To date, there is no cure for narcolepsy. However, there are medications that can help to alleviate the symptoms. There are three general types of drugs used for treating the symptoms of narcolepsy:
This type of drug stimulates the central nervous system. It is used to treat excessive daytime sleepiness and reduce the incidence of sleep episodes. Some of the active ingredients that belong to this category include modafinil, armodafinil and methylphenidate.
Tricyclic antidepressants and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the two major classes of antidepressant drugs used to treat cataplexy. Tricyclic antidepressants such as imipramine, protriptyline and clomipramine are effective in treating cataplexy.
SSRIs and SNRIs (Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) such as fluoxetine and venlafaxine can help to suppress REM sleep. They can also ease the symptoms of cataplexy, hallucinations and sleep paralysis.
Sodium oxybate, also called gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), is a sedative used for treating narcolepsy. While it can help to induce sleeping at night, it can also cause serious side effects such as seizures, coma or death if used incorrectly.
There may be drug interactions between medications for narcolepsy and those for other conditions, so special attention is required if other pre-existing health problems are present.
Certain over-the-counter drugs, such as allergy and cold medications, can cause drowsiness and should be avoided in people affected with narcolepsy. It should be noted that tolerance to drugs could develop after long-term use, leading to an increasingly higher dosage requirement overtime for effectiveness.