Modafinil – Smart drug or nootropic?

Modafinil is often said to be the world’s most powerful nootropic and is likened to the NZT 48 pill, however it is technically a smart drug not a nootropic. The difference between a smart drug and a nootropic is in their primary purpose as smart drugs are originally intended for curing (or alleviating symptoms of) diseases affecting the brain, while nootropics are intended for boosting specific cognitive functions.

Nevertheless this does not mean nootropics cannot have same effects as smart drugs and vice versa. In fact many smart drugs are now much more known as nootropics and earn more money in this venue as well.

Smart drugs can also have a highly stimulatory effect which excludes them from the pure nootropic category. Modafinil exhibits this nicely as it increases arousal among all other effects it has. Considering that it was designed for treating narcolepsy it is not surprising that it is a stimulant but for its nootropic use this can be an issue for some. The main problem with stimulants is that for some people they can cause anxiety, heart arrhythmias and other more pressing issues which can interfere with our cognitive boost from modafinil’s nootropic qualities.


History of modafinil

Modafinil was designed in France sometime in 1970’s and in early 1990’s the formula for it was licensed to the US company called Cephalon. In 1998 it was approved for treating narcolepsy and soon it began to be prescribed for many off-label effects. Modafinil’s nootropic and stimulant effects were discovered quite soon by the general public and it begun to spread among CEOs, professional athletes and students. By 2004 it has been added to the list of doping substances and is hence forbidden for professional athletes.

With the 2011 movie ‘Limitless’ the public grew more aware of cognitive enhancers and soon this most powerful nootropic was dubbed the real NZT-48 pill. Since than consumer demand for modafinil (and other nootropics) has been steadily growing.


Recently modafinil has been accepted for military service in many countries around the world. For example the French Foreign Legion is said to use it on covert missions and the US Air Force is said to have accepted it for fatigue management. While this is not particularly surprising and has little to do with nootropic effects, modafinil is used by astronauts aboard the ISS for optimizing their performance on long missions.


Effects of Modafinil and How does Modafinil work

Modafinil is an eugeroic which means it promotes wakefulness. From this stem all its effects as Microsoft PowerPoint - figures ALL_final_R2.pptxstimulation is required to prevent degradation of muscle response and to provide clear vision. The nootropic effects stem from the requirement of keeping the mind from ‘’wandering off’ as one nears the sleep threshold.


Many non-official uses come from the above requirements, example of this is that it is being used as a nootropic, mood enhancer, vision enhancer, stress reducer, for fatigue alleviation, etc. It is said to give healthy individuals razor sharp focus and steel determination. It also makes physical and mental efforts seem easier.


Modafinil is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor as it affects the dopamine transporter and affects the same area as cocaine just in a different way. The result from this is increased locomotion –  (muscle movement) as it acts in a stimulating way – and decreased dopamine secretion. However it significantly increases dopamine levels (and hence activity) in specific brain areas which are responsible for motivation. It also produces the wakefulness effect which modafinil was designed for. The best part of this effect is that it requires no compensatory sleep (unlike caffeine and many other drugs). Modafinil also works through several other mechanisms however it is not known yet exactly how. Many of the nootropic effects presumably come from those mechanisms.


Another upside is that no dose tolerance buildup is reported even with extensive use of modafinil. This means you can always stay within safe dose limits as well as not needing to invest ever higher amounts of money for the same effects.

Also withdrawal symptoms are nonexistent at low doses and sporadic use. Though withdrawal symptoms do occur after using higher doses for prolonged periods. The symptoms are said to last from a few days to several weeks and consist of:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Muscle pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Sleepiness


Side effects of Modafinil

Modafinil is often said to be the most powerful nootropic and in accordance with that we could expect it to carry some very serious risks. In spite of that it is a relatively safe drug. Yes, worst case scenario says modafinil is deadly, but we found no documented cases to support that.


The usual side effects of modafinil include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal problems


Some studies say that up to ⅓ of people who use modafinil experience headaches and around 10% experience other issues described above.


A few reports also include rashes and more severe skin issues which are potentially deadly. Issues such as subdermal swelling and multi-organ hypersensitivity reactions were also reported. Fortunately very few such occurrences are reported to our knowledge.


Users also report other issues which may or may not be listed on the packaging:

  • Heart palpitations (usually at too high doses)
  • High blood pressure (usually at too high doses)
  • Blurry vision
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • increased thirst (and urination)
  • Mood swings
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Muscle stiffness


Please note this list is not exhaustive. For more statistics you can visit


Considering that modafinil is often said to be the most powerful nootropic the risks and side effects are lower than could be expected. In comparison to caffeine, where many deaths are recorded and adverse effects on the heart are widely touted, modafinil seems quite safe for sporadic use.


Where to buy Modafinil

Since 2012 when all patents for production of modafinil have expired many pharmacies began producing it under their own brand. While this decreased the price of modafinil it also brought a lot of terrible quality duplicates to the market.


List of modafinil brands by countries of origin:

    • Alertec – Canada, Ecuador
    • Alertex – Chile
    • BravaMax – Egypt, Morocco
    • Carim – El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay
    • Mentix – Chile
    • Modafil – India
    • Modalert – India
    • Modapro – India
    • Modasomil Austria, Switzerland
    • Modatec – India
    • Modavigil – Australia, New Zealand
    • Modiodal – Mexico, Philippines, Spain, France, Denmark, Iceland, Greece, Cyprus, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Turkey, Japan, Iran
    • Modiwake – Turkey
    • Modvigil – India
    • Provake – India
    • Provigil – Belgium, Ireland, Italy, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States, South Africa, Israel, Finland, Croatia
    • Resotyl – Chile
    • Stavigile – Brazil
    • Vigia – Colombia
    • Vigicer – Argentina
    • Vigil – Germany
    • SpierX – Malaysia
    • Zalux – Chile


To avoid getting impurities or pixie dust i strongly recommend you buy modafinil from reputable countries of origin such as USA, Canada and members of EU (European Union). Buying modafinil brands from countries like Ecuador carries the highest risk of wasting your money on faulty goods.

As many resellers rebrand their stuff you could be paying for German Vigil while getting Chinese pixie dust. Thus it is often wise to buy modafinil from established sources with a reliable track record. It is important that they have been selling quality modafinil for several years and have established a loyal customer base. You can check the latter on internet forums and see how satisfied their customers are.


Take note that modafinil is a prescription drug in many countries hence it is illegal to buy without a prescription and import/export it (but it is usually not forbidden to have it). Despite that it is possibly the most powerful nootropic currently existing, companies producing and/or selling it are forbidden from advertising and selling it as a nootropic. This is because of the governmental regulations applying to pharmaceutical compounds.

So exercise care when buying it to stay within what is legal and to buy quality product at the same time.


As we have said modafinil is one of the most powerful nootropics if not the most powerful nootropic however due to its potency and possible side effects it might not be for everyone. So alternatively you can check this list of nootropics to find something which suits you more.