What Is Modafinil and How It Works?

Modafinil’s “off-label” use: it sharpens thought processes, improves the ability to apply information effectively, and seems to turn your brain into an effective thinking machine.

Unless you’ve been hiding a stone in the backwoods, you’ve probably had heard about nootropic or “smart” drugs. The definition of nootropics tells us that they improve cognitive function or thinking. They aren’t narcotics. Instead, they’re pharmaceuticals that have been found to have a stimulating effect on the brain and on your thinking processes. It’s not just a rumor either, researchers have found that Modafinil, the first and best-known nootropic drug can:

  • consistently improve a performance of complex tasks;
  • increase your attention span and concentration;
  • enhance your ability to process information;
  • enhance learning and memory;
  • improve decision-making;
  • improve planning and strategic skills.

It may sound like science fiction come to life, but it’s an open secret nowadays that people are using Modafinil to enhance their mental powers, particularly at times when they are required to do their absolute best, and possibly even a bit better than that.

What Is Modafinil?

What is Modafinil? A lot of people choose amphetamine drugs like Adderall and Ritalin to keep them awake. They may not have been designed for that purpose, but ironically, that’s all they seem to do. But Modafinil, which isn’t an amphetamine, a tablet marketed as Provigil or Modalert, was designed primarily to keep people awake. It does much more than that.

Some folks work unusual hours and find that they’re unable to sleep properly. When they get to work, they’re exhausted and on the verge of falling asleep. Others suffer from narcolepsy, a condition that makes it possible to fall asleep all too easily – even during their workday if they’re feeling relaxed enough.

But somewhere along the line, people discovered Modafinil’s “off-label” use: it sharpens thought processes, improves the ability to apply information effectively, and seems to turn your brain into an unprecedentedly effective thinking machine.

What Is Modafinil and How It Works

Drug History

Modafinil has quite a long history compared to many other pharmaceuticals. Professor Jouvet of Lavon Laboratories in France was the inventor of Modafinil. He made his discovery at the end of the 1970s, and the drug went into clinical trials as a treatment for narcolepsy in 1986.

The drug was approved by the FDA and granted schedule IV status in 1998, initially only as a treatment for narcolepsy. In 2003, the FDA approved its use for shift work disorder. It also agreed that Modafinil would help people who suffer from sleep apnea who are unable to sleep properly at night and suffer from extreme fatigue as a result.

In 2012, the first generic copies of Modafinil were launched onto the market in the US after extensive legal proceedings intended to block the move.

Nobody is quite sure when people first realized that Modafinil makes you smarter, and even though this effect has been proved in scientific trials, it is not accepted by the FDA. That means that US drug companies can’t market it for its “off-label” use.

In most countries, Modafinil is a schedule four or five drugs, but in Finland and Latvia it isn’t even a controlled substance.

What Is Modafinil Used For?

As we’ve seen, the FDA only recognizes the following conditions as qualifying for a Modafinil prescription:

  • narcolepsy;
  • shift work disorder;
  • sleep apnea.

But in recent years, sales of Modafinil on prescription have skyrocketed. People persuade their doctors that they have sleep disorders so that they can take advantage of the mental performance benefits Modafinil isn’t “officially” used for.

This increase in use is only the tip of the iceberg, as many people skip their GPs altogether, opting for an online pharmacy as an easier way to get their hands on the scheduled drug. India is usually the chosen to source since reliable and cheap generic pharmaceuticals are manufactured there.

Modafinil is also used to enhance sporting performance. Though it is banned from use in competitions, many athletes nonetheless test positive for the drug.

Modafinil Effects

Modafinil seems to have different effects on different people. The vast majority will find that it keeps them awake and alert for longer, but between 0.1 and 1 percent actually feel sleepier. Admittedly, that’s a tiny percentage, but it’s nevertheless interesting that Modafinil can have an effect diametrically opposite to what it should have.

Broadly speaking, most people experience the following:

Effective dose 100-200mg
Half-life 15 hours
How long does it take to work? 25 – 60 minutes time to kick in
Feeling high? No
Other sensations Feelings of engagement, positive attitude, enhanced focus
Jitters? Anxiety? Speeding? No


So, this is not a drug that can get you high and a lot of people say they only notice small differences, notably, the ability to concentrate for longer. They also notice that they feel more positive about what they’re doing, which is helpful if you’re undertaking a task you didn’t feel like in the first place.

These comments are based on what most people say, but there are exceptions. One high-powered businessman describes a night-and-day difference when he’s been off Modafinil and then takes it. For him, it’s a big deal and not just the subtle change that many others report.

How Should I Use Modafinil?

Considering Modafinil’s duration of action (15 hours), you need to plan accordingly or you would be unable to sleep. Most business people take it an hour before work commences so that they’ll be in top-form on a particularly challenging day. But students also use it to stay awake for all-nighters. It will work in this way, but you need to be careful. Body and mind need sleep, so if you use Modafinil to remain awake for days on end, you’ll lose many of its benefits and could even end up feeling awful.

Although remarkably few people experience adverse side-effects, some do. Self-monitor for side-effects, and stop using it if you experience anything worse than a headache and slightly upset stomach. Never exceed the dose of 200mg per day. The more you take, the greater the chance of side-effects occurring.

If you use Modafinil daily as a supplement, you need to be aware that clinical trials on people who have used Modafinil for extended periods are non-existent. Nothing alarming has surfaced yet, but some of the hypothetical long-term effects are kind of scary. Don’t risk going there.

Hypothetical Long-Term Effects: Why You Should Take a Break

We know a lot of things about Modafinil including how long it takes to start working and why people opt for off-label usage. But nobody knows quite what its long-term effects may be. However, there are a few theories out there:

  1. Personality change is sometimes seen right away. It isn’t permanent, but according to our info, some doctors worry that it may become that way with prolonged use.
  2. Because your sleeping and waking patterns may lack structure, especially if you use Modafinil to stay awake, your sleep patterns might be permanently affected.
  3. Tolerance (needing more for the same effect) isn’t likely, but hasn’t been ruled out.
  4. Although Modafinil is not addictive, some doctors worry that long-term users won’t be able to think straight when they stop using it.
  5. The chances of side effects are increased. This seems to have been proven in a 40-week study.

To limit or eliminate the chance of any long-term side-effects and to keep your reaction to Modafinil optimal, most experts recommend “dosing gaps”. They suggest that people using the drug should only use it at special times when they really need it and that it shouldn’t be used every day.

How Long Does Modafinil Stay in Your System?

If you’re asking how long Modafinil stays in your system, you’re probably worrying about drug tests, either in sports or at work. In the employment context, Modafinil won’t even be tested for. Instead, employers look for traces of amphetamines, cannabis or other drugs that really do get you high.

Also, even if they were to specify Modafinil on your drug test, it isn’t an illegal substance, so there’s absolutely no point in testing you for it. Remember: schedule IV drugs have a very low potential for addiction or abuse. So, even if you are using Modafinil off-label, there’s no way it will negatively affect your workplace performance or result in social problems that adversely affect productivity.

If you’re into competitive sports, however, you are in a slightly different position. Modafinil stays in your system for about a week, so you should be fine if you discontinue use 10 days before your competition to be on the safe side.

Can I Buy Modafinil at Online Pharmacy?

Yes, you can. You won’t even need a prescription. Now, if you’re well-informed, you probably know that schedule IV classification of a drug means that while it is not considered to have potential for abuse, you still require a prescription.

If you’re very clued up, you probably also know that if you’re a US resident, you’re only supposed to buy medicines from FDA-approved suppliers in the US. But what would happen to you if you imported a Schedule IV substance? Modafinil is made of a substance that falls into the same category as Valium or Xanax, and schedule IV substances aren’t illegal.

You can search up and down for information as to worst-case-scenarios, and all you’ll find is this: you get a letter from the authorities saying your shipment is being held. The letter tells you that you can appeal within a certain period.

Just ignore it: end of story. You don’t hear anything more about it again. If modafinil were made of an illegal (Schedule I) substance, or even one that is classed as addictive in the scheduling structure (Class 2), you wouldn’t just get a letter!

How to Choose an Online Pharmacy?

The first step is to ensure that you are getting the real thing. The best online pharmacies are confident in ingredients and how it is made. They will even give you a free sample sometimes! Because the method of synthesis is identical to that of US-made drugs, your online pharmacy will be confident of the benefits you will experience.

Chances are, your generic Modafinil will have been manufactured in India, a country known for its reasonably priced yet high-quality generics. Your pharmacy should be open about where it is sourcing its medications, and they should be supplied in a sealed package with an expiry date. Because you will (presumably) not be using Modafinil every day, always check the expiry date before use. Setting an expiry date reminder on your phone is a good idea.

Check online reviews both on and off site. If there are a lot of bad reports, rule out that pharmacy and choose another.

Should You See a Doctor?

You should consult a doctor about using Modafinil if you have preexisting health conditions or have been identified as at-risk. Its usage is generally safe, but if you have heart, liver, kidney or mental health problems, you could damage your health by using it. Because medications can interact, you should also see your doctor if you regularly use meds.

Women using the contraceptive pill may be in for a “little surprise” if they combine it with Modafinil. To prevent unwanted pregnancy, switch to other forms of contraception. If you are not sure what will suit your lifestyle, discuss your situation with your doctor or a Planned Parenthood health care worker.

Lastly, in the unlikely event that you should suffer from severe side-effects, get medical attention and advice as soon as possible. Very few people have this problem, and Modafinil is deemed to be exceptionally safe, but in rare cases, allergies and adverse reactions can be serious.