Part of the show Chinese Medicine and the Healing Power of Plants
George from Cambridgeshire asked:
You were talking earlier about a drug that keeps people awake. The military have been issuing amphetamines for years to keep soldiers awake. What's the difference between this new drug and amphetamines?
Modafinil doesn't seem to have the horrible side effects that amphetamines have. Amphetamines can sometimes leave you feeling very depressed and not very well. Apart from the side effect of headaches, Modafinil is pretty good. They don't fully understand how it works, but they think that it stops nerve cells from reabsorbing a neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine. Dopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter and so when it's left between the synapses, it keeps you awake. So the main benefit is the lack of side effects.