Evaluation of the Cocaine-Like Discriminative Stimulus Effects and Reinforcing Effects of Modafinil

Tomas Thorne

Last Updated: February 2, 2023



Modafinil [(diphenyl-methyl)sulphinyl-2-acetamide] is a novel psychostimulant drug which is effective in the treatment of narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia. It also has neuroprotective effects in animal models of striatal neuropathology. Although the cellular mechanisms of action of modafinil are poorly understood, it has been shown to have a profile of pharmacological effects that differs considerably from that of amphetamine-like stimulants. There is some evidence that modafinil has central alpha 1-adrenergic agonist effects. In the present study modafinil was evaluated for cocaine-like discriminative stimulus effects in rats and for reinforcing effects in rhesus monkeys maintained on intravenous cocaine self-administration. Modafinil, l-ephedrine and d-amphetamine all produced dose dependent increases in cocaine-lever responding, with maximal levels of 67%, 82% and 100%, respectively. Modafinil produced full substitution in four out of the six rats tested while the highest levels of substitution were associated with substantial response rate decreasing effects. Little evidence was obtained that the discriminative stimulus effects of modafinil were produced by alpha 1-adrenergic activation, based upon results of tests performed in combination with prazosin. In the self-administration procedure, modafinil and l-ephedrine functioned as reinforcers in rhesus monkeys. The reinforcing and discriminative stimulus effects of modafinil-required very high doses: modafinil was over 200 times less potent than d-amphetamine and was also less potent than l-ephedrine. These results show that modafinil has some cocaine-like discriminative stimulus effects and, like other abused stimulants, can serve as a reinforcer at high doses.


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