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What is Modafinil?


Modafinil is a U.S. FDA approved wakefulness and alertness promoting drug, widely used in the treatment of narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome (OSAHS), and shift work sleep disorder (SWSD). Modafinil is also showing promise in the treatment of depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Most recently, it has drawn a lot of attention for its off-label use as a nootropic, aka “smart drug”, for improving cognition and productivity.

Modafinil goes by many names and is commonly marketed as: Provigil, Alertec, Modavigil, Modiodal, Modalert, Alertec, BravaMax, Carim, Provake, Modalert, Modapro, Modafil, Modvigil, Modatec, Modasomil, Modavigil, Modiodal, Modiwake, Resotyl, Mentix, Alertex, Zalux, Stavigile, Vigia, Vigicer, and Vigil.

In the U.S., the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) categorizes modafinil as a Schedule IV drug and hence it is a controlled substance. Although Schedule IV drugs are considered to have low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence (compare to adderall which is Schedule II due to its potential for abuse and habit formation), controlled substances cannot be purchased without a valid prescription from a licensed physician.

“Humanity is not going to wait passively for millions of years before evolution offers him a better brain”Dr. Giurgea

Modafinil Benefits

Modafinil is THE most effective drug treatment for narcolepsy till date. We cover this topic extensively in our ultimate guide to narcolepsy and modafinil. However, what excites us more is that everyone in the nootropics community seems to agree that modafinil has reached legendary status in the realm of smart drugs. Moda is quickly becoming the go-to nootropic for many software engineers in Silicon Valley, finance executives on Wall Street, and high performing students at top universities.

A simple search on PubMed easily reveals that modafinil has been shown to be extremely effective in improving cognitive function, memory, alertness, attention, mood and even depression. But, how robust are these effects? Depends on who you ask. A casual user on reddit may extol modafinil as the shortcut to becoming the next Einstein, but according to a peer-reviewed scientific journal article published by top researchers at Oxford University and Harvard Medical School, modafinil is certainly an effective cognitive enhancer – but not in ways one may initially think. We cover the results of this paper in detail in our modafinil benefits article. For now, we leave you with a graph which shows the relative benefits of modafinil on various important mental dimensions:

“modafinil may well deserve the title of the first well-validated pharmaceutical ‘nootropic’ agent” Battleday and Brem (2015)

Buy Modafinil


While researching modafinil, we came across the following online vendors who appear to be popular on reddit and other similar forums frequented by nootropic users. We have not verified these suppliers. To make it easier for you to make decisions, we have aggregated information from these vendors in the following table. Note that modafinil is sold in various dosages and that different manufacturers market modafinil under different names. Also, don’t forget to check out our Buy Modafinil article where we talk more about buying modafinil online as well as the best vendors and shipping options.

SOURCEQTYMODALERT (100mg Modafinil) SUN PHARMAMODALERT (200mg Modafinil) SUN PHARMAMODVIGIL (200mg Modafinil) HAB PHARMAWAKALERT (150mg Armodafinil) SUN

Modafinil and Narcolepsy

People suffering from narcolepsy have disrupted sleep cycles which results in poor quality of sleep, often accompanied by excessive jerking, talking, and even frequent wake ups during sleep. Narcolepsy can also cause a condition called “cataplexy”, which is defined as a sudden loss of muscle tone or sudden experience of muscle weakness when one is awake. And to make matters worse, narcolepsy can only be managed and not cured. Hence, it is a big deal when the American Academy of Sleep Medicine notes that modafinil is one of two most effective prescription drugs for narcolepsy, the other being sodium oxybate (Xyrem).

modafinil and narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is believed to be caused by a lack of the neurotransmitter hypocretin (orexin) in the brain. Although the exact mechanisms are unknown, modafinil appears to work on the orexin/hypocretin neurotransmitter system in the brain. Neurons that respond to orexin can be found in the hypothalamus and they project beyond this area to other areas of the brain. When these neurons are activated, they increase dopamine and norepinephrine in those other areas of the brain, which are believed to one source of its cognitive enhancing and wakefulness enhancing effects. Modafinil may also reduce GABA in the brain, another neurotransmitter that promotes sleepiness. It also promotes the production of histamine in the brain. If you think about this, anti-histamines are known for producing a sleep-promoting effect, so it is not hard to see that a histamine promoting drug may enhance wakefulness.

Narcolepsy Resources

In addition to our Ultimate Guide to Narcolepsy and Modafinil, there are plenty of resources which provide support for narcolepsy patients. Here are 3 resources you should check out:

  • Connector.

    Narcolepsy Network

    Nonprofit organization providing unprecedented service to the narcolepsy community since 1986. Their information is well organized, and you will find educational information as well as contact information of resources local to your area.

  • Connector.

    Sleep Education

    A search engine for finding American Academy of Sleep Medicine accredited Sleep Centers.

  • Connector.

    Wake Up Narcolepsy

    Nonprofit organization which focuses on narcolepsy research funding and awareness. They try to unite the public, educators, and the medical community.

Modafinil and ADHD/ADD

Modafinil’s potential as a treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) looks promising. Primarily prescribed for promoting wakefulness in narcolepsy patients, modafinil has now caught the attention of doctors since research shows that modafinil can increase focus and decision making skills, while reducing habit forming and other side effect risks usually associated with the current pharmaceutical treatments for ADHD such as amphatemine (adderall) and methyphenidate (ritalin) based drugs. If you are interested, you can learn more in our exclusive and extensive article on Modafinil and ADHD/ADD.

modafinil and adhd/add

ADHD Resources

  • Connector.


    One of the most well known and respected resources for people suffering from ADHD. CHADD is a non-profit organization which represents more than 12000 members, including adults with ADHD. They are known for supporting evidence-based information, providing access to local support groups, and also advocating for ADHD related public policy.

  • Connector.

    ADDitude Magazine

    Journalist Ellen Kinglsey founded this magazine to relay accurate and user-friendly ADHD information. In addition to resources on ADHD treatment, ADHD parenting, living with Adult ADHD, you will also find truly inspirational stories from ADHD suffers from all walks of life, as well as practical tips to manage ADHD and find local support chapters.

  • Connector.

    Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D. and Patricia Quinn, M.D. , run this fantastic ADHD resource for families as well as individuals at every stage in their lives. Originally catered toward women, their website has grown extensive and can provide value for all.

Modafinil and Weight Loss

Weight loss pills have a notorious reputation and with good reason. Doctors are hesitant to prescribe weight loss pills given the history of fatalities including the very famous Fen-Phen disaster. We live in a society which is obsessed with looking lean, yet the quality of food being consumed is not necessarily improving. A large portion of the population is either over-weight or obese. Hence, it is natural that the research community is always on the lookout for a weight loss pill which can be effective while reducing potential side-effects. Although modafinil is not prescribed for weight loss, the users of modafinil in the smart drug community have often reported robust weight loss effects with modafinil use. Naturally, we were curious and felt obligated to prepare for you an in-depth article on modafinil and weight loss.

modafinil and weight loss

Modafinil Mechanisms of Action

Modafinil exhibits robust effects on multiple neurotransmitters in the brain including catecholamines (norepinephrine, dopamine), serotonin, glutamate, gamma amino-butyric acid, orexin, and histamine. Not unlike many other drugs, the exact mechanisms of action for modafinil are currently unknown and is the subject of intense research. If you are of a scientific bent of mind, feel free to check out this paper on modafinil’s neurochemical actions and effects on cognition.

Adderall vs Modafinil vs Ritalin

 Adderall (amphetamine)Provigil (Modafinil)Ritalin (Methylphenidate)
MechanismCatecholamine releasing agent, weak reuptake inhibitor of dopamine (Ki = 100nM), norepinephrine (Ki = 40-50 nM), and to a lesser extent serotonin (Ki = 1.4-3.8 uM), vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) inhibitor, weak Monoamine Oxidase (MAO) inhibitorWeakly inhibits the dopamine transporter (DAT), norepinephrine transporter (NET), enhances histamine and orexin release, increases the glutamate/GABA ratio in hypothalamic regions and other brain regions.Methylphenidate's mechanism inhibits catecholamine reuptake, primarily as a dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Methylphenidate blocking the dopamine transporter and norepinephrine transporter, leading to increased concentrations of dopamine and norepinephrine within the synaptic cleft.
IndicationsADHD, narcolepsy, obesity, depressionExcessive daytime sleepiness caused by narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, or obstructive sleep apnea; ADHD (off-label), disorders of fatigue (e.g., fibromyalgia)
Off label nootropic
ADHD and narcolepsy. Used off label as a smart drug
Subjective EffectsEnhances arousal, motivation, goal-oriented behavior, focus, task salience, and moodPromotes wakefulness, mood elevation, arousal and concentrationImproved concentration, controls over-fidgeting, controls anxiety, enhanced self-esteem, improves focus and attention
Evidence of cognitive enhancementStudies show cognitive enhancing effects. However, Adderall has also shown to enhance cognition at the expense of creativity. Modafinil enhances vigilance, working memory, impulse control, sustained attention and other cognitive parameters in healthy controlsResearch shows that in normally prescribed doses, Ritalin can improve memory, executive function, and attention-related tasks with some risk of brain plasticity.
Safety and RisksModerate risk of dopamine-related neurotoxicityLow risk of glutamate-related neurotoxicityAs of 2016, little evidence of neurotoxicity
Risk ReductionSee this post for [more information about amphetamine harm reduction]( and other NMDA-antagonists can mitigate neurotoxicity risksNo information on this.
Common side effectsHeadache, weakness, dizziness, blurred vision, feeling restless, irritable, or agitated, insomnia, dry mouth, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, hair loss, loss of appetiteHeadache, dizziness, nervousness or agitation, nausea, diarrhea, insomnia, or dry mouthNervousness, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, weight loss, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or headache may occur.
Standard dose5-20 mg100-200 mg20-30 mg. daily
Half-life10 hours15 hoursApproximately 3.5 hours

Modafinil Side Effects

We will not take names, but there are some prominent figures who are touting modafinil as a limitless drug with no side effects. Not only is this wrong, but it is dangerous to assume modafinil has no side effects.

Almost all drugs can have side effects and modafinil is no different. Please exercise caution and consult a physician before using modafinil. The most commonly reported side effects include headaches, nausea, diarrhea, nervousness, anxiety, dyspepsia, skin rash, and insomnia.

Any of the following modafinil side effects should be taken seriously and reported to your doctor:

• Skin rash, hives, sores in your mouth or your skin blisters and peels

• Swelling of your face, eyes, lips, tongue, or throat

• Trouble swallowing or breathing

• Fever, shortness of breath, swelling of the legs, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, or dark urine.

We provide more extensive details in our in-depth article on modafinil side effects, but please consult with your physician before modafinil use.

modafinil side effects

Modafinil History

The history of modafinil goes all the way back to 1974, when chemists at Lafon Ltd., a pharmaceutical company in France, discovered a new molecule called adrafinil while working on discovering new analgesics. For those history buffs out there we have prepared an in-depth article on the history of modafinil. You will learn more about the connection between modafinil and adrafinil, the legendary Dr. Jouvet, the first clinical trials, the first official non-clinical use of modafinil during the Gulf War, modafinil’s entry to the United States, FDA approval, and finally the road to becoming the no. 1 nootropic.

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