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How Smart Drugs Like Modafinil Cloud Help US Military?

Modafinil used by US military

Many people believe that the use of smart drugs will help the military fight wars in the future. In fact, it is expected to provide soldiers with an advantage over others. True, the use of these smart drugs does not help in increasing the intelligence of soldiers. However, they do help soldiers improve their cognitive as well as executive function. Improvement in both can help increase one’s intelligence.

One must remember that this is not the first time that idea has been thought of. Germans used stimulants to fuel their Blitzkrieg and the speed was used by Allied pilots to combat fatigue. This helped them stay alert during long flights.

One of the drugs that is being considered is Modafinil. This drug is popular under the brand names Provigil and Vigil. This drug is prescribed as medication for people who suffer from narcolepsy. It is a prescription drug. That means whoever uses it must have a prescription from a certified doctor. Even soldiers who use them must have a prescription.

The military forces of many countries have thought of using Modafinil. They are hoping that it would take the place of amphetamine, the drug that previously given to soldiers to combat sleep deprivation when sent on long missions. In fact the French government has given hints that for certain covert operations that are given Modafinil. Also, there are reports that the Ministry of Defense in the United Kingdom has set up a research into Modafinil and it has been reported that the ministry spent £300,000 on the research.

The Indian Air Force in 2011 has announced that as a part of its contingency plans its troops will be given Modafinil. The Air Force in the United States has given its approval to use Modafinil for certain missions. An investigation is going on to determine whether the drug can be used for other missions. From November of 2012, the “smart drug” the Air Force uses for fatigue management is Modafinil. It has replaced dextroamphetamine.

For any military aviation operation to be successful it has run day and night. One of the easy ways of doing this is to use stimulants. Previously the Air Force of the United States used dextroamphetamine. Even though the drug was successful, there were concerns that it could be abused and result in addiction among the troops. They have found that Modafinil can also do the same thing. Also, their studies have indicated that Modafinil does a better job than dextroamphetamine when it comes to helicopter flight missions. The studies included 40 hour periods of sustained wakefulness. 18 helicopter pilots took part (17 men and 1 women). These pilots have done 15 flights along with other evaluations. These pilots received two out of the following three:

  • Modafinil (100mg) doses with 4 hours interval
  • Dextroamphetamine (5mg) doses with 4 hours interval
  • Placebo with 4 hours interval

The results of these studies showed that Modafinil showed the same improvements as dextroamphetamine when it came to maintaining alertness, risk perception, judgment, awareness of the situation, and feeling of well-being.

Finally, it was concluded that Modafinil was a better smart drug than dextroamphetamine and that is why the Air Force has replaced it as the go pill for fatigue management.

One must, however, remember that suggesting the use of smart drugs in the military is by no means supporting the abuse of drugs. In fact, one must understand that if a soldier wants to use Modafinil he must have a prescription. If a soldier takes Modafinil without a prescription then he/she will fail their urinalysis test. Failing in their urinalysis test can result in them being discharged from the military.

It has been suggested that one should not deny the army of an advantage if it can help their soldiers in the battlefield. This includes using smart drugs like Modafinil.

Note: This article is completely verified by Maj. Jamie Schwandt, USAR, is a logistics officer and has served as an operations officer, planner and commander. He is certified as a Department of the Army Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and holds a doctorate from Kansas State University. With the help of his own views about the smart drugs, we have given the information about the potential benefits of Provigil (Modafinil) on the battlefield.


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