Modafinil - Ultimate Guide to This Smart Drug


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May 13, 2016
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Can one pill really to unlock your mind and offer you the possibility for limitless focus and brain function?

That's the hope of anyone using nootropics, a.k.a. smart drugs. Think about it, if you could take a single pill or powder that enhanced neurological function thereby making you smarter, accelerating reaction time, increasing alertness, and improving memory, all at the same time, you'd be crazy not to use it.

The concept of ?neuroenhancement? is one of the fastest growing trends in the supplement industry. With that, there's a tidal wave of ingredients promising to deliver remarkable cognitive improvements. None more talked about, researched, or used that modafinil.

If you?re new to the world of nootropics, and specifically modafinil, sit tight because we've got a full rundown on anything and everything related to this potent brain-boosting drug.

What is Modafinil?​

Modafinil (2-[(Diphenylmethyl) sulfinyl]acetamide) is a synthetic FDA-approved eugeroic (wakefulness agent) that's commonly prescribed by doctors, under the brand name Provigil, to combat narcolepsy and ?shift work? sleep disorder. [1] However, modafinil has recently found a home among the bio-hackers in the supplement industry seeking to reach a new plain of enlightenment and higher brain function.

Interestingly enough, several militaries around the world have also explored its use for troops during lengthy missions when sleep deprivation may occur.

Modafinil is often labeled as a stimulant due to its wakefulness-inducing properties, but it actually works a tad bit different than other common stimulants including caffeine, Ritalin, or amphetamines. Despite being created as a treatment for narcolepsy, modafinil has come be used with greater frequency for its beneficial effects on cognition, concentration, and focus. [2]

It first gained popularity as the smart drug of choice of major Wall Street traders, Silicon Valley big shots, and other notable influencers.


If you?re a little thrown off by this word, or new to it, the term ?neuroenhancement? refers to a directed effort to enhance and extend one?s cognitive and affective abilities. Individuals seeking to enhance their neurological function typically have a base level understanding of neurobiology and seek out various ways to improve it through diet or supplementation, as in the case of smart drugs and nootropics like modafinil.
Biohacking the Brain

How Does Modafinil Work?​

Modafinil shares features with stimulant drugs, like Ritalin (methylphenidate), herbal nootropic substances, such as bacopa monnieri, and the smart drug piracetam. It exerts a rather intricate neurochemical profile that affects both ?online? and ?offline? mental neurological processes. [3]

Online processes include working memory, executive function, speed of processing, verbal learning, and various attentional functions (i.e. vigilance), whereas ?offline? processes are the more ?passive? processes of the brain, such as memory consolidation. [3] Modafinil?s widespread effectiveness enables it to impact both online and offline processes, which is one of the primary reasons, it's heralded as the ultimate smart drug on the market.

Modafinil directly inhibits dopamine and noradrenaline uptake transporters, which causes catecholamine levels - epinephrine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and dopamine - to increase. [4] This in turn increases extracellular levels of glutamate, serotonin, histamine, and orexin, while also reducing concentrations of GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid), the body?s primary ?downer? neurotransmitter.

Due to the elevated excitatory neurotransmitters and decreased inhibitory neurotransmitters, users of modafinil report long lasting focus, alertness and motivation.

Researchers attribute modafinil?s wakefulness-promoting actions to its interactions with the orexin-hypocretin axis as well as the elevations in adrenergic and dopaminergic transmission. However, other researchers have found that modafinil also effects similar neurochemical changes in the midbrain, hypothalamus, thalamus, hippocampus, amygdala and caudate. [5]

Benefits of Modafinil​


The primary benefit, and the reason it was created, of modafinil is in promoting wakefulness and arousal (no, not that kind...get your mind out of the gutter.) Typically, when individuals are sleep deprived, whether it be due to work, kids, or deployment, cognitive function and hippocampal-dependent memory is significantly impaired.

However, supplementing with modafinil has been shown to prevent cognitive function impairment by increasing or ?upregulating? Synapsin I expression and reducing the number of errors typically made by sleep-deprived persons. [6] FYI, Synapsin I is a collection of proteins heavily involved in the regulation of neurotransmitter release at synapses. [7]

Cognitive Function​

Emergency Room physicians are one of the most susceptible professions to sleep deprivation given the high demand for their services at a moment?s notice. As such, cognitive function can decline when on the go or up for hours on end without a break - not exactly what you want from a doctor about to operate on you?

But, when modafinil was given to sleep deprived ER docs, it improved their performance on cognitive function tests compared to the baseline. [8] On top of that, modafinil has been shown to enhance cognitive function in patients addicted to methamphetamine, which is associated with greatly impaired cognitive function. [9]


Doses of 100 - 200mg of modafinil taken two hours prior to cognitive testing has been shown to improve working memory, planning, processing accuracy, and task enjoyment, in both sleep deprived and completely individuals. [10][11]

Reaction Time​

Not only did test subject performing cognitive tests perform better in all aspects (memory, processing, etc.), they also improved their reaction time, and had greater enjoyment doing it too. [12] So, not only does modafinil make you smarter, it also makes you faster and enjoy the work you?re doing more too.

Appetite Suppression​

You can look at this as good or bad, depending on whether you?re cutting or trying to build muscle, but modafinil has been shown in at least one study to have a rather strong appetite suppressing effect on persons taking it. [13]


When given to ADHD children, modafinil was able to increase attention and reduce the tell-tale signs of ADHD as assessed by both the two most common ADHD tests, CGI-I and ADHD-RS-IV. [13]


One of the biggest problems / crises facing the country is prescription drug addiction and abuse. Fortunately, modafinil is non-habit forming and non-addictive. [14] Researchers postulate this is due to modafinil?s inability to activate certain neural pathways typically involved in addiction.

Modafinil Dosing​

Given the plethora of research on modafinil, it should come as no surprise there are a wide range of dosing possibilities with this compound. Some studies even go as high as 400mg of the smart drug, while others use only 100mg and see benefit.

Prescriptions of modafinil (i.e. Provigil) come in 100 and 200mg tablets. If you?re looking to use modafinil for its cognitive-boosting properties, it's generally recommended to start at 100-200mg doses and assess tolerance.

That being said, modafinil is a prescription drug, so you should always consult with a doctor before taking modafinil.

Side Effects​

There are no severe side effects attributed to modafinil; however, across all the clinical trials conducted, a few potential side effects have been listed by pharmaceutical companies including:
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced appetite
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Hypertension
  • Nervousness


Is modafinil the ticket to limitless brain function and power? Quite possibly, given the volumes of research documenting its effectiveness for enhancing attention, alertness, wakefulness, and cognition.

Modafinil represents the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the expansive world of nootropics, and it just might be the king of them all, too!