during their first use. They’re usually mild and typically disappear within a few hours or days as the body gets accustomed to the drug.

Here are the possible short-term adverse effects of armodafinil and how to avoid them.

Headache

This is one of the most common adverse effects experienced by first-time users of the drug. However, on some occasions, even individuals who’ve used it for a while may also experience it. Over time, enthusiasts have discovered one of the causes of this condition – taking the drug on an empty stomach. Thus, eating a full meal before popping a pill could make the difference.

Headache

What’s more, drinking lots of water after taking the drug and during the period it’s active in the body could also help prevent headaches. Be sure to consult your doctor or healthcare provider if the symptom persists.

Dizziness

Dizziness is one of the most common side effects associated with armodafinil use [8]. This negative reaction is considered quite normal, especially for first-time users. It is usually mild and tends to disappear after a short while without treatment. It is due to symptoms like this that first-time users of armodafinil are discouraged from driving, operating machinery, or carrying out any hazardous task. While on it, it is important to remember that the drug can last for days in the body.

Insomnia

One of the major benefits of this medication is its ability to promote wakefulness. What this means is that upon administration, armodafinil mops up any traces of sleep, allowing the user to be awake, alert, and super-focused. While this works well in helping to improve performance and productivity, it could sometimes be a major problem.

Imagine a situation where you cannot sleep at night or when you’re supposed to. This could cause tiredness, unnecessary fatigue, and an eventual decline in productivity if it goes on for days.

Luckily, it’s easy to avoid insomnia even as a frequent user of the drug. Obey this single rule: Unless you intend to stay awake throughout the night, take it as early as possible in the morning. Because the drug’s effects can last for up to 15 hours, it will still stay active in your body if it’s taken late in the day.

Nausea

This is yet another side effect first-time users of the drug often report experiencing. Sometimes, even people who take it frequently also experience it. As with headaches, the major cause of this symptom has been linked to popping the pill on an empty stomach. If you experience stomach upset each time you take this drug, a good way to avoid it will be to try taking it with food.

Other short-term side effects individuals using armodafinil may experience include diarrhea, sweating, thirst, and frequent urination. There are those who suspect that it could also cause rectal bleeding, but this is untrue, as research on modafinil confirmed [9]. Seek urgent medical attention if you experience any serious discomfort.

Rare Side Effects of Armodafinil

Although armodafinil is generally safe for both short- and long-term use, it may pose a risk of some serious side effects. However, such occurrences are rare and are mostly caused by incorrect use. Here are some rare side effects of armodafinil [10]:

  • chest pain;
  • skin rash;
  • angioedema;
  • blurred vision or partial blindness;
  • itching;
  • vascular expansion (widening of blood vessels);
  • fever;
  • shortness of breath;
  • hallucinations.

Although exceptionally rare, these adverse effects can be severe and even life-threatening if left unattended. Be sure to seek urgent medical attention if you experience any of them.

Does Armodafinil Have Sexual Side Effects?

Sexual Side Effects

Although there are limited studies concerning the effects of armodafinil on sexual activity, some facts can be drawn from modafinil that has been studied more extensively.

One paper drew attention to the case of a 39-year old man who was suffering from comorbid erectile dysfunction (ED) that possibly resulted from his intake of fluoxetine to treat depression. While the 20 mg of fluoxetine he was placed on per day improved most of the depressive symptoms, the issue of ED was unresolved. The man continued to complain of weakness, fatigue and decreased sexual desire.

However, as soon as a daily dose of 200 mg of modafinil was added to his regimen, a remarkable improvement was observed in both his erectile function and psychomotor symptoms [11]. While a conclusion can’t be drawn based on this single case, it suggests that armodafinil may be capable of improving sexual function.

Understand that this literature does not promote armodafinil as an effective treatment for ED or any other sexual dysfunction.

Be sure to consult your doctor before starting treatment with this or any other drug.

Armodafinil Interactions

Armodafinil may interact with certain other drugs in a way that can decrease one or more of the meds’ effectiveness or increase the risk of side effects. Here are some types of the medications that interact negatively with this “smart drug”:

  • cancer drugs like bosutinib;
  • certain antibiotics like rifampin;
  • antiplatelet meds such as clopidogrel;
  • corticosteroids like deflazacort;
  • sedatives like triazolam, midazolam, and diazepam;
  • antifungal medications like ketoconazole and itraconazole.

The aforementioned drugs should not be taken alongside armodafinil unless otherwise advised by a doctor or healthcare provider. There are certainly other medications that may cause a negative interaction not mentioned above. Refer to the drug information leaflet for a more comprehensive list.

It is worth noting that although armodafinil can be taken with or without food, it may interact with fatty meals. Foods rich in fat have been found to slow down the onset of effects of several drugs and even affect the mechanism of action of some others. Also, do not combine armodafinil with alcohol, as it may decrease the effects of the drug.

Is Armodafinil Drug Safe?

Yes, armodafinil is a safe drug. It poses a minimal risk of side effects and has been found to be safe for both short- and long-term use. However, how one takes it can influence the experience. This is why it is important to take the drug correctly. Here’s how.

Armodafinil is available in multiple strengths, including 50 mg, 150 mg, 200 mg, and 250 mg [12]. It is advisable for individuals taking it for the first time to start with a lower dose of, say, 150 mg and then step down or up based on tolerance or sensitivity, respectively. The pills should be swallowed whole with a substantial amount of water to help prevent headaches, nausea, and dry mouth.

Take Pill

Do not crush, split, or dissolve the pills in water so as not to tamper with the fixed dose. Note that the time to take the drug may vary depending on the condition one is looking to treat or the results looking to be achieved.

For instance, when used for SWSD, the drug should be taken about 1 hour before the commencement of the work shift. On the other hand, if the purpose of the use is for its cognitive-enhancing benefits or to treat narcolepsy or OSA, it should be taken early in the morning.

Never take more than a single pill within a 24-hour period to avoid an overdose. Consult your doctor before starting treatment with armodafinil or any other drug.

Final Thoughts

Armodafinil sure has side effects; every drug does too. However, there’s a lower chance of experiencing them if you use the drug correctly. It also has a low potential for addiction compared to many other “smart drugs,” and this makes it ideal for use.

If you experience headaches, nausea, or dry mouth while taking this drug, consider drinking lots of water each time you use it. You may also try eating a full meal before taking it. Always consult your doctor for advice and reach out to them as soon as you experience any serious discomfort.

References

  1. Armodafinil Oral: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, and Warnings. Retrieved: November 4, 2021. Webmd.com.
  2. Armodafinil. Retrieved: November 4, 2021. Wikipedia.org.
  3. Are Any New Nootropics Like Modafinil Available in the USA? By iCrowdNewswire. Retrieved: November 4, 2021. Ipsnews.net.
  4. The Long-Term Tolerability and Efficacy of Armodafinil in Patients with Excessive Sleepiness Associated with Treated Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Shift Work Disorder, or Narcolepsy: An Open-Label Extension Study. By Jed E. Black, M.D., Steven G. Hull, et al. Retrieved: November 4, 2021. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
  5. Addiction to Armodafinil and Modafinil Presenting with Paranoia. By Jason M. Jerry, MD, FAPA, Nicole Shirvani, MD, Roman Dale, MD. Retrieved: November 4, 2021. Journals.lww.com.
  6. Does Armodafinil Improve Driving Task Performance and Weight Loss in Sleep Apnea? A Randomized Trial. By Julia L. Chapman, Elizabeth A. Cayanan, et al. Retrieved: November 4, 2021. Atsjournals.org.
  7. Armodafinil Induced Mania in Schizophrenia. By Amar Bavle and Akshay Phatak. Retrieved: November 4, 2021. Journals.sagepub.com.
  8. The Efficacy and Safety of Armodafinil as Treatment for Adults with Excessive Sleepiness Associated with Narcolepsy. By John R. Harsh, Roza Hayduk, et al. Retrieved: November 4, 2021. Tandfonline.com.
  9. Modafinil and Rectal Bleeding – A Phase IV Clinical Study of FDA Data. Retrieved: November 4, 2021. Ehealthme.com.
  10. Common and Rare Side Effects for Armodafinil Oral. Retrieved: November 4, 2021. Webmed.com.
  11. Use of Modafinil in Co-existing Major Depression and Erectile Dysfunction: A Case Report. By Hakan Karaş and Muzaffer Kaşer. Retrieved: November 4, 2021. Repository.cam.ac.uk.
  12. Nuvigil (Armodafinil) Dosing, Indications, Interactions, Adverse Effects. Retrieved: November 4, 2021. Reference.medscape.com.

Modafinil.org is an informational resource about modafinil and other nootropics.