By Jonathan Roseland

I'm not a doctor, medical professional, or trained therapist. I'm a researcher and pragmatic biohacking practitioner exercising free speech to share evidence as I find it. I make no claims. Please practice skepticism and rational critical thinkingYou should consult a professional about any serious decisions that you might make about your health. Affiliate links in this article support Limitless Mindset - spend over $150 and you'll be eligible to join the Limitless Mindset Secret Society.

A next-level smart drug, often compared closely to NZT-48 from the movie Limitless.

Modafinil imbues an unfair cognitive advantage to those lifehackers not afraid to dabble with pharmaceuticals, from nightshift-working emergency room doctors to programmers and helicopter pilots.

New York Magazine called it Wall Street's New Drug of Choice

To quote the high-performance subject of the article:

"I sensed it was blood actually moving to the optic nerve. Your eyes start to feel very sort of engorged, and your awareness comes to the front of your face, which is kind of a freaky sensation. I would describe it as being very much like Adderall, but without the speediness."

 Scientific Research

With almost 200 human clinical studies in the past 10 years, Modafinil is one of the most studied and renowned pharmaceutical smart drugs on the market. Officially a wakefulness-promoting drug, Modafinil is FDA approved for treating narcolepsy and shift work sleep disorder, and in many countries, a prescription is required. Launched in the US as Provigil in 1998, it's a relatively younger smart drug.

 Military Applications

Military Applications

A 2012 study of 18 helicopter pilots by the Warfighter Health Division of U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory found that Modafinil was a veritable solution for maintaining acceptable levels of mood and performance during sleep deprivation in periods of sustained wakefulness for up to 40 hours. In a 2004 study of 10 F-117 pilotsModafinil attenuated flight performance for up to 37 hours of continuous wakefulness. The French air force includes them in the ejection seat survival packages of fighter jets.



Modafinil is a hardcore wakefulness hack. To quote a 2014 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study done by the Department of Neurology in Marburg, Germany:

The sleep diaries showed increases in feeling refreshed in the morning; the diurnal diaries showed significant improvement of performance and of exhaustion. Modafinil is an effective and safe medication in the treatment of [idiopathic hypersomnia].

 Adrafinil vs Modafinil

Adrafinil vs Modafinil

Adrafinil is the non-prescription version of Modafinil and a search for it on Pubmed yields +25 results. Adrafinil is technically a prodrug of Modafinil, meaning that it converts or metabolizes into Modafinil in the liver. The biggest difference between the two is that Adrafinil is, currently, unregulated in the United States. Although Modafinil can be acquired via numerous sources online, varying from shady silk road wannabes to more credible supplement retailers, there's still a legality issue for US citizens. For those who wish to stay on the right side of the law without bothering a doctor for a prescription, Adrafinil is the clear choice.

 Armodafinil vs Modafinil

Armodafinil vs Modafinil

Modafinil is comprised of an R-isomer and an S-isomer whereas Armodafinil is just the R-isomer. To quote a 2009 study comparing the two:

Despite similar half-lives, plasma concentrations following armodafinil administration are higher late in the day than those following modafinil administration on a milligram-to-milligram basis.

This would suggest that Armodafinil is the stronger version, at least when it comes to wakefulness. As a veteran Modafinil user, Armo is my preferred form but I'll typically split the pill and take a half dose as it is very potent stuff.

 Modafinil vs Adderall and Ritalin

Modafinil vs Adderral vs Ritalin

Since they are focus-promoting pharmaceuticals a lot of comparisons get made between Modafinil and popular ADHD medication. There's a common misperception that Modafinil utilizes a similar mechanism of action to ADHD drugs, but a French study of 33 humans found a distinct difference between Modafinil and the amphetamine-powered stimulants:

These findings demonstrate that the alertness-promoting effects of modafinil and d-amphetamine involve distinct EEG activities and do not reside on the same vigilance regulatory processes.

One of the major subjective differences is the lack of twitchiness or buzz, after years of taking ADHD medications I'm intimately familiar with the edgy, cracked-out feeling they deliver, indeed I had grown to enjoy it. Modafinil simply delivers a clear head and loads of motivation; you won't feel like dancing and your hands won't shake.

One thing I appreciate about Modafinil is that I get hungry like normal and will be motivated to eat. One of the things that have troubled me about ADHD medication and other Nootropics I've tried is that you lose your appetite on them and I will find myself in a deprived state after skipping multiple meals.

 Mechanism of Action

Mechanism of Action

Since we can't examine a live human brain dosed on Modafinil, like with all smart drugs the mechanism of action is a matter of intelligent estimation as opposed to certainty. To simplify, it prevents the reuptake of Dopamine in the brain which causes high concentrations of the neurotransmitter.

2007 paper Mechanisms of modafinil: A review of current research, stated in its conclusion:

It is likely that modafinil both enhances cellular metabolism and reduces free-radicals in neurons. Reduction in brain oxidation or an increase in cortical creatine could promote vigilance

It takes about 45-60 minutes to take effect. For that reason when I'm having a Modafinil Day I usually wash down the drug with a cup of coffee or tea. It has a half-life of 13-15 hours, so it will transform the course of your whole day.

 Banned Sports Doping Agents

To quote a 2009 study done in New Delhi by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports:

Adrafinil and modafinil have received wide publicity and have become controversial in the sporting world when several athletes were discovered allegedly using these drugs as doping agents.

 Personal Anecdote: Hallucinating on Modafinil


This is a quintessential productivity drug and it turns you into a singularly focused zombie. Once while on Modafinil I worked a +12 hour day late into the night, even totally exhausted I was motivated to keep going on a project. I began to hallucinate, thinking that people were walking into my empty office, I took this as a sign to finally shut down my computer. On the short walk to where I lived, I kept thinking that I was seeing people in my peripheral vision and hearing footsteps following me. Hallucinations are not a side effect reported anywhere else of this smart drug, but I doubt I'm the first person to work myself into such a state of exhaustion while on it.

 Vigia is the first Modafinil brand that I used, it's common in South America.

 On Mood and Depression

On Mood and Depression

Depression can kind of be like a check engine light on a car, there are a lot of possible causes and more often than not it's due to a combination of slight imbalances in lifestyle, diet, genetics, and internal chemistry.

To quote a 2007 Vanderbilt University randomized, double-blind, study of 12 healthy human subjects:

Mood was assessed daily using both the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule and a general mood scale... These results suggest that modafinil may have general mood-elevating effects accompanied by increased negative affect (anxiety). The findings may have implications for clinical practice, in particular for the adjunctive use of modafinil in treatment-resistant depression.

 Socializing on Modafinil

Socializing on Modafinil

In my experience, towards the beginning of the bell curve of Modafinil's cognitive-enhancing effects, you'll feel more social and talkative. However, you'll grow very critical, and social interactions will seem too slow. I don't take Modafinil during the day if I have a date, party, or other social engagement in the evenings.

 For Addicts

for addicts

A 2011 University of California study demonstrated that Modafinil repaired the damage that methamphetamine addicts had done to their learning ability with prolonged drug usage:

The findings suggest that modafinil improves learning in MA-dependent participants, possibly by enhancing neural function in regions important for learning and cognitive control.

A 2005 double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 62 cocaine addicts showed the drug to have beneficial effects:

"This study provides preliminary evidence... that modafinil improves clinical outcome when combined with psychosocial treatment for cocaine dependence." 

Modafinil may be something of a self-control lifehack, as many of the studies concluded that it decreased impulsiveness.

Low-IQ Smart Drug?

Boundless bookInterestingly...

Modafinil’s effectiveness may also depend upon your IQ. Two university studies determined that in a test of attention span, modafinil improved cognitive performance only in the group with lower IQs. (p.149)

According to Ben Greenfield's Boundless.


Modafinil and Adrafinil both put some minimal strain on the heart to keep up with the high-performance cognitive state of the brain. It's not a great idea for those with heart conditions to take them with other agents that increase blood pressure and heart rate. For this reason, I don't take them with other Nootropics, except for a cup of coffee or tea.

 Tolerance and Addiction Risk

In my experience it is something you build up a tolerance to, I wouldn't recommend taking it more than 2-3 times a week. Many stimulants that underperform or match the enhancing effects of these drugs are highly addictive, in comparison the addiction risk of Modafinil and Adrafinil is remarkably low, however, there's always a risk with anything that stimulates dopamine.

 Broad-Spectrum Antibiotic

Some bad news about Modafinil, it's an antibiotic that suppresses 800 different types of bacteria. While it's not quite as dangerous as powerful antibiotics like Cipro, Clindamycin, or the Fluoroquinolones which nuke your gut microbiome it could contribute to antibiotic resistance. A study, Extensive impact of non-antibiotic drugs on human gut bacteria, published in the esteemed journal Nature in 2018 explains why this makes Modafinil a problematic smart drug:

A few commonly used non-antibiotic drugs have recently been associated with changes in gut microbiome composition, but the extent of this phenomenon is unknown. Here, we screened more than 1,000 marketed drugs against 40 representative gut bacterial strains, and found that 24% of the drugs with human targets, including members of all therapeutic classes, inhibited the growth of at least one strain in vitro... The effects of human-targeted drugs on gut bacteria are reflected on their antibiotic-like side effects in humans and are concordant with existing human cohort studies. Susceptibility to antibiotics and human-targeted drugs correlates across bacterial species, suggesting common resistance mechanisms, which we verified for some drugs. The potential risk of non-antibiotics promoting antibiotic resistance warrants further exploration.

This antibiotic effect (which the manufacturers certainly don't warn you about) is a good reason to be bearish on Modafinil. Personally, I'll continue to use it occasionally but at a half dose and while taking care to nurture my gut microbiome. 


Nicotine is my favorite Modafinil cofactor, although I certainly don't recommend smoking cigarettes or vaping. I recommend pharma-grade liquid 5% Nicotine USP solution.

According to Modafinil has a synergistic effect with nicotine: 

Here’s what one researcher has to say about nicotine:
“To my knowledge, nicotine is the most reliable cognitive enhancer that we currently have, bizarrely,” said Jennifer Rusted, professor of experimental psychology at Sussex University in Britain when we spoke. “The cognitive-enhancing effects of nicotine in a normal population are more robust than you get with any other agent. With Provigil, for instance, the evidence for cognitive benefits is nowhere near as strong as it is for nicotine.”

Why does nicotine work so well? It’s a potent nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist. Nicotinic acetylcholine activation suppresses GABAergic inputs to dopaminergic neurons, which elicits dopamine release in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Nicotine decreases the risk of parkinson’s disease, markedly improves working memory, and is underutilized due to its association with tobacco smoking.

If you want to try stacking nicotine with modafinil, start with the lowest possible doses, e.g., 1mg nicotine plus 50mg modafinil. Note that nicotine has a very narrow therapeutic range. Slapping fifteen nicotine patches on your back is a bizarrely popular suicide method precisely because it’s so lethal in overdose. As far as nootropics go, nicotine is probably the most dangerous if you’re not careful.

An anxiolytic to take the edge off is a good idea - my go-to for this is L-Theanine; I recommend downing a few extra cups of green tea on a Modafinil day or supplementing it. 

Caffeine - For me, Modafinil takes a couple of hours to kick in so I begin every Modafinil day like any other day, with a mighty cup of Bulletproof-style coffee but don't drink too much coffee or you'll get overstimulated. 

For an epically productive day, stack a very moderate amount of Phenylpiracetam with Modafinil. Often I find that Modafinil's effect wanes after 6-8 hours so a mid-afternoon dose of the racetam can keep my productivity buzz going strong into the PM.

 Recommended Daily

It's potent stuff, 100 milligrams will put most people into cognitively-enhanced territory for 4-6 hours. 200 milligrams is the standard dosage experienced Biohackers and smart drug junkies take, but for many, it's too much, a friend of mine reported that he couldn't sleep for two whole days after taking this dosage. On the extreme end, some self-experimenters report taking up to 400 Milligrams.

Adrafinil Recommended Dosage: 150 to 300 Milligrams daily; as a prodrug, it's less bioavailable.


In North America and the western hemisphere, is your best bet.
Category: Vendors

 For those who prefer to try before they buy, generously offers free samples of Modalert, Waklert, Modvigil, or Artvigil.

In Europe and elsewhere around the world based out of Moscow is a reliable international source of pharmaceutical-grade Modafinil.

If you're not going to go the route of getting a doctor's prescription for it, ordering Modafinil with Bitcoin or cryptocurrency is a smart move. You're very unlikely to get in legal hot water for circumnavigating a doctor but your bank or financial institution will not hesitate to hand over your transaction records to the authorities if asked for whatever reason. With cryptocurrency (especially with a "privacy coin" like Monero) your purchase is shielded from snooping eyes.

Modafinil Alternatives

The Piracetam Protocol - For fully unleashing the iconic smart drug, Piracetam - in my book, this stack has a superior effect to Modafinil...

QUANTUMiND produces the desirable state of relaxed-arousal with a balance of stimulating (Caffeine, Vitamin B12, ALCAR, Tyrosine, and Alpha-GPC for cognitive enhancement) and tranquilizing (L-Theanine, Ashwagandha, Panax Ginseng) ingredients. 

Rhodiola, or herbal Modafinil as I call it, has potent effects countering sleep deprivation and doesn't share Modafinil's downsides. When I'm operating on less sleep than I need more often than not I pass on Modafinil and mix myself a tasty tea with 300-500 milligrams of powdered Rhodiola.

 The Bottom Line

Using Modafinil is like a Jedi knight dabbling with the dark side of the force; it may unleash previously unexplored powers of your mind but there are some risks and you even become a bit of a psychopath on it. Do check out the insightful follow-up review of Modafinil where I break down why Modafinil might NOT be the Smart Drug you're searching for.

Nootropic Ingredients




How to get Modafinil in the UK
Modafinil Review: 5 Darksides of Modafinil & Why a Quarter of Biohackers Dislike It
Review of Vigia: The Modafinil of South America
Modafinil: The Military Grade Smart Drug and Why it Made Me Hallucinate...
My favorite Modafinil cofactor...
What we learned about Modafinil in 2017
The WORST tasting smart drug... (Adrafinil vs Modafinil Review)


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