'It's hard to beat but I'm starting to get there now'

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The Independent Online
GRAHAM HARDY was given a hard time by his teachers, Jeremy Laurance writes. When he fell asleep in class they would berate him for staying up too late. "Everyone thought I was lazy," he said.

Later, on a first aid course, he dropped off each time he sat down. He would wake a few minutes later, often without realising he had been asleep. A friend said he was the most laid-back person he had ever met.

He was finally diagnosed, at the age of 17, after his GP referred him to hospital in Glasgow. Doctors told him he had narcolepsy and prescribed amphetamines to keep him awake.

The attacks of overwhelming sleepiness, which usually last 10 to 15 minutes, can occur in the middle of a meal or when sufferers are walking in the street. Although frequently treated as a joke, it is a disabling condition which interrupts studies, makes work impossible and destroys relationships.

At first the drugs helped. Then he got used to them and had to increase the dose. "You need more and more and more. I was never given a break from them as I should have. I became addicted." He finished up in a clinic having to be weaned off the treatment.

Mr Hardy transferred to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary which specialises in treating narcolepsy and for the past eight months has been taking modafinil as part of a trial. Now 27, he says: "It is nothing like amphetamine. You take them and that is that - there is no high. The fact that they are non-addictive makes me feel easier."

Although he still has to take the occasional nap during the day he says he feels more active. In the past he has been unable to hold on to jobs but he hopes to start a university course in the autumn. "It used to take a lot to get me out. It's hard to fight and hard to beat but I am starting to get there now," he said.