Originally synthesized in France in the 1970s, modafinil was approved by the FDA as a treatment for narcolepsy and other sleep disorders in 1998. Recently, however, totally healthy people have began using it to stay awake for extended periods of time and to increase their cognitive performance. Medications such as Adderall and Ritalin—originally prescribed for ADD patients—and ampakines—used for Alzheimer's—are also being used to improve the brain function of people studying and working. These drugs are known as nootropics, or smart drugs.
I decided to try modafinil to see how it would affect my work. I had a good look at the side effects and, after making as certain as possible…
No one knows much about modafinil, the study drug on the rise in universities and workplaces, but we do know it works and that it gives you a terrible headache.
Modafinil "may well deserve the title of the first well-validated pharmaceutical nootropic agent."
From smart drugs to over-the-counter nootropics, popping pills to boost brain power has become a billion-dollar business. After all, in our increasingly distracted, aging, and sleep-deprived world, anything that promises better concentration, alertness, and memory is more than tempting – for some it might feel like a necessity.
The world's favorite smart drug is much safer than Adderall and a promising treatment for substance abuse and neurodegenerative disorders—so why can't we use it?
Modafinil improved only certain features of cognition, the researchers found. In general, the drug appeared to improve what researchers call executive function, the ability to sift through new information and make plans based on it. Modafinil also somewhat enhanced people's ability to pay attention, learn and remember, the researchers found.
Rigorous analysis shows the drug modafinil significantly enhances cognition.
The results, though preliminary, make sense, considering that modafinil is designed to promote wakefulness, says Dr. Larissa Mooney, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCLA. "It makes sense that people would feel more alert while taking it," she says. "But that doesn't necessarily mean that they're performing better."
For now, I’ll stick to caffeine and whiskey. Until my next doctor’s appointment.
Not long after it was released, this drug was taken up by genius high-flyers such as stockbrokers, surgeons, air traffic controllers and others who need to be motivated and full of energy even when they are seriously fatigued.
Apparently, it is quite popular with them.
And after taking it for a couple of months, I can tell you exactly why.
Modafinil, which is marketed as Provigil in the United States, was first approved by the FDA in 1998 for the treatment of narcolepsy, but since then it’s become better known as a nootropic, a “smart drug,” especially among entrepreneurs.
Our study indicates that, in controlled scientific environments, the use of modafinil for cognitive enhancement is safe and effective – keeping in mind that most of the studies we looked at only gave the drug once, reducing our ability to make longer-term claims.
Overall, the negative aspects of taking the drugs far outweighed the positives - which could have been for a number of reasons.
People's bodies react differently to chemicals and tablets, and - after speaking to my doctor - I was told my liver had released an enzyme aimed at flushing the modafinil out of my system.
Increasingly taken by healthy people to improve focus before exams, after a comprehensive review researchers say modafinil is safe in the short-term.
For excessive daytime sleepiness, Provigil and Nuvigil are first-line treatments. Provigil (the generic is modafinil) and Nuvigil are non-stimulant medications—but what does that mean? How do they work? And is one better than the other? How do Provigil and Nuvigil help keep you awake if they aren’t stimulants?
Modafinil was never meant for people like me. It was invented to stop narcoleptics falling asleep, then adapted to let soldiers stay up all night. But gradually it was noticed that as well as increasing wakefulness, the drug improved concentration. I first sought my own hit after realising that four or five of my friends were using it to help them revise.
Modafinil is one of an arsenal of drugs, which includes Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta, that are increasingly used “off-label" by college students and adults seeking greater productivity.
Much of this research, which focuses on a drug called modafinil, is openly sponsored and supervised by military agencies.
The FDA approved modafinil to treat narcolepsy, but people are taking it illegally — off-label and without a prescription — to study or work on big projects.
So, if your colleague gets a better performance report than you do, is it really because of the Ritalin she takes? If your office mate has more creative ideas, is it because of Provigil? Probably not. The smart drugs currently available can boost brain performance, yet they are not as effective as glaring media reports often suggest.
In the rat race that is modern life, it's sort of the only drug that makes sense. How awful is that?