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Modafinil for depression: What we know so far

Off-label use includes medical purposes which have been proven to be effective in a number of situations, but not listed in the official use. For example, while Modafinil is not prescribed for ADHD, the medical community believes it’s a better alternative to Adderall or Ritalin.

While ADHD is widespread by itself, with more than 6 million cases in the US alone(as reported by the CDC), it’s not the most prevalent mental disorder. 

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How common is depression?

Depression is the most common mood disorder and it’s defined by low mood and lack of interest in activities. More than 16 million Americans adults have experienced a major depressive episode. More than 3 million adults have lived or are living with persistent depression. (Source)

Of course, that’s just the US, as data coming from a developing country may not be as accurate because in less developed countries, going regularly to the doctor is “not a thing”.

Still, the WHO (World Health Organization) reported that, globally, depression is the most widespread disease, accounting for over 1/3 of all mental illnesses.

Some people manage to disguise symptoms and may appear happy on the outside. Some forms of depression carry a blurry line between when the episode has halted and day-to-day activity is to resume (if that’s the case). 

It’s interesting to note that people with ADHD are likely to also suffer from depression. The rate at which depression occurs in people with ADHD is 10 times higher than those without it.

Living with depression

Usually, most people who are diagnosed with depression are prescribed antidepressants. While they do offer space to breathe, antidepressants can also dull the senses. For many years and into this present day, doctors would prescribe Adderall “off-label”, as it was regarded as an effective treatment option for depression. Thus, it comes as no surprise that safer options would also be considered.

A 2013 study conducted by the University of Cambridge has shown that Modafinil (Modalert) combined with other antidepressants can reduce residual symptoms of fatigue that  come with the treatment. It’s safe to say that the same applies to Armodafinil (Waklert).

Antidepressant-related fatigue or lack of concentration can negatively impact people’s lives on a number of levels. Absenteeism (when being on sick leave) and presenteeism (ineffective or lack of productivity) are sometimes noticed at work and depression is a leading cause. 

Dr. Muzaffer Kaser notes that the cognitive problems such as memory difficulties, concentration issues or lack of motivation “do not respond to antidepressant treatment, so there’s a clear, unmet clinical need.”

Symptoms such as lethargy or inability to carry on basic daily tasks can seem difficult for people with depression. The benefits of Modafinil have also been highlighted through another focus of the same study, which is determining whether  Modafinil improves cognitive abilities. In the last two decades, Modafinil has been studied and there is conclusive evidence to be sure of this fact.

Here is the presentation of the study:

Can Modafinil help with depression?

The answer is yes. There is enough proof to believe that Modafinil is effective at making you feel more awake and present when faced with depression-related cognitive decline. 

While nothing can beat regular exercise, proper nutrition and getting enough sleep, sometimes it’s not enough to get past a rough period. Depression often carries other burdens that take time to become lighter. 


A Retrospective Chart Review of the Effects of Modafinil on Depression as Monotherapy and as Adjunctive Therapy – 

Charles S Price 1, Fletcher B Taylor