Emerging Pills Free Us From Sleep
Enter the first of a new generation of eugeroics, or wakefulness drugs, Modafinil. Developed by Cephalon as a treatment for narcolepsy and other sleep disorders, Modafinil has become a tool for those who simply want to get more out of each day. Modafinil isn't a common stimulant, and exactly how it works is still unknown. What is known is that by taking Modafinil you can remain functional and fatigue free for days, on as little as 4 hours sleep. And Modafinil comes without the jittery, manic, wired state that accompanies typical stimulants. It also lacks the post stimulant crash. In fact, people taking Modafinil are rarely aware that the drug has any effects what so ever. They simply don't get tired or fatigued when they should, even after several days with little sleep.
But Modafinil which has already been on the books for nearly seven years is soon to be outpaced by even more recently developed revolutionary wakefulness drugs. Invented by Dr. Gary Lynch and produced by Cortex Pharmaceuticles, CX717 is the newest ampakine on the block. This drug appears to be an order of magnitude more powerful than even the nearly perfect Modafinil. Ampakines like CX717 act on the neurotransmitters in your brain. Originaly designed to increase memory and mental acuity, it was later found to have a profound effect on sleep deprivation. In studies involving rhesus monkeys and small scale human trials, CX717 has been shown to increase cognitive function and memory beyond typical levels. But when administered in a state of sleeplessness, say after being up for 36 hours straight, not only did CX717 remove the effects of fatigue, it also continued to increase brain function.
A pill that not only lets you stay awake for days, but makes you smarter while under it's influence. Needless to say, the military is highly interested in CX717 and is funding a series of studies to test the drugs effectiveness further. Still, this is the tip of the iceberg. Companies like Cortex and Cephalon have whole untapped lines of new designer wakefulness and cognitive enhancing drugs that have yet to be made public. Drugs that increase the amount of effective sleep you get per hour of actual sleep are also in development. Almost all sleep researchers agree that we are not far from a time when you will be able to pop a pill of choice, and choose the amount of sleep versus wakefulness you want for any given 24 hour period.
Neil Stanley, head of sleep research at the Human Psychopharmacology Research Unit in the University of Surrey, UK predicts you could soon have pill that combines a new generation sedative with a new generation eugeroic designed to give you a precise number of hours' sleep. "It is possible that pharmaceuticals will allow you a condensed dose of sleep, and we are not that far away from having drugs that put you to sleep for a certain length of time. A 4, 5 or 6-hour pill." Changing our "sleep architecture" on demand in a regular and sustainable way.
Not all researchers agree as to whether or not this would be a positive thing, some worry about long term health effects and people overdoing it. But science marches on, and the demand for products with the power over sleep is coming from more than just the military. "At first I got it from a friend, and then I got diagnosed as a narcoleptic online," says a regular user of one of the new eugeroics. These pharmaceuticals are fast becoming a part of the long hour lifestyles of many hard working, hard playing members of our society. And just wait until CX717 hits your local pharmacist. A pill that makes you smarter and more awake will sweep the university campuses like wild fire come exam time. And no doubt a small bottle of the stuff will accompany the majority of business travelers to help them fight off jet lag soul delay, and be just that much sharper during their meetings.
I am all for better living though chemistry, so long as it is good chemistry. And these new eugeroics seem leaps and bounds beyond yesterdays stimulant-sedative cocktails. So, if there happens to be a doctor in the house that is willing to diagnose my obvious narcolepsy, I will be happy to play human test subject for any of the new wakefulness drugs. As a frequent late night blogger that gets by on a minimum amount of sleep as it is, I would welcome a crack at being smarter and more awake at 4am on a given Monday. Case in point, this story would have been posted twelve hours ago. [via Plausible Futures]
"I am an agent-provocateur in the Eastern Standard Tribe, though I’ve spent most of my life in GMT-9 and at various latitudes of Zulu, which means that my poor pineal gland has all but forgotten how to do its job without that I drown it in melatonin precursors and treat it to multi-hour nine-kilolumen sessions in the glare of my travel lantern." - Art - Eastern Standard Tribe