Modafinil, the “smart drug” of millennials: how it works
Modafinil, also also known as Provigil , Modalert and Modvigil is a drug used to treat narcolepsy, lethargy and fibromyalgia. A whole generation of students and entrepreneurs, however, certifies its use as a smart drug , or a compound to improve attention, motivation, learning and memory. It is a prescription drug in Italy but the generic equivalents of Modafinil are easily available on the internet.
Let’s take a look at some of the key things to know before using this substance. According to many, Provigil is the closest thing to the fictional NZT-48 drug (capable of significantly improving the attention and cognitive abilities of the individual who takes it) in the film and TV series “Limitless”, which made the concept of nootropic and smart drugs among the masses.
What is Modafinil?
Modafinil is a eugeroic , or rather a promoter of wakefulness (“wakefulness promoting agent”). Essentially it is a drug used to improve the waking state among individuals who suffer from daytime sleepiness or lethargy. It is clinically used in narcolepsy, for the treatment of sleepiness caused by sleep apnea, and so on.
The drug increases the waking state, concentration and memory of those who use it, making it easier to study , work and creative activities, and in general everything that makes extensive use of brain skills. Modafinil acts vaguely similar to caffeine(although the mechanism of action is completely different), but much more effectively. Obviously Modafinil does not compensate for the harmful effects on the body which leads to long-term sleep loss. Modafinil acts on different areas of the brain that play a fundamental role in cognitive and attention processes. The duration of action of Modafinil is between 4 and 8 hours, depending on the dose and the way in which the body processes the substance: to some individuals the effect lasts three and a half hours, to another almost half a day. You can buy it on RXShopMD.com.
Provigil is also used off-label (this term means the use of drugs in clinical practice outside the guidelines for which they are normally registered and prescribed) to treat fatigue and sedation in a series of conditions, including including fibromyalgia, depression, Parkinson’s disease, myotonic dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and opiate-induced drowsiness and antidepressants. A study of 72 patients with multiple sclerosis showed that Modafinil improves fatigue symptoms associated with this disease  Modafinil has also improved mood and reduced drowsiness and tiredness when used as an adjunct to antidepressants, particularly SSRIs, such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft).
Here is the full video about modafinil:
Modafinil as a smart drug
From what has been said so far, Modafinil seems to be an excellent stimulant and “fatigue” in some medical conditions. If you are reading this article, however, you are likely to be interested in using it as nootropic , or as a substance for cognitive improvement.
An online survey of 2014 on the student site “The Tab”, shows how 1 student out of 5 (out of a sample of almost 2000 UK students), has tried or regularly hired Modafinil for improve the quality of their study sessions. At the top of this list, the University of Oxford, one of the most prestigious schools in the world, with 26% of Oxoniani who took part in the survey to be consumers of Modafinil. Another interesting survey finding is that 9% of those using Modafinil think this amounts to cheating, but still continue to hire it.
A systematic review of 24 studies carried out in 2015 concluded that Modafinil improves learning- especially in long and complex activities -, as well as decision-making and planning, while possessing an excellent safety profile. Some of the studies examined also showed improvement in other cognitive areas such as thought flexibility and conceptual association.
Furthermore, the review shows that Modalert improves cognitive abilities even in healthy young people, regardless of the quality and quantity of sleep. In fact, several studies showed an improvement in cognition in individuals deprived of sleep, as well as narcoleptics, but few studies so far had tested the effect in healthy young adults with regular sleep. This review shows how Modafinil improves cognitive abilities in any subject that uses it.
Which one to choose?
So Modafinil has a chiral formula. The one sold as Provigil, Modalert and Modvigil, or what we normally call “Modafinil” is a racemate, that is a substance formed at 50 and 50 of right and left enantiomer. On the other hand, Armodafinil is composed solely of the right enantiomer.
There are both subjective and objective differences in how the two drugs affect the brain. The right enantiomer has a much longer duration of action than the left one (the first has a half-life of 15 hours compared to 4 of the second). Modafinil is in a racemic form, so the duration of action is a cross between the two enantiomers, but generally between 4 and 6 hours.
The right enantiomer then also has a unique effect compared to the left one as it also acts as a partial agonist of D2 receptors, although this effect does not seem to be fundamental for the eugeroic action of Modafinil.
According to some, Armodafinil has a “cleaner ” effect than Modafinil, although this is highly subjective. What is certain is that it is more active per milligram: 150 mg of Armodafinil is equivalent to 200 mg of Modafinil.
Given that Armodafinil is more expensive, one wonders if the differences justify the high price. Some say that Armodafinil was developed by Cephalon – the company that developed afinils – simply because at the time the Modafinil patent had almost expired, and they didn’t want to lose one of their main sources of income, having to compete with other companies that they would soon produce generic versions of the lower cost drug. But this is obviously only speculation.
I personally recommend buying a small amount of both to get an idea of the effect that the racemic form and the right enantiomer have on you. However it is advisable to have a greater amount of Modafinil available rather than Armodafinil, as the longer duration of the latter means that after a certain time in the afternoon you can no longer take it or you risk not sleeping at night.
At the same time, however, Armodafinil is very useful when you have a short deadline and you have to do many hours of work or study in a single day, for example in case you need to write a thesis.