In most countries Modafinil can only be obtained by prescription, which is why Adrafinil, which is transformed into its more famous cousin in the liver, is gaining popularity. Modafinil has been used for decades by fighter pilots to remain alert and, since the retirement of dextroamphetamine, is the only drug allowed by the U.S. Air Force (Caldwell, 2005). Prescribed for chronic fatigue, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy, the two “finils” are becoming popular with Wall Street traders, computer programmers, athletes, and ordinary people looking to gain to work longer and harder than they could without chemical assistance.
Modafinil helps with fatigue levels, motivation, reaction time, vigilance (Mereu, 2013). Despite these findings, it is classified as eugeroic rather than a stimulant. Although the way it obviates drowsiness is not entirely clear, multiple studies on the pharmacology of Modafinil have been conducted. Like cocaine it targets dopamine receptors, but it is much more selective and, perhaps because of this, is neither euphoric nor physically addictive (Young, 2009). It appears to be helpful, to varying degrees, in helping compulsive gamblers, alcoholics, and cocaine users reduce their urges to indulge in their respective vices (Zack, 2009; Joos, 2013; Martinez, 2009). Case reports of psychological dependency exist, but they are rare. Withdrawal symptoms have been reported, but they are uncommon and usually not severe (Jasinski, 2000). Aside from Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a very rare reaction that can be triggered by common antibiotic and analgesics, the greatest risk is using it to stay up for too long.
Outside of science fiction stories there are no substitutes for sleep. Yes, modafinil and adrafinil can mask the cognitive impairment that accompanies tiredness, but they do not make up for lost sleep. Modafinil is a robust and multifaceted nootropic. It was found to improve processing speed as measured by visuospatial maintenance tests (Saletu, 2009 ). As one can imagine, by improving the rate at which one takes in and analyzes information greatly increases productivity. Working memory, the amount of information you can juggle in your mind at once, is one of the holy grails of intelligence amplification because of its relatively strong correlation to IQ (Mueller, 2004). As Alloway notes, working memory is “uniquely linked to learning outcomes” up to 6 years later – and likely beyond that too. Investing in augmentation can add up to a cumulative boon in the long run.
In a study on its effects on the prefrontal cortex researchers concluded that “modafinil in low doses in the absence of any changes in blood pressure or heart rate, while improving the efficiency of cognitive information processing also seems to dampen reactivity of the amygdala, a brain region implicated in anxiety, to threatening stimuli. The latter may confer an advantage to modafinil over other cognition-enhancing psychostimulants, such as amphetamine, which tend to be anxiogenic with increased liability to abuse and risk of adverse effects on the cardiovascular system.”
As nootropic that improves executive functioning, Modafinil not surprisingly has been shown to assist with impulse control, which can help users avoid bad split second decisions as well as, perhaps, long term ones (after all, even decisions we make after long periods of rumination are still made in a split second). This might explain why, despite its knack for making people faster, it seemed to do the opposite for a group of chess players. Yet as the researchers (and probably you too, dear reader) concluded, their longer times spent thinking about their next move could be a reflection of enhanced self-control. Blitz players beware: “under time constraints more reflective decision making may not improve or even have detrimental effects on complex task performance.” Maybe in a timed task the finils are not your friends? If anyone has any first person experiences on this matter, please feel free to comment on this post.
In subjects with a form of mild depression common in elderly people both adrafinil and clomipramine alleviated symptoms. Adrafinil did better than the placebo or the clomi group in helping with psychomotor retardation (Millgram 1999). Adrafinil is broken down into Modafinil by the liver. This process puts some strain on the organ, so those with liver problems or with a family history of liver disease or those taking other hepatoxic supplements should take this into consideration before adding adrafinil to their daily routine. Before panicking, however, it is good to keep mind that its hepatotoxicity is comparable to popular OTC drugs like acetaminophen, which means for most hepatoxicity from suggested doses of Adrafinil is a nonissue.
Prolonged use of modafinil, lasting more than three years, results in few adverse side effects. The most common being headache and nausea, followed by hypersalivation and mild tachycardia. Those with a preexisting heart condition should consult their doctor first, even though therapeutic doses have been repeatedly demonstrated to leave pulse rates and blood pressure unchanged (Ballon, 2006).
As always it’s a good idea to get your supplements from trusted sources. Double Wood sells only GMP certified Adrafinil made in the United States.
Alloway, Tracy Packiam, and Ross G. Alloway. “Investigating the predictive roles of working memory and IQ in academic attainment.” Journal of experimental child psychology 106.1 (2010): 20-29.
Ballon, Jacob S., and David Feifel. “A systematic review of modafinil: potential clinical uses and mechanisms of action.” Journal of clinical Psychiatry 67.4 (2006): 554-566.
Caldwell, John A., and J. Lynn Caldwell. “Fatigue in military aviation: an overview of US military-approved pharmacological countermeasures.” Aviation, space, and environmental medicine 76.7 (2005): C39-C51.
Jasinski, Donald R., and Ružica Kovacevic-Ristanovic. “Evaluation of the abuse liability of modafinil and other drugs for excessive daytime sleepiness associated with narcolepsy.” Clinical neuropharmacology 23.3 (2000): 149-156.
Joos, Leen, et al. “Effect of modafinil on impulsivity and relapse in alcohol dependent patients: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial.” European neuropsychopharmacology 23.8 (2013): 948-955.
Martínez-Raga, Jose, Carlos Knecht, and Sonsoles Cepeda. “Modafinil: a useful medication for cocaine addiction? Review of the evidence from neuropharmacological, experimental and clinical studies.” Current drug abuse reviews 1.2 (2008): 213-221.
Mereu, Maddalena, et al. “The neurobiology of modafinil as an enhancer of cognitive performance and a potential treatment for substance use disorders.” Psychopharmacology 229.3 (2013): 415-434.
Milgram, Norton W., Heather Callahan, and Christina Siwak. “Adrafinil: a novel vigilance promoting agent.” CNS Drug Reviews 5.3 (1999): 193-212.
Müller, Ulrich, et al. “Effects of modafinil on working memory processes in humans.” Psychopharmacology 177.1-2 (2004): 161-169.
Saletu, Michael, et al. “Modafinil improves information processing speed and increases energetic resources for orientation of attention in narcoleptics: double-blind, placebo-controlled ERP studies with low-resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (LORETA).” Sleep Medicine 10.8 (2009): 850-858.
Young, Jared W. “Dopamine D1 and D2 receptor family contributions to modafinil-induced wakefulness.” Journal of Neuroscience 29.9 (2009): 2663-2665.
Zack, M., and C. X. Poulos. “Effects of the atypical stimulant modafinil on a brief gambling episode in pathological gamblers with high vs. low impulsivity.” Journal of Psychopharmacology23.6 (2009): 660-671.