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It’s a comparatively recent invention, of the 1990s, supposedly from classical Greek words meaning “good arousal” (eu- is from Greek eus, good, and the middle bit may have been taken very irregularly from the verb egeirein, to arouse or awaken).

Eugeroics are drugs that reduce the need for sleep. They’re claimed to deliver an alert and wakeful state that feels natural without the side effects of earlier types of stimulant. The best known is modafinil, though the earlier drug adrafinil and the newer armodafinil also belong in the same group.

They’re officially intended to treat sleeping disorders, but they’ve become lifestyle drugs which allow people to cope with the stress of excessively busy working and domestic lives. The military sees huge potential in them because they enable soldiers to remain active and alert for up to 48 hours at a time. They’ve been reported to ease flight crew fatigue on long trips and to help with the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) in children.

New drugs are being developed that allow people to go without sleep. Modafinil was launched in the late 1990s. It has made possible 48 hours of continuous wakefulness with few ill effects. It is an eugeroic, and gives a natural feeling of alertness and wakefulness.

Australasian Business Intelligence, 22 Feb 2006

Modafinil belongs to a new class of awakening drugs known as eugeroics, which are unravelling the mechanisms of sleepiness. Once you’ve done that you will end up in a world where the need to sleep is optional.

Sunday Telegraph, 6 Jan 2004

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 8 Apr. 2006

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 8 April 2006.