Everything You Need To Know About Modafinil (Provigil)

modafinil chemical molecule

Smart drugs are all the rage these days and Modafinil is front and center.

If you believe the hype, Modafinil can make you smarter, give you more energy, help you get more done, and improve just about every other aspect of your life!

But is this actually true?

We’ve heard similar claims made about plenty of nootropics, only to find out that the benefits aren’t nearly as meaningful as we’ve been lead to believe.

Is Modafinil any different?

As it turns out…


Unlike the vast majority of nootropics, Modafinil actually has a fair amount of scientific research behind it, and not just in sick or old people.

Some of the studies have actually looked how it impacts cognitive function in normal, healthy humans, and the results are quite encouraging!

While the media has certainly done its part to accentuate the hype surrounding Modafinil, the cognitive benefits cannot be denied.

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about this unique brain-boosting drug, including what it is, how it works, the benefits, dosage, realistic expectations, side effects, legality, and a whole lot more a long the way.

So if you’re ready to look past the hype and see what Modafinil can actually do for you, let’s get started…

What Is Modafinil?

Modafinil is a pharmaceutical drug which was originally developed to treat sleep-related disorders such as narcolepsy, a condition characterized by excessive day-time sleepiness.

It is available world-wide under brand names like:

  • Provigil (Cephalon)
  • Modalert (Sun Pharma)
  • Modvigil (HAB Pharma)

Modafinil is a stimulant, but it doesn’t work the same as most other stimulants.  It belongs to a class of molecules known as ‘eugeroics’, or ‘wakefulness agents’.

And that’s exactly what it does: it keeps you awake.

Modafinil is prescribed for narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome (OSAHS), and shift work sleep disorder–all conditions characterized by excessive sleepiness.

However, it is used by many different people or a variety of reasons.

The US military, for example, uses Modafinil to keep pilots vigilant and functional when they need to stay awake for extended periods of time.

In recent years, Modafinil has gone mainstream.

It is used by everyone from college kids and athletes to high-performing executives and surgeons because it can:

  • enhance memory and learning
  • increase focus and concentration
  • improve mood and motivation

Anyone who needs to be productive and/or function at a high level stands to benefit from Modafinil.

How Does Modafinil Work?

When Modafinil first came out, it wasn’t clear how it worked.  Since then, however, some of the mechanisms have been elucidated.

Modafinil works by influences levels of a handful of key neurotransmitters (chemical messenger) in the brain.

First, it increases Dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which is involved in things like mood, reward, learning, memory, and alertness.  It is one of the main neurotransmitters targeted by many stimulants, from Adderall to Caffeine.

But Modafinil has other effects which can’t be explained by merely increasing Dopamine.  Clearly there’s more at work here…

Research indicates it also interacts with the Orexin system.

Orexin is a neuropeptide (a type of protein used by neurons to communicate) which regulates wakefulness.

Narcolepsy–the condition Modafinil is prescribed for–is, in part, caused by a lack of Orexin.

Orexin also plays a role in various mental processes like memory, learning, and attention, so this helps explain why Modafinil provides additional benefits in these areas, beyond what a modest increase in Dopamine could provide.

There is also some preliminary research which indicates Modafinil reduces levels of GABA–the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain which is responsible for slowing down brain function–causing neuronal excitation.

While research regarding Modafinils multiple mechanims of action is ongoing, we know it works by increasing Dopamine and Orexin, and possibly interacting with other Catecholamines and GABA as well.

Now let’s talk about what Modafinil has actually been proven to do…

What Are The Proven Benefits Of Modafinil?

Although Modafinil has just recently gone mainstream, there’s actually been a fair amount of research on it.  So far, it’s been shown to provide a handful of unique benefits.

Modafinil Keeps You Awake And Functional

Modafinil was originally developed to treat narcolepsy and it’s quite effective at doing so.

It’s most notable property is that it completely obliterates the need/desire/want to sleep.

Several studies have shown that Modafinil promotes wakefulness and preserves cognitive function during sleep deprivation (when cognitive function would normally be compromised).

In other words, Modafinil doesn’t just keep you awake; it keeps you fully functional.

This is what makes it particularly attractive for people who work long hours or, to use our original example, military pilots who need to stay awake (and functional) for 24, 36, even 48 hours at a time.

Modafinil has been shown to increase alertness during sleep deprivation to an extent that places it on par with amphetamines but, unlike amphetamines, Modafinil does not appear to cause rebound hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness).

Modafinil Improves Memory And Learning

One of the major criticisms of ‘smart drugs’ in general is that they don’t actually improve cognitive function.  They just jack you up and make you feel like you’re performing better.

But research indicates that Modafinil is different…

It actually improves cognitive function (i.e. memory and learning capacity).

Studies have shown that Modafinil improves memory in healthy subjects, not just old people or people suffering from some sort of cognitive disorder.

In other words, Modafinil is most definitely an effective nootropic.

Modafinil Helps With ADHD

Modafinil was never intended to be an ADHD medication, but given that it has been shown to improve aspects of cognitive function such as memory and learning, it makes sense that some research would be conducted in that area.

Several studies have shown that Modafinil is indeed effective for treating certain aspects of ADHD.  In fact, it is just as effective as amphetamines.

One of the primary concerns with the amphetamine-based ADHD drugs is that they tend to have some pretty harsh side effects.

More research is needed, of course, but Modafinil may very well prove to be an effective treatment for ADHD, but with less side effects than drugs like Adderall or Focalin.

Modafinil Improves Mood

Since Modafinil interacts with neurotransmitters (such as Dopamine) which are known to play a role in regulating how we feel, some research has investigated whether it can be useful for improving mood, both in instances of mood-disorders and normal, health individuals.

Research shows that Modafinil improves mood in health, normal people.

It has also proven to be an effective treatment for depression and bi-polar disorder, both as an adjunct therapy (in addition to other medication) and in instances where other treatments don’t work.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in every situation.

Modafinil has failed to improve depressive symptoms associated with Huntington’s Disease.

Overall, there’s more than enough evidence to conclude that Modafinil will provide the average person–or the average depressed person–with a moderate mood-boost, but it’s not a cure-all.

If you’re a normal, healthy person taking Modafinil for the first-time, you can probably expect a bit of a mood-lift.

Modafinil Can Help You Lose Weight

Modafinil is not a weight-loss drug, per se, but a common side effect is appetite suppression, so some studies have investigated its impact on body weight.

In several studies, subjects taking Modafinil experienced appetite suppression which ultimately lead to weight-loss, even when weight-loss wasn’t the primary aim.

Modafinil has been shown to induce weight-loss in depressed people, people withdrawing from addictive substances, and people taking anti-psychotics that cause fatigue and weight-gain.

It’s important to understand that weight-loss isn’t a primary effect of Modafinil, but more of a side effect.

Some people (who need to lose weight) would consider this a benefit, while others might consider it to be a negative.

Either way, the research is pretty clear that regular use of Modafinil can lead to noticeable weight-loss through appetite suppression.  It is not approved as a weight-loss drug, though, so this is considered an “off-label” use.

What Kind Of Effects Can You Expect When Taking Modafinil?

Modafinil is effective whether you’re narcoleptic, fatigued, or normal and healthy.

In other words, it will wake you up and basically obliterate the need/desire to sleep for at least several hours.

The cognitive enhancement effects (i.e. better memory, learning capability, attention, etc.) are going to be more noticeable in subjects with some kind of cognitive impairment, but may occur to some degree in normal, healthy people too.

If it’s your first time taking Modafinil, you can expect:

  • energy and alertness
  • enhanced working memory
  • better mood and enjoyment
  • increased motivation and drive
  • better reaction time
  • appetite suppression

Tolerance build-up is an issue with Modafinil, though, so repeated use may result in some of the direct effects fading a bit.

The best way to avoid tolerance is to not use Modafinil every day or to maintain an even dosage, rather than continuously increasing the dosage over time.

Modafinil Dosage

Studies have used anywhere from 100-400mg on average, but the effects of Modafinil aren’t necessarily dose-dependent.

The term ‘dose-dependent’ simply means: the more you take, the better it works.

With Modafinil, that’s not the case.

100mg could be just as effective as 300mg for some people, and higher doses increase the likelihood of side effects which can ultimately detract from the cognitive benefits of the drug.

So, with Modafinil, less may be more.

It’s probably best to stick with the commonly prescribed 100-200mg range, especially since the safety of higher doses hasn’t been extensively-researched at this time.

Modafinil Side Effects

Modafinil may not be as harsh as some other stimulants (especially amphetamines), but it still has its fair share of potential side effects.

  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • dry mouth
  • anxiety
  • paranoia
  • irritability
  • appetite suppression

These are just a few of the more common side effects that have been reported with Modafinil, but obviously there are many more that could occur.

As with any drug, the best way to avoid side effects is to not overdo it.

Everyone reacts differently and since the mechanisms underlying the effects of Modafinil aren’t entirely understood, it can be difficult to predict how certain individuals will react.

As with any stimulant, the likelihood of negative side effects is greatly increased when you combine it with other drugs.

For example, recreational users of Modafinil often combine it with a lighter stimulant such as Caffeine to increase aspects like energy, motivation, mood, and cognitive performance, but doing so increases the chances of side effects like anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.

Is Modafinil Legal?

In the United States, Modafinil is a schedule IV controlled substance.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has 5 main classes of controlled substances.

Schedule I is reserved for substances that have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse (like Heroin and Cocaine).

Schedule II is reserved for substances that have some medical use, but may still be easily abused (like Adderall and many Opiods).

And the classes continue down from there, until we get to Schedule V.

Schedule V is reserved for drugs that have a legitimate, well-defined medical use and very low abuse potential (like Robitussin AC).

Since Modafinil is Schedule IV, that means it has legitimate medical uses but the US government doesn’t consider it to be very dangerous or addictive.

It’s illegal to buy, possess, or sell without a valid prescription, but the penalty for doing so is lighter than other substances.

More importantly, the DEA  doesn’t place such a heavy emphasis on lower Schedule drugs because they have plenty of Schedule I drugs like Meth and Heroin causing mass devastation.

At the end of the day, Modafinil just isn’t that big of a deal.

As a consumer in the US, you are technically breaking the law when you buy Modafinil on the internet (with no prescription), but you’re not likely to get in much trouble.

Worst case, customs takes your package and you never get it, but the DEA probably isn’t going to kick your door down for attempting to buy a personal supply of a Schedule IV substance.

They have bigger fish to fry, plain and simple.

Modafinil Vs Adderall

If you’re using Modafinil for the purposes of staying awake, focusing, and increasing productivity, you may be curious how it compares to the undisputed king of smart drugs, Adderall.

Well first off, they work differently…

Adderall primarily works by increasing levels of the neurotransmitters Dopamine, Noradrenaline, and Serotonin.

Modafinil definitely interacts with these neurotransmitters, but the impact is modest and it also has alternative mechanisms which produce different effects.

They both increase alertness, suppress appetite, and improve mood and motivation, but Adderall provides more in the way of focus and euphoria than Modafinil.

In other words, Adderall produces much more of a “high” than Modafinil.  Unfortunately, Adderall is also way harsher in terms of abuse potential, side effects, and the crash.

All the available evidence suggests that Modafinil is a lot safer than Adderall but I wouldn’t recommend taking either one on a regular basis if you don’t need to.

Adderall is hands down the more harmful and addictive of the two, but Modafinil isn’t risk-free either.

My Personal Experience With Modafinil (And Adderall)

I have used smart drugs–like Modafinil, Adderall, and Focalin–more times than I care to remember.

I first found out about Modafinil while researching nootropics in college and was pleasantly surprised by the fact that, even though it technically requires a prescription in the US, it can easily be ordered over the internet.

This is in contrast to Adderall which you would probably have a hard time finding online from a reputable vendor, mostly because it’s a Schedule II substance which carries some hefty legal penalties for those who get caught selling, buying, or possessing it.

So, I ordered a bunch of Modafinil from one of the many vendors and about a week later I had one hundred 200mg tablets of name-brand Modafinil in my hands.

For the next few years, I proceeded to test the effects of Modafinil in a variety of situations.

  • All night study sessions
  • Writing content for SWT
  • Driving for long periods of time
  • Working out
  • Jet-lag

Modafinil makes me wide awake and completely removes the need/desire to sleep, but it lacks in the focus department and doesn’t produce much in the way of euphoria.

With Adderall, I feel extremely motivated, euphoric, and very focused.

With Modafinil, I just feel…awake.

It doesn’t necessarily make me love the work I’m doing or provide the laser-like focus that I get from Adderall or Focalin.

I have a working theory about why that is…

A lot of the focus and euphoria you feel when you take those types of drugs is caused by a large increase in Noradrenaline in addition to Dopamine, either through direct release or blocked re-uptake.

Modafinil doesn’t seem to have much of an affinity for Noradrenaline, though.  Any increase is modest at best.

I believe that’s the reason why it just doesn’t do it for me in terms of focus and doens’t produce the same sort of ‘euphoric high’ that Adderall provides.

I find that when I combine about 200mg of Modafinil with about 300mg of Caffeine, it produces a much more noticeable effect in terms of focus and motivation which makes sense, considering that Caffeine triggers Noradrenaline release.

The effects of any psychoactive drug vary from person to person, though.

How Modafinil affects you will have a lot to do with your individual brain chemistry.  If you respond well to things that increase Dopamine, you may love it!

Apparently, I’m more a Noradrenaline kinda guy…

On the subjects of Modafinil vs Adderall though, I will say this:

I don’t recommend taking either of these drugs on a regular basis, but Modafinil is DEFINITELY way safer and less likely to mess up your brain in the long-term.

Adderall really is just a slightly toned-down, legal version of meth.  Using it regularly can do serious damage to the balance of chemicals in your brain (trust me).

I’m not saying Modafinil can’t do any damage, but it’s less harsh.

Where To Buy Modafinil

You can buy Modafinil from a ton of online retailers, most of which are located in India where much of the world’s supply of Modafinil is produced by companies like Sun Pharma (under the brand name Modalert) and HAB Pharma (under the brand name Modvigil).

My first order of Modafinil was from a site called ModafinilCat which has since shut down, but there are several similar sites still in existence.

Some vendors that you can actually trust to provide quality, brand-name Modafinil are:

There are many others, but these sites all provide fast international shipping, top-notch customer service, and most importantly, they accept credit cards.

When it comes to buying Modafinil on the internet, it’s always best to find a vendor that accepts credit cards, even if you personally choose to make the purchase through alternate means.

Vendors who accept credit cards are more likely to provide good customer service because they can’t afford too many charge-backs or their payment processor may drop them.

You see, these guys are already operating in a pretty gray area and most payment processors aren’t crazy about facilitating these kinds of activities.

A great way for Modafinil vendors to prevent charge-backs and keep their payment processor happy is simply to offer excellent customer service so that there are no disputes or issues.

Bitcoins may be (kind of) anonymous and therefore difficult to trace, but if you get ripped off, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Just something to keep in mind…

The Bottom Line On Modafinil

Modafinil is a unique nootropic stimulant which doesn’t work in the same way as many traditional stimulants, but does elicit some of the beneficial effects such as:

  • increased alertness
  • enhanced cognitive abilities
  • functioning well without sleep

If you need to stay awake, concentrate for tasks for hours on end, and get more done, then it may be just what you’re looking for.

Contrary to popular belief, though, Modafinil is not “harmless”.

While it certainly appears to be safer than other smart drugs (like Adderall), there are side effects to be wary of and, like most psychoactive drugs, the long-term health implications of regular usage are unknown.

I’d also point out that the benefits of Modafinil have been heavily exaggerated by the media and the vendors who benefit immensely from all the buzz.

If you’re trying to boost cognitive function and sharpen your mental capabilities, I’d recommend starting with a safe, natural nootropic stack before reaching for Modafinil.

It’s really not the ground-breaking miracle brain-booster that it’s made out to be.

I’m Matt Theis, founder of SuppWithThat, Momentum Nutrition, and Singular Sport. I created SWT to separate the science from the hype and publish accurate, research-based information on supplements. If you like what I have to say here, feel free to check out my supplements at and

Click to comment
To Top