Modafinil UK: The Ultimate 2019 Guide: Side Effects, Dosage & More
Life is speeding up. We’re creating a more hectic and pressured world for ourselves, which places even greater burdens on people who want to succeed.
Some people want to push themselves further, and for longer, but aren’t able to do so: That’s where modafinil comes in as a 'smart drug'.
We asked our team of experts to run through modafinil side effects, usage, dosage, price and how to buy it in the UK to form the ultimate UK guide to modafinil.
What is modafinil?
First, some background on the drug itself. Modafinil is a eugeroic, a wakefulness-promoting agent, and traces its roots back to adrafinil, invented in 1974 by French chemists.
It was found to produce hyperactivity in mice, leading to an interest in using it as a treatment for sleep disorders.
Modafinil was identified as the active part of adrafinil and was subsequently isolated and trialled in the 1990s.
The drug is believed to work by inhibiting dopamine uptake, leading to increased dopamine levels in the brain.
This should account for increases in motivation, wakefulness and other aspects of cognition after taking the drug.
It’s also been speculated that modafinil increases levels of histamines in the brain to generate some of these effects, having an opposite effect of hayfever tablets, which usually contain antihistamines.
Its exact method of action is not fully known.
Common Misconceptions about Modafinil
Almost all of the studies about modafinil having a cognitive enhancing effect have been a single dose given to a test subject on a single day. There haven't been studies over longer periods.
More research needs to be done before we can say for certain what the long-term side-effects are. What we do know, however, are the short-term side-effects.
Examples of modafinil side-effects include a headache, dizziness, upper respiratory tract infection, nausea, diarrhoea, nervousness, anxiety, agitation, dry mouth, and insomnia.
There can be more serious side-effects, and if you experience any of the following I highly suggest to speak to your doctor: Fever, easy bruising or bleeding, hallucinations, depression, chest pain, fast/irregular heartbeat, or mental/mood changes (such as confusion, depression, hallucinations, rare thoughts of suicide).
Its primary use is to promote wakefulness with those with sleep disorders, so it makes sense that it is somewhat of a stimulant.
Anyone who has tried modafinil will tell you that it gives you an intense feeling of being awake, and can lead to restlessness, jitters and even leave you with a crash bigger than a large triple-shot cappuccino would.
Insomnia is also a big concern for those taking modafinil, as anyone who has taken modafinil after 3 pm can testify to.
In it, Cooper’s character gets given an experimental drug called NZT that transforms him from a lazy and unsuccessful author to a leading businessman and all-around legend in no time at all.
Unfortunately, such a drug does not yet exist in the real world. Recent studies have shown that modafinil may indeed improve reaction times and decrease tiredness in healthy individuals with sleep deprivation, but commonly modafinil leads to ‘overconfidence’ - that is when no significant cognitive benefits have been demonstrated but those who have taken modafinil feel much more confident about their work.
Furthermore, there have been studies to suggest that modafinil may cause an improvement in cognitive function among those with low IQs, but for those people with higher IQs it may have less of an effect.1
Modafinil Effects and Modafinil Side Effects
When looking on the internet for peoples' experiences with modafinil, it is easy to get confused.
Reviews can be very mixed.
Some people claim modafinil saved their degree or even their life, whereas some people claim it didn’t give them any positive benefits, just side-effects such as headaches and nausea.
Here, I will talk about some of the most common experiences that people feel when taking modafinil.
The effects of modafinil creep up on you slowly.
Most people recommend to take them first thing in the morning, as they can have a big disruption to your normal sleeping pattern.
The first time you take modafinil, you only really know that it is working because you notice yourself ignoring distractions, and wanting to work on important tasks.
Some people report a slight feeling of euphoria, which is most likely due to the increased dopamine in your brain and therefore it feels more pleasurable to finish tasks (dopamine is also released during eating, sex and when you get a notification from your phone).
Considering the primary use of modafinil, the most tangible feeling people get from it is feeling more awake.
Modafinil is the undisputed king of wakefulness drugs, hence why it is used by so many shift workers.
A commonly reported effect is a feeling of tunnel vision.
This can be useful if you are just working on one task, and need undivided attention and focus for a long period of time.
However, this tunnel-vision can also be a double-edged sword. If you decide to play a game on your mobile phone or console whilst on modafinil, good luck trying not to play it for the next 6 hours straight.
This is true for many activities, such as walking, reading and running. The tunnel-vision that modafinil provides you may motivate you to spend way too long on the wrong task, making what should have been a productive day into a not-so-productive day.
People taking modafinil may also experience mood swings - especially when someone messes or interrupts with your work.
Going to a university library can sometimes be quite a sociable experience, but if you’ve taken modafinil, you won’t want anybody talking to you at all.
You can get annoyed if someone distracts you from your work, wants to chat or even if they send you a message on your phone.
Due to the prevalence of modafinil and other ‘smart-drugs’ at UK universities, the student press has also been weighing in with their two cents.
As with others’ experiences with modafinil, the attitudes from student media towards modafinil in the UK are not unified.
The Tab, in particular, has run several articles on ‘smart drugs’, sometimes finding it helpful for studying, and at other times concluding that modafinil is only as useful as ‘naps and coffee’.
Other student papers have been more critical of modafinil, and ‘study drugs’ as a whole. Oxford University’s Cherwell paper said, “There are significant risks often associated with study drug abuse, namely addiction and permanently impaired cognitive function.” They also highlighted high rates of modafinil use amongst Oxford students.
Watch: Modafinil Side-Effects Detailed Breakdown.
Bristol’s Epigram paper was similarly critical of ‘smart drug’ use - inclusive of Modafinil - in the UK.
They stated: “There is limited knowledge on the long-term effects of many drugs in humans. Long-term use leads to permanent changes in your brain. It is not uncommon for people to let taking smart drugs to become the norm, and they may become dependent on them to work, or even develop drug-seeking behaviours.”
Aside from student media, reviews of modafinil directly from students are ambivalent.
Some students claim modafinil made them “feel incredible,” and helped them “work head down for 4-5 hours.” Conversely, others say that Modafinil gave them “mood swings,” caused “insomnia” and further problems.
They also said that socialisation can become more difficult from taking modafinil or other smart drugs.
More student reviews can be found, with some people saying they are able to pull all-nighters after using modafinil, but subsequently, suffer from side-effects like an elevated heart rate.
Occasionally, students report being “dulled” by modafinil use, or that it provides misdirected focus onto the wrong subject, as the BBC reported.
Make sure you consider the modafinil side effects before trying it for the first time.
In 2008, the manufacturers of Modafinil sent a letter to Doctors in the UK.
This letter detailed new modafinil side-effects that they had identified in their products.
The first in these new issues are "serious skin rashes" that can result in hospitalisation. Apparently, this can happen to both children and adults who use modafinil.
They also reported something slightly more worrying, "psychiatric adverse events".
These can include: psychosis, mania, delusions, hallucinations, suicidal ideas and aggression.
Doctors warn that if any of these symptoms creep up to stop taking modafinil straight away.
Where to buy Modafinil UK- Modafinil for Sale in the UK
Modafinil is a prescription only medicine in the UK, meaning that whilst it isn’t illegal to buy modafinil without a prescription, it is illegal to sell to someone without a prescription.
If you buy it online, it’s coming from an unregulated pharmacy operating illegally. This means you don’t know what's in it, which could lead to higher risks.
There have also been reports of people buying packs online, and when they come, only half the tablets did anything, and half the tablets were complete duds.
There are plenty of online pharmacies available, and for legal reasons, I will not link them here. However, you may have to change your supplier of modafinil frequently as the MHRA often takes down illegal online pharmacies.
If using modafinil without a prescription or bought from an online source, be very careful.
A recent study by the journal Nature found that only 10% of people using pharmaceutical smart drugs such as modafinil got them online, opposed to 4% who had a prescription, 6% from a family member and 48% through friends.
It seems then, that most people who use modafinil, Provigil, adrafinil or other pharmaceutical nootropics get them through friends, who usually are prescribed too much or buy them themselves from the internet.
Modafinil is a powerful drug - always talk to your doctor about the dosage before taking it.
Having said that, the recommended dose for shift workers is 200 mg orally once a day, approximately 1 hour prior to the start of the work shift.
However, if you are taking modafinil as a smart drug, it is generally recommended to start off with 100mg (usually, 200mg tablets can be easily split in two).
If that is too much, cut it in half again.
Only build up to 200mg if you know you can handle 100mg.
The efficacy of modafinil decreases if taken long-term, so be sure to take breaks and go see your doctor if you get any new side-effects.
Modafinil is not very soluble in water, so it isn't recommended to dissolve it.
In the UK, modafinil is generally sold under the brand name Provigil.
Usually, Provigil is more expensive than regular unbranded modafinil, which is sold unlicensed and unregulated on the internet as Modalert and similar names.
It is expensive: if you buy it from an online pharmacy, it usually sets you back around £50-60 for 30 200mg pills of generic modafinil.
The majority of people who use modafinil, however, get it from friends on campus who may have been given a prescription or bought it elsewhere, so the street value changes from place to place and person to person.
I have witnessed one very desperate final year student purchase a single pill for £10 once outside of the library.
Modafinil and the NHS - what do they think?
The NHS published an article in 2014 titled ‘'Smart drug' modafinil may not make you brainier’.
In it, they go into analysis about a study that gives 64 people either a placebo or modafinil.
Those who took modafinil actually took longer than those with the placebo and were less accurate when recalling words.
The NHS suggests that modafinil is used to treat narcolepsy, a sleep disorder.
On the NHS website, they refer to modafinil as a ‘stimulant’ and says that it can cause the following side-effects: headaches, nausea, nervousness, difficulty sleeping at night (insomnia), stomach aches, irritability and weight loss.
Modafinil for studying
For many students in the UK, modafinil helps them deal with pressure or stress while studying.
Tuition fees in the UK are higher than ever, and education can be equally or more expensive in other places.
As a result, many students are expected to succeed as a fiscal necessity, so they view using modafinil for studying as a way to improve the return from their investment.
In a similar vein, it has become much harder to find rewarding work.
In many instances, very good academic and extracurricular results are needed.
This makes some students feel that taking modafinil for studying is ‘worth it’, to try and excel academically and get more opportunities later.
Many students also have issues with mental health.
Lots of people suffer from mental health issues at university, which makes studying much harder.
Using modafinil for studying might be a way for some students with mental health issues to try and catch up if they have an unproductive period stemming from a mental illness.
Is Modafinil effective?
The reviews are mixed when it comes to using modafinil as a study drug.
Some people say that it saves their degrees, whilst others say it ruins it.
I won’t list lots of experiences here, as this has been done a hundred times (for example, In their own words: students share their views on smart drugs, The Guardian).
Most accounts agree that modafinil isn’t good to use every-day for a long period of time.
Instead, it is better to have as a secret weapon in case you need to pull an all-nighter to get an assignment done.
It will certainly keep you awake longer than coffee!
Although modafinil makes formulaic tasks more pleasurable to get through and finish, it may actually impair creativity.
That may be why modafinil is more popular among STEM students.
It can be a bad idea to plan an essay when on modafinil as the severe tunnel-vision and impaired creativity can mean the quality of your work is lower.
I personally used to take modafinil, but gave up when I came across something that was better for studying, gave me the will to work on the right tasks, costs less than half, and didn't have any side-effects.
The section below has more information if you want to take a look. Good luck with your studies!
Our Recommended Modafinil Alternative: BrainZyme
For a Modafinil alternative to be effective, it must meet the following criteria:
- Better value for money than Modafinil.
- Equally or more effective than Modafinil.
- Fewer side-effects than Modafinil.
- Legal to use over the counter.
Our favourite Modafinil alternative that fulfils all of these criteria is BrainZyme.
You can find more out about why we think BrainZyme is the best Modafinil alternative here.
Or, if you are interested in the topic of Modafinil, you should also consider checking out the following related articles:
The 7 Best Modafinil Alternatives To Boost Your Brain in 2019.
The Ultimate 2019 Adderall UK Guide: Legality, Alternatives & More.
Smart Pill UK 2019 Review - Which Ones To Try and Which To Avoid.
1: Billiard M., Lubin S. (2015) Modafinil: Development and Use of the Compound. In: Chokroverty S., Billiard M. (eds) Sleep Medicine. Springer, New York, NY https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4939-2089-1_61
2: YOUNG, Jared W, and Mark A GEYER. “Action of Modafinil – Increased Motivation via the Dopamine Transporter Inhibition and D1 Receptors?” Biological psychiatry 67.8 (2010): 784–787. PMC. Web. 13 Aug. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2849918/
4: Amber Dance, Smart drugs: A dose of intelligence, Nature, https://www.nature.com/articles/531S2a
5: "Provigil: Prescribing information", United States Food and Drug Administration. Cephalon, Inc. January 2015, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2015/020717s037s038lbl.pdf
6: Krishnan, Raman, and Krishnan Vengadaragava Chary. “A Rare Case Modafinil Dependence.” Journal of Pharmacology & Pharmacotherapeutics 6.1 (2015): 49–50. PMC, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4319252/
7: Helen Thompson, ‘Narcolepsy medication modafinil is world's first safe 'smart drug'’, 20/08/2015
8: Lyons TJ, French J. Modafinil: the unique properties of a new stimulant. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 1991; 62:432-5, http://www.gwern.net/docs/modafinil/1991-lyons.pdf
9: Zackary A. Cope, Arpi Minassian, Dustin Kreitner, David A. MacQueen, Morgane Milienne-Petiot, Mark A. Geyer, William Perry and Jared W. Young, Modafinil improves attentional performance in healthy, non-sleep deprived humans at doses not inducing hyperarousal across species, Neuropharmacology, 125, (254), (2017), https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/hup.596
10: Delia C. Randall, John M. Shneerson, Sandra E. File, Cognitive effects of modafinil in student volunteers may depend on IQ, 2/09/2005, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/2213/cb20e623986d269a0f7ea286cbdf00024874.pdf
12: Nature, ‘Use of ‘smart drugs’ on the rise’, 05/07/2018, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05599-8
13: 'Smart drug' modafinil may not make you brainier, Thursday, November 13 2014, https://www.nhs.uk/news/medication/smart-drug-modafinil-may-not-make-you-brainier/