Last updated: June 8, 2018
Technically, modafinil is considered a “wakefulness agent” rather than a stimulant, but many in the nootropics community use it as a powerful tool for concentration and focus. It is considered one of the more famous and heavily consumed nootropics, which has spread into Silicon Valley entrepreneur circles, Wall Street traders, and a variety of other high performance individuals.
Developed initially as a treatment for narcolepsy , Modafinil has a positive effect on cognition and cognitive abilities while also improving concentration and focus . Scientists hypothesize that modafinil is effective because it increases adrenaline and dopamine neurotransmission enough for these cognitive advantages, but not enough to create euphoria and addiction .
Due to conversations between famed biohacker Dave Asprey and author, Tim Ferriss, modafinil has grown in popularity as a smart drug. Beyond public consumption, it is also used by the military as an alternative to Adderall and wakefulness agent for sleep deprived soldiers.
Although some people are “non-responders” to modafinil, most people record feeling a sense of focus and cognitive enhancement that promotes a higher mental performance.
Also Known As
2-[(Diphenylmethyl) sulfinyl]acetamide, Provigil, Modalert, Modapro, Alertex
Editors’ Thoughts on Modafinil
While I have tried many nootropics, modafinil is one of the few that remains in my regimen. In fact, this is the only article where I can authentically say I am using modafinil as I write this.
In many countries around the world, modafinil is an over-the-counter drug (such as Colombia, where I’m visiting). My experience has always been extremely positive in a work sense. Primarily, I use the nootropic when I have had a full night of sleep, early in the morning (5:30 AM), and a day clear of appointments that would distract me.
Usually, I use modafinil only once per 5 – 7 days because doing so any more often than that can cause tolerance issues. Because I take it relatively infrequently and after a full night of sleep, the drug has a very positive effect on my working capabilities (rather than trying to use modafinil to cover up a lack of sleep).
The only drawback, which I haven’t experienced that often, is associated with my mood. I can’t tell whether I become more reserved and quiet on modafinil because I’m usually working alone in my house all day or if it is the drug itself. Either way, it has never really bothered me too much.
Finally, I experience a lack of appetite when using modafinil. Given I fast daily and do not necessarily enjoy taking time out of my day to prepare and eat food, this is often a “benefit” for me.
It’s not a “limitless pill”, but it is probably the closest thing I’ve found to having that experience. Take that for what it’s worth.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
Benefits of Modafinil
The benefits of modafinil are manifold and have been researched extensively over the past decade. Partially, this is due to the military and government interest in modafinil as a tool for soldiers and pilots who engage in combat activity under sleep-deprived conditions.
According to multiple studies, there is a significant decrease in fatigue when using modafinil . Users that experience sleep deprivation or have hyperinsomnia find that their mental performance is heightened after using modafinil (or the downsides are negated).
Another benefit of modafinil is with regard to general cognitive abilities. Modafinil can improve cognitive abilities, which are measured by reaction time , working memory , and other tests. While the benefits are less for non-sleep deprived individuals, it is obvious that healthy adults can still see cognitive benefits from using modafinil.
One of the favorite uses for modafinil is attention, alertness, and concentration. While all of these are similar in their mechanisms as “wakefulness”, they are slightly different from a scientific perspective. The quantity of research literature shows that modafinil has a positive impact on all of these factors.
Modafinil vs. Adderall
One of the popular uses of modafinil is as an Adderall alternative. When comparing modafinil vs. Adderall, subjective experiences are not the only data points. The military has utilized many scientific studies to see the difference between modafinil and amphetamines.
In one study, military personnel worked for 64 hours straight using either modafinil or amphetamine. Within the two nights without sleep, the modafinil was able to prevent a decline in mood and cognition in a similar way to the amphetamine . However, modafinil is largely considered safer and more sustainable than Adderall or amphetamines.
In another study, modafinil was used to treat methamphetamine addicts with great effect. It was able to improve working memory and cognition in patients who were suffering from addiction even though it did not have a positive effect on reaction time . Thus, it might be a useful Adderall withdrawal solution.
Finally, when considering that 11% of U.S. children are currently taking amphetamine-based prescription drugs , it is worthwhile to see how modafinil compares for children and ADD / ADHD. A study of children using modafinil for 6 weeks found a 48% improvement in ADHD symptoms (such as inattention, hyperactivity, and cognition) .
Modafinil in Popular Culture
Many nootropics have grown in popularity in recent years, but none as much as modafinil. Much of this growth is due to the experiences of Tim Ferriss and Dave Asprey who have both mentioned using the drug extensively.
According to Dave Asprey “used Modafinil (aka Provigil) when I got my Wharton MBA while working full time at a startup that sold for $600 million. I even hazard to mentioned it in my LinkedIn profile which made more than a few Silicon Valley exec friends open up to me that they had used it, at least on occasion.” 
Both Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan, and a host of other popular characters in popular culture have mentioned modafinil as a useful tool.
Side Effects of Modafinil
Powerful nootropics and smart drugs often have side effects. The side effects of modafinil are often related to appetite. Many people experience a lower appetite when they take modafinil, which translates to weight loss in some. While this might be considered a positive benefit of modafinil to some, it is a side effect of the drug nonetheless.
Other modafinil side effects include headaches, dizziness, and irritability, which are rare and can depend on many factors. Sometimes they are a result of an increased heart rate and blood pressure, which is another side effect of modafinil. Rarely, people experience nausea, dry mouth, and abdominal pain.
Naturally, because modafinil is a wakefulness agent, taking the drug too late at night will negatively impact sleep. It can cause insomnia in some people.
There are so many studies on modafinil, the dosage varies greatly depending on the goal. Some studies with amphetamine comparisons use up to 400 mg of the drug,  while studies with children and ADHD use as little as 170 mg . The standard doses (produced by drug companies) is between 100 – 200 mg.
Most starting recommended doses are 200 mg, but modafinil is a powerful drug and might warrant half that dose (100 mg) to test the waters.
There is a common trend among those in the nootropics community whereby synergistic or complimentary nootropics are combined for added effect. Combining modafinil with other nootropics (or the modafinil cousins like adrafinil and armodafinil) can be highly stimulating so it is worth beginning with caution. It is also worth reducing the dosage of modafinil as increasing the consumption of others.
Modafinil and Racetam Stack – combining modafinil with some racetams can be valuable because of the varied cognitive effects. Whereas modafinil is a stimulant and concentration tool (mostly), the racetams focus primarily on memory formation and learning ability. Things like piracetam and aniracetam are easy additions that can be useful alongside modafinil. However, more stimulating racetams like phenylpiracetam or fasoracetam might be too much to proceed with caution.
Modafinil and Natural Nootropics – sometimes a good (i.e: safe) bet is to combine modafinil with more natural nootropics that can provide alternative benefits. For memory formation, an obvious choice is bacopa monnieri. However, adaptogens are great additions to modafinil because highly stimulating nootropics can be harmful for the immune system. Adaptogens like cordyceps mushroom or rhodiola rosea can be helpful alongside modafinil to handle stress.
Modafinil and Unique Stacks – the final combination people use often is between modafinil and unique blends of nootropics. This is recommended only with extreme care because modafinil can interact with many of the nootropic stacks that are (often) already made to be potent and stimulating. Combining modafinil with Qualia, for example, will be too intense for most people. If this combo is interesting, try to use smaller doses of both. Modafinil with something like Mind Lab Pro might be less dangerous as with Alpha Brain, truBrain, or any of the Four Sigmatic products.
How and Where to Buy Modafinil
Modafinil is popular, which means it is big business. Unfortunately, in the United States it is impossible to buy it over the counter. You need a prescription in order to purchase modafinil, but there are many online retail shops that purchase the drugs in countries where modafinil is over the couter (such as India and Colombia) and ship them to you.
One popular website is called Afinil Express, which has an entire process that walks you safely through the process. With Afinil Express you can order the smart drug to your home, get shipping notifications, and updates, and have the product delivered to your doorstep.
If you are going to buy modafinil online from another retailer, make sure you find modafinil reviews in one of the community portals (such as Reddit or Longecity). There are many modafinil suppliers that pop up every month, but modafinil reviews can help you to determine what is legitimate and what is not.
Beyond the legal risks, if you buy modafinil, there are reports of seizure by customs, though this is rare.
Selected Community Experiences
“First, the biggest effect I have experienced on modafinil is appetite suppressant. This, combined with modafinil’s tendency to increase my daytime alertness and motivation, has resulted in significant weight loss…As of today, which is about 2 months after beginning modafinil, I now weigh 203 lbs. My BMI went from 29.5 to 26.1 (still classified as overweight but much lower), and my body fat % went from about 20% to 15%. Both muscle bulk and tone have increased” - Brukhar1
“So I’ve been taking Modafinil for the past 11-12 days straight. I’ve used varying doses of 100-200mg per day. I think that it is a wonderful supplement to use but it also has some significant downsides. It’s not a cure-all “use everyday” sort of thing, for me at least.“ - stefpdt
- References (Click to Expand)
- Other Scientific Resources (Click to Expand)