Neuropharmacology and the Military
Modafinil is particularly promising for its ability to improve cognitive function and combat sleep deprivation. When one's circadian rhythm is at a low ebb, this challenges cognitive function, and cognitive performance can decline significantly during these periods. The military has not just researched this on its own, but has been able to borrow from other research on the subject. The medical profession, for example, has examined modafinil, and managing the sleep patterns of shift workers is one of the drug's approved uses. Military personnel can be shift workers, but more often they experience sleep disruptions, especially during combat situations, and modafinil essentially stabilizes cognitive function during these times (Westcott, 2005).
One of the caveats to the use of modafinil is that some cognitive performance tests are subjective -- self-reported results from users with respect to their cognitive function. Modafinil in particular was found to have a disruptive effect on self-monitoring, meaning that users experienced an overconfidence effect, reporting higher cognitive outcomes than were actually experienced (Baranski & Pigeau, 1997). This factor, and the reality that there is a lot still...
While the effects of modafinil might have been overstated at times, the military still sees it as a better alternative to amphetamines, which as of the early 1990s were the drug of choice for military applications. Amphetamines have many physical side effects that could prove counterproductive for military applications. That said, it is reasonable that the military is seeking a superior nootropic,
One of the areas of interest, particular to neuropharmacology, is recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Soldiers frequently suffer from PTSD, but the military recognizes two realities. First, helping soldiers is the right thing to do. Second, every soldier represents an investment in training and experience. If a soldier suffering from PTSD can recover, he/she can be deployed again in some capacity. It is to the benefit of all military branches to find ways to help soldiers recover from PTSD faster and more comprehensively.
PTSD results from exposure to a severe traumatic stressor, and is considered to be a psychiatric disorder (Cain, Maynard & Kehne, 2012). Researchers have learned a lot about PTSD in recent years, including hyperarousal and dysfunctional aversive memories, both of which play a significant role in the severity of PTSD. Early research indicates that there are several potential treatments for the disorder,…
Baranski, J. & Pigeau, R. (1997). Self-monitoring for cognitive performance during sleep deprivation: Effects of modafinil, d-amphetamine and placebo. Journal of Sleep Research. Vol. 6 (1997) 84-91.
Cain, C., Maynard, G. & Kehne, J. (2012). Targeting memory processes with drugs to prevent or cure PTSD. Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs. Vol. 21 (9) 1323-1350.
Raskind, M. (2013). A placebo-controlled augmentation trial of prazosin for combat trauma PTSD. Seattle Institute for Biomedical and clinical research.
Raskind, M., Peterson, K., Williams, T., Hoff, D., Hart, K., Holmes, H., Homas, D., Hill, J., Daniels, C., Calohan, J., Millard, S., Rohde, K., O'Connell, J., Pritzl, D., Feiszli, K. (2013). A trial of prazosin for combat trauma PTSD with nightmares in active-duty soldiers returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. American Journal of Psychiatry. Vol. 170 (2013) 1003-1010.
Neuropharmacology & the Military It is hard to argue with the basic premise -- the U.S. military exists to promote, by means of force or by means of deterrence backed by the threat of force -- American interests. In military situations, winning is the most important thing, and all other factors are secondary. This has always been true of military endeavors, and that has not changed today. Given that, the U.S.