…Change doctors!

Acronyms abound in the field of legal drug use. Here are a few of the newer ones with their real-word meanings.

  • ES – Excessive sleepiness
  • SWSD – Shift work sleep disorder

If you have been diagnosed with one of these medical conditions and are still struggling with excessive sleepiness, there’s a drug they want you to take. Never mind resolving the reason you’re sleepy, just take the drug! That isn’t all that uncommon. After all, sleepy people often crave their first cup of coffee in the morning. Caffeine is a chemical that is stimulating to many. It is usually a simple step to move from the idea of a “kick” from caffeine to using a stimulant drug.

If you are sleepy, think about some of the effects of thhis new drug before having that prescription filled.

The drug’s name is armodafinil (trade name NUVIGIL). It is classified as a federally controlled substance (category C-IV). Other drugs in that category include alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and Phenobarbital. Classification decisions are made on criteria that include potential for abuse.

The drug company warns, “Please use NUVIGIL only as directed and keep in a safe place to prevent misuse and abuse.”  They are also up front about the potential side effects. I presume that vast numbers of people ignore that kind of information so the manufacturer has no fear that their list of bad effects will diminish sales. In fact, they boast that over 450,000 prescriptions for NUVIGIL have been written since 2009 (I am reporting on this drug in September 2010).

Here are few of the more onerous side effects;

  • serious rash
  • serious allergic reaction (may be life-threatening)
  • hives
  • sores
  • swelling
  • trouble swallowing or breathing
  • headaches
  • nausea/vomiting
  • dizziness
  • trouble sleeping
  • chest pain
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • hallucinations
  • psychosis
  • mania
  • thoughts of suicide
  • aggression
  • other mental problems

If that isn’t enough to frighten you, here’s more warning directly from the drug maker’s web site:

Women who use hormonal birth control may have a higher chance of getting pregnant, while taking NUVIGIL, and for one month after stopping.

Clearly, this new drug – indicated for a couple of “made up” conditions, is active at many levels in the body – including the hormone systems.

The package insert reports that the side effects were serious enough to discontinue the drug in 0.8% of the users. That doesn’t seem like a lot until you look at how many people take it. As I mentioned above, the manufacturer claims that over 450,000 prescriptions were written – that works out to 3,600 people seriously affected by the drug.

That’s what our FDA considers safe and acceptable.

What causes sleepiness?

Like most things, sleepiness has a cause – and it is NOT the lack of a drug. Our doctors ought to help us discover the causes and address them. It is understandable that some people need jobs that interfere with sleep or have family obligations that rob them of needed rest. That does not translate to the need for yet another stimulant drug. It means finding a different job and arranging for “me time” at home. The short-term risks are bad and nobody knows what this stuff will do over many years – or what it will do once it gets into our food and water supply.

ES and SWSD are NOT diseases that require drug treatment.

NUVIGIL is a drug that should not be on the market.

The generic name for this drug is armodafinil. I suggest it is aptly named because it is truly a DAFFY solution to a non-problem.