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What is modafinil
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What Is Modafinil: Dosage, Side Effects, Alternatives and Where to Buy Online

Whether you work, study, or both, our high-performance, fast-paced lifestyles can seem impossible to keep up with. You may feel as though you are busy every waking hour with no time for a healthy work-life balance.

Fortunately, the medication modafinil may enhance your focus, cognition, and executive function. This way, you can perform better and avoid the need to work overtime to get everything done. But what is modafinil, how well does it work, and what are its alternatives?

What Is Modafinil and Why Is This Medication Prescribed?

First, what is modafinil? Modafinil is a stimulant drug that increases your levels of certain neurotransmitters. Doctors prescribe it for narcolepsy, where people can fall asleep during the day, obstructive sleep apnea, and shift work sleep disorder [1]. Many people also buy modafinil off-label as a study drug because it may improve executive function.

Is Modafinil a Controlled Substance?

Yes, modafinil is a Schedule IV controlled substance [2]. Schedule IV drugs have an accepted medical use and a relatively low potential for addiction and abuse.

According to Drugs.com, modafinil is also on the anti-doping prohibited list as a stimulant. If you are an athlete, you may need to consider one of the natural alternatives listed later in this article.

Is It Possible to Buy Modafinil Online Without a Prescription?

You cannot legally buy modafinil online without a prescription. Some online pharmacies claim to ship modafinil to the US and Europe, but there is always the risk that your shipment will be seized. You may also not receive the medication or modafinil dosage that you ordered. It’s illegal, so we don’t recommend you attempt to buy modafinil with this method.

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Modafinil Mechanism of Action: How Does It Work?

What is modafinil’s mechanism of action? Its main action in the brain is slowing the breakdown of dopamine and noradrenaline. Increasing dopamine and noradrenaline boosts serotonin and reduces GABA, a sleep-promoting neurotransmitter [1].

These effects are not only seen in the cerebral cortex but also in your hippocampus, which is your main memory center. Your amygdala, which regulates certain emotions such as fear and anger, also responds to modafinil, alongside the midbrain, hypothalamus, and thalamus [1].

Dopamine is necessary for you to perceive that making an effort is worthwhile at both subconscious and conscious levels. When it is higher in areas such as the midbrain, which is one region that modafinil affects, it helps you stay motivated during extended periods of work [3].

Additionally, modafinil increases energy production in certain areas of the brain. These include the hippocampus, which is responsible for much of our ability to learn and remember information [4].

However, modafinil does not have the same euphoric effect as other drugs that act on dopamine receptors. This is likely why it carries a lower risk of addiction. A positive modafinil side effect is that it reduces the euphoric effect of substances such as cocaine, which is why physicians prescribe it off-label for cocaine abuse [2].

Modafinil Uses (Indications): What Is Modafinil Used For?

The approved, most evidence-based indications for modafinil center around helping you stay awake. Modafinil’s first approved indication was narcolepsy, to prevent users from falling asleep during the day. Later, the FDA added daytime sleepiness in cases of obstructive sleep apnea and shift work sleep disorder [1].

What is modafinil used for off-label? Depressive episodes, including those in bipolar disorder, are a popular indication. Cocaine dependence and cancer-related fatigue have mixed evidence, but multiple sclerosis-related fatigue has a better evidence base. As for ADHD, the research has mixed results, with stronger effects in children [2].

Modafinil Smart Drug: A Suitable Study Aid to Enhance Cognition

What is modafinil’s appeal as a smart drug? While some people use Adderall off-label to enhance cognition during demanding periods at work or school, others prefer the lower severity of modafinil side effects. Modafinil’s side effects are less severe because it can enhance dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters, but isn’t an amphetamine.

The Efficacy of Modafinil as a Nootropic

Lab studies suggest that modafinil may be an effective nootropic. In a 2022 paper, a rat model showed increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and higher antioxidant levels with modafinil treatment.

BDNF supports the growth and development of new brain cells and connections between them, especially in your brain’s memory centers. Antioxidants help protect developing and mature cells against oxidative damage from cellular energy production and environmental toxins [4].

But what is modafinil’s evidence base in humans? There is mixed evidence on the medication for healthy people seeking a performance boost.

One small study on 18 people found significant improvements in attention span and reaction times but not other aspects of cognition, such as executive function. This used a higher modafinil dosage of 4mg/kg of body weight, which could reach 400mg in 100kg volunteers [1].

Another trial using a 200mg modafinil dosage for 12 days found faster improvements in language learning. The performance boost was larger in the high-IQ group. Several other studies in the same review showed that a 200mg modafinil dosage could boost attention, reaction times, planning, and learning new concepts, such as rules [1].

However, modafinil did not have a perfect winning streak. Some trials showed no benefit, while many only saw gains in specific tasks. One only saw faster reaction times but no changes to executive function. Another found better inhibitory control, where you have to pull yourself back from making the wrong choice, but worsened cognitive flexibility [1].

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Modafinil for ADHD: Will It Work?

What is modafinil’s efficacy in children with ADHD? A clinical study on 50 children compared long-acting Ritalin to modafinil for two weeks and found that both improved impulsive behavior and attention span. The meds were roughly equal in efficacy. However, modafinil had a slight advantage in visual and auditory attention span [5].

Adults may not enjoy the same benefits. A clinical trial on 330 adults with ADHD found no overall improvement, even at a 510mg daily modafinil dosage. The 255mg, 340mg, and 425mg doses had no significant effect compared to the placebo when researchers looked at the overall scores.

However, the 340mg and 425mg modafinil dosages significantly improved total ADHD symptom scores on the Adult ADHD Investigator Symptom Rating Scale and a work productivity scale [6].

Modafinil vs. Adderall: Is Modafinil Considered a Suitable Alternative for ADHD?

What is modafinil’s overall standing as an ADHD medication? Although some clinical studies suggest that it is effective in ADHD, the FDA, and other health authorities have not approved it for this purpose. Modafinil is only permitted in ADHD for off-label use [2].

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Armodafinil vs Modafinil: What Is the Difference?

What is modafinil’s counterpart, armodafinil? Armodafinil is its longer-acting version, with a study on their rate of elimination finding that blood levels of armodafinil at 16 hours were almost identical to those of modafinil at 11 hours. As armodafinil does not have a rapidly-eliminated component, its peak concentration is higher, and its effects last longer [7].

Modafinil Dosage and Administration: Recommendations on How to Take This Drug and in What Quantities for Certain Conditions

Modafinil’s side effects are fewer and less severe than other pharmaceutical stimulants. However, it is essential to take the correct modafinil dosage at the right time.

Modafinil Dosing Regimen and Dosage Modifications

Most studies showing some benefit on cognition use a modafinil dosage of 200mg or higher. One successful trial prescribed personalized doses of 4mg/kg of body weight. This means you would take 200mg if you weigh only 50kg or 240mg if you weigh 60kg, for example [1].

We still don’t know what is modafinil’s best dose for boosting cognition, as more research is necessary.

How to Take Modafinil?

The standard modafinil dosage is strong enough that one tablet will last you all day. With its long half-life and powerful ability to keep you awake, we recommend taking it as early as possible in the morning. It may be safest for you to try a lower dose first, in case you are particularly sensitive, and separate modafinil from caffeine.

Modafinil Half-Life: How Long Does Modafinil Last?

What is modafinil’s half-life? As shown in research using a 200mg modafinil dosage, its average half-life is 13.6 hours. It’s best to take the drug early in the morning so you experience its strongest effects earlier in the day and avoid insomnia at night [7].

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Modafinil Interactions: How Will Other Drugs Affect Modafinil?

Some medications can alter your metabolism of modafinil through their effects on liver detoxification. The anti-HIV medicine efavirenz, the anticonvulsant phenytoin, the antibiotic rifampin, and the herbal remedy St John’s Wort can speed up the clearance of modafinil.

On the other hand, azole antifungals, the antibiotic clarithromycin, and the antiviral ritonavir can slow modafinil detoxification. These may make modafinil side effects more severe or call for a lower modafinil dosage [2].

What is modafinil’s effect on other medications, if any? Like other drugs, it can increase or decrease the activity of certain enzymes involved in liver detoxification. These include estrogen, such as the oral contraceptive pill; antiretroviral drugs; hepatitis medication; and the immunosuppressant cyclosporine, taken to prevent transplant rejection [2].

Additionally, a higher modafinil dosage may be unsafe when taken alongside SSRIs, as both drug types increase serotonin. It may be inadvisable for you to buy modafinil if you need to take certain epilepsy drugs, too. Modafinil may negate their effects, as many epilepsy medications work by increasing GABA.

Modafinil Warning, Precautions, and Side Effects

Modafinil’s side effects are likely milder than other nootropic medications. The most common modafinil side effects are headache, nausea, nervousness, and a runny nose. Anxiety, dizziness, insomnia, and digestive disturbances are other potential modafinil side effects.

Some other warnings we uncovered when it comes to taking modafinil are:

  • Use caution or avoid the medication if you have a history of mania or psychosis.
  • Modafinil is unsafe if you have left ventricular hypertrophy, unstable angina, a history of heart attack, or uncontrolled high blood pressure.
  • Tic disorders, such as Tourette’s syndrome, may worsen with modafinil use, which may be debilitating.
  • If you have had anaphylaxis, organ hypersensitivity, Stevens-Johnson syndrome (a serious disorder of the skin followed by a painful rash that spreads and blisters), or angioedema after previous use, do not try modafinil again.
  • Stop taking modafinil if you experience excessive sleepiness.

But what is modafinil’s long-term safety? In one lab study, out of three drugs used to treat ADHD, modafinil had the most severe effects on bone tissue formation. When researchers stained mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to reveal calcium deposits, modafinil-treated cells had the lowest extracellular calcium levels once they started transforming into bone [8].

If you have a high risk of fractures or are recovering from a fracture now, do not buy modafinil and instead use one of the natural alternatives below.

What to Do in Case of Emergency/Overdose

If you notice severe modafinil side effects, such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome, stop taking modafinil immediately. If you take an excessive modafinil dosage or experience severe, acute reactions at any dose, seek emergency medical attention. Even if you took modafinil illegally, do not hesitate to tell healthcare professionals.

The most common modafinil side effects seen in excessive doses are a fast heart rate, high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, dizziness, and psychosis in susceptible people. Most cases resolve with supportive care, such as rest and hydration, but 20% will need medical treatment. Anti-anxiety and anti-hypertensive meds are among the usual interventions [2].

If you are worried about your anxiety, you can also start looking for the best nootropics for anxiety.

Modafinil and Alcohol

Mixing alcohol and modafinil has unpredictable effects. Even though more research is necessary to determine the exact consequences, we don’t recommend experimenting. Reported effects range from an unusually high alcohol tolerance to potentially dangerous blackouts.

These unpredictable results make sense when you ask, “what are modafinil’s effects?”. Modafinil reduces the activity of the calming neurotransmitter GABA and increases glutamate. Alcohol boosts GABA and reduces glutamate activity.

Consuming both on the same day can be safe if you separate them by enough time. For example, taking a recommended modafinil dosage at 7 am is far less likely to cause any issues if you ingest moderate amounts of alcohol at 7 or 8 pm.

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Where to Buy Modafinil Online?

What is modafinil’s online availability? Although there are websites that provide the drug without a prescription, this is illegal in the United States. We do not recommend you buy modafinil at any dose through these sites, as illegal outlets typically capitalize on desperation and may not provide safe, effective formulations.

You can only legally buy modafinil online through pharmacies such as CVS or Walgreens if you have a prescription. Some doctors may be willing to prescribe modafinil off-label if, for example, you have ADHD and do not want the side effects of other medications.

Off-label use, where doctors prescribe meds for purposes beyond their approved indications, is common [9]. However, these purposes cannot be advertised, and healthy people looking for a performance boost are extremely unlikely to get a prescription.

Cost of Modafinil

If you’re wondering, “what is modafinil’s average cost?,” the answer is highly variable. A prescription for twenty 100mg tablets will cost an average of $157, while twenty 200mg tablets are generally around $217. Provigil, the original brand-name medication, costs around $1,500 for thirty 100mg tablets and over $2,200 for twenty 200mg doses.

These are all upfront costs without any insurance coverage. If you can get insurance coverage, which is only possible with a prescription, you will pay even less.

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Modafinil Alternatives: Is There a Suitable Substitute?

Modafinil side effects, such as impaired bone regeneration, mean natural alternatives are worth looking at. These are generally much cheaper, and you can buy them without a prescription, so there is no need to worry about insurance coverage or their legality.

Over the Counter Alternatives to Modafinil

Many natural supplements can boost neurotransmitters such as dopamine, improve energy production in the brain, provide antioxidant protection, and support the growth and development of brain cells. As they provide a holistic range of effects, you could notice more comprehensive cognition improvements.

So what is modafinil’s competition in the supplement world? Mind Lab Pro, Noocube, and Performance Lab Nootropics are among the best thanks to their well-thought-out combinations of evidence-based ingredients.

Tyrosine

One ingredient found in nootropic supplements such as Noocube is tyrosine. As the amino acid used in dopamine production, it provides a cognition boost without being too forceful. Studies involving both younger and older adults show that tyrosine can improve working memory and other functions even under stress [10].

Looking at the mixed evidence described above, the answer to “what is modafinil’s biggest weakness?” may be reduced cognitive flexibility in some people. Fortunately, tyrosine may enhance cognitive flexibility in areas such as task-switching. Task-switching is the ability to rapidly shift your focus when necessary and is crucial for many professions [10].

Lion’s Mane

One of the common modafinil side effects is anxiety, but natural remedies can both boost cognition and calm your mind. What is modafinil’s natural alternative from the medicinal mushroom world, lion’s mane?

Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a white, edible fungus that looks like a lion’s mane or cheerleader’s pom-pom. Clinical research shows that lion’s mane extract can not only relieve depression and anxiety but also improve cognition in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). As MCI can become dementia, it’s best to address the problem early.

How does lion’s mane work? Its main mechanism of action is increasing nerve growth factor (NGF), which helps to maintain your brain cells and their organization. Even better, lion’s mane extract may reduce cell senescence. This is a key part of the aging process where cells can no longer function properly, and instead contribute to inflammation and tissue dysfunction [11].

Rhodiola

What is modafinil’s competition doing to address stress, that ubiquitous visitor during exam periods and high-stakes situations at work? The best, including Mind Lab Pro, contain herbal adaptogens such as rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea). Adaptogens may improve your body and mind’s resilience to stressors, allowing you to perform better physically and mentally. 

Rhodiola can reduce cortisol, the main stress hormone which may cause tissue damage when chronically elevated. This means it may relieve stress-induced fatigue and calm the fight-or-flight response, so you can think more clearly. Better yet, rhodiola protects your cells against damage and oxidative stress, potentially supporting your long-term brain health [12].

Korean Ginseng

When you ask, “what is modafinil’s mechanism of action?” it appears to give your cognition a boost by increasing levels of certain neurotransmitters. While these stimulate brain function, your brain cells need to produce large amounts of energy so they can carry out their daily activities.

Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) can help to improve cellular energy production, which unfortunately declines with age. Clinical studies show that taking Korean ginseng extract may increase your cells’ counts of mitochondria, the energy-producing centers of the cell. This trial involved men with metabolic syndrome, an obesity-associated condition that impacts energy [13].

Maritime Pine Bark

Maritime pine bark is another ingredient found in some of the best nootropic supplements. It provides much-needed antioxidant support to the brain, another shortcoming found when we asked “what is modafinil’s list of limitations?”

Research shows how maritime pine bark provides powerful antioxidant protection in intensely stressful situations, including traumatic brain injury. Even patients in the ICU showed improvement in one study, despite this being an extreme circumstance. If maritime pine bark can provide benefits here, it may assist you with everyday stresses such as heavy workloads [14].

B Vitamins

B vitamins can provide much-needed cognitive support even if you decide to buy modafinil. Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12 all play essential roles in cellular energy production. Additionally, vitamin B1 is needed in the growth and maintenance of brain cells, as is folate. Vitamin B3 helps brain cells communicate, while B1, B5, and folate make neurotransmitters [15].

You can buy B vitamin supplements as stand-alone complexes or as part of nootropic formulas such as Noocube. As a lack of essential nutritional support was our answer when asking “What is modafinil’s biggest shortcoming when used alone?” and they do not clash with the medication, we recommend using them together.

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Modafinil Reviews: What Others Have to Say?

What is modafinil’s reputation on the internet? Customer reviews are overall positive, but they report modafinil side effects such as insomnia and blunted social skills.

On WebMD, modafinil has a four-star (out of five) rating. Patients describe previously being unable to stay awake at work, while driving, or even when standing up due to excessive daytime sleepiness or narcolepsy. They write that modafinil “saved my career,” “stopped me from falling asleep at the car wheel,” and helps them “keep up with life.”

Modafinil Reddit Reviews

What is modafinil’s safety and efficacy in the real world? Many Reddit users with ADD (attention-deficit disorder) report dramatic improvements in focus and executive function when using the medication:

Modafinil Reddit Reviews

However, some describe modafinil side effects including social impairments:

Modafinil Reddit Reviews 2

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Modafinil FAQ

Here are the most important questions that potential customers are asking about what is modafinil, how to buy modafinil, and how to take it.

Is It Possible to Buy Modafinil Over the Counter?

No, you cannot buy modafinil without a prescription, but certain supplements may boost cognition and are available over the counter. These often don’t share common or rare modafinil side effects.

How Much Modafinil Should I Take for Studying?

Be sure to consult a physician before taking any medications, including modafinil. There is some off-label advice that 200mg of modafinil may help during studying, but all this needs to be discussed with a doctor first.

How Long Does It Take for Modafinil to Work?

As it takes roughly two hours for a modafinil dosage to reach peak concentration in the bloodstream, we’d say you can expect an effect within 30-60 minutes, as its blood levels have already significantly risen.

What Is Modafinil: Final Thoughts

Modafinil is a stimulant medication that helps you stay awake if you experience excessive sleepiness. Its effects on neurotransmitter levels also give many users improved cognition. As a result, there is some evidence that it can support executive function and mental energy.

But what is modafinil’s place in the world of nootropics? Although it’s only approved for cases of excessive sleepiness, you can get an off-label prescription for issues such as ADHD. With mixed evidence, limited legal availability, and the risk of modafinil side effects, we give its off-label use a “Yes…but.”

Many dietary supplements can be effective alternatives. They not only support neurotransmitter production but also help boost cellular energy production and reduce the effects of stress. Based on our research, we found out that Noocube Nootropics are probably the best option for improving cognition.

References

  1.       Sci-Hub | Modafinil for cognitive neuroenhancement in healthy non-sleep-deprived subjects: A systematic review. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 25(11), 1865–1881 | 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2015.07.028
  2.   Greenblatt K, Adams N. Modafinil. [Updated 2022 Feb 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531476/
  3.   Berke, Joshua D. “What does dopamine mean?.” Nature neuroscience vol. 21,6 (2018): 787-793. doi:10.1038/s41593-018-0152-y
  4.       Garbossa, Leandro et al. “The effect of modafinil on passive avoidance memory, brain level of BDNF and oxidative stress markers in sepsis survivor rats.” The International journal of neuroscience, 1-9. 6 Dec. 2022, doi:10.1080/00207454.2022.2154076
  5.       Zahed, Ghazal et al. “The Effect of Long-Acting Methylphenidate and Modafinil on Attention and Impulsivity of Children with ADHD using a Continuous Performance Test: A Comparative Study.” Iranian journal of child neurology vol. 16,3 (2022): 67-77. doi:10.22037/ijcn.v16i2.32541
  6.       Arnold, Valerie K et al. “A 9-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, dose-finding study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of modafinil as treatment for adults with ADHD.” Journal of attention disorders vol. 18,2 (2014): 133-44. doi:10.1177/1087054712441969
  7.       Darwish, Mona et al. “Armodafinil and modafinil have substantially different pharmacokinetic profiles despite having the same terminal half-lives: analysis of data from three randomized, single-dose, pharmacokinetic studies.” Clinical drug investigation vol. 29,9 (2009): 613-23. doi:10.2165/11315280-000000000-00000
  8.       Wagener, Nele et al. “Psychostimulants Modafinil, Atomoxetine and Guanfacine Impair Bone Cell Differentiation and MSC Migration.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 23,18 10257. 6 Sep. 2022, doi:10.3390/ijms231810257
  9.       Syed, Shariful A et al. “The Law and Practice of Off-Label Prescribing and Physician Promotion.” The journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law vol. 49,1 (2021): 53-59. doi:10.29158/JAAPL.200049-20
  10.   Steenbergen, Laura et al. “Tyrosine promotes cognitive flexibility: evidence from proactive vs. reactive control during task switching performance.” Neuropsychologia vol. 69 (2015): 50-5. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.01.022
  11.   Friedman, Mendel. “Chemistry, Nutrition, and Health-Promoting Properties of Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) Mushroom Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia and Their Bioactive Compounds.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 63,32 (2015): 7108-23. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.5b02914
  12.   Panossian, A et al. “Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy.” Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology vol. 17,7 (2010): 481-93. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2010.02.002
  13.   Jung, Dong-Hyuk et al. “Effects of ginseng on peripheral blood mitochondrial DNA copy number and hormones in men with metabolic syndrome: A randomized clinical and pilot study.” Complementary therapies in medicine vol. 24 (2016): 40-6. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2015.12.001
  14.   Malekahmadi, Mahsa et al. “The effect of French maritime pine bark extract supplementation on inflammation, nutritional and clinical status in critically ill patients with traumatic brain injury: A randomized controlled trial.” Phytotherapy research : PTR, 10.1002/ptr.7187. 12 Aug. 2021, doi:10.1002/ptr.7187
  15.  Tardy, Anne-Laure et al. “Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence.” Nutrients vol. 12,1 228. 16 Jan. 2020, doi:10.3390/nu12010228
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