High performance in a pill
In the movie Limitless the protagonist goes from a struggling writer to a superhuman overnight with the help of smart drug NZT. He finishes his book in a couple of days and cleans up in financial trading. Whilst such a powerful smart drug has yet to be discovered in the real world (and never will), there are other options available for upping your game. One such option is modafinil. It’s used by entrepreneurs, students and astronauts to enhance concentration and focus. it’s the one drug made available to US fight pilots1.
“Pass me out another modafinil mate”
In this blog I give a bit of background on modafinil, the benefits, how it works and known side effects. I’ll describe my experiences.
Modafinil, invented by French experimental medicine professor Michel Jouvet as a treatment for narcolepsy. It’s been on the market since 2002 in the UK as subscription only, however, it can still be bought online1. Outside of treating narcolepsy, modafinil is used by people looking to enhance alertness and memory2. There is debate about whether it promotes cognition in individuals with healthy IQs3,4.
Modafinil’s primary mechanism of action is to act as a dopamine uptake inhibitor in the brain (in a similar manner to cocaine). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved with creating a sensation of reward, learning and alertness. Having a lot more of it floating outside brain cells contributes to alertness. In addition to this, through mechanisms that are not well known, modafinil is thought to influence levels of the following neurotransmitters:
- serotonin (mood)
- GABA (calmness, promotes restful sleep)
- norepinephrine (alertness, focus)
There are potential neuroprotective effects through the regulation of toxins (metabolic free radicals, glutamate toxicity)5.
The following is not uncommon on modafinil: anxiety, nausea, headaches, jitters, euphoria, dizziness. It’s not addictive, but can be open to abuse. There has not been evidence of fatal overdoses. People with a rare genetic disposition can develop a dangerous skin rash (Stevens-Johnson Syndrome)6. Although this is a risk with other drugs and antibiotics too.
On my first day trying modafinil, I took four 50mg doses spaced roughly one a half hours out from each other, starting at 9am. I did experience mild euphoria, jitters and a mild headache. I was able to sustain focus with ease for two hour sessions without breaks. At the end of the day I felt slightly frail and tired. Getting to sleep wasn’t a problem, though since I’ve taken modafinil later in the day and have had problems getting to sleep. The effective dosage for me is 50mg 2-4 times a day.
Is modafinil worth it?
Modafinil is powerful. It can make you sit still for hours and plough your way through admin or ‘crank the handle’ style work for hours on end. I can sit glued to my screen and the most routine of tasks becomes enjoyable. Does it promote cognitive abilities (memory, processing speed)? I don’t know for sure but it does promote alertness and wakefulness.
Is it safe? Whilst there’s no major short term side effects, I don’t know what the long term dangers are. It’s not something I’d want to take day in-day out. It’s good for certain type of tasks – admin or ‘crank the handle’ type work. It’s not great for meetings requiring negotiations, empathy or for tasks that requires creativity. I only take this once in a blue moon when I have a lot of admin tasks that only I can do. I prefer delegating, outsourcing or automating this type of work, but sometimes there’s no getting away from it.
In summary, modafinil has it’s uses for certain types of but I wouldn’t use often.
Thank you for reading and happy hustling,
Have you tried modafinil? What was your experience? Please share in the comments below.
Disclaimer: the content provided in this blog is the personal opinions of the Nutrition and Productivity Blog / Patrick McCay and is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute any type of professional advice. The content may or may not be true. The Nutrition and Productivity Blog / Patrick McCay makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. The Nutrition and Productivity Blog /Patrick McCay encourages you to seek the advice of the relevant licensed professionals before making any decisions related to health.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modafinil#cite_note-AF48-26 ‘Modafinil’
- http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043661810000927 ‘Modafinil and methylphenidate for neuroenhancement in healthy individuals: A systematic review’
- http://www.livescience.com/48762-modafinil-drug-impaired-cognition.html ‘’Smart Drug’ Modafinil Does Not Make You Smarter’
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16140369 ‘Cognitive effects of modafinil in student volunteers may depend on IQ.’
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2654794/ ‘Mechanisms of modafinil: A review of current research’
- http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1197450-overview#a5 ‘Stevens-Johnson Syndrome’