The Quick Guide to Modafinil for Studying
Benjamin Martin - 5 December 2022
Since the 2011 Bradley Cooper movie ‘Limitless’ hit the big screens, pop culture has been obsessed with cognitive enhancement.
On university campuses worldwide, it is becoming increasingly common to see students taking what are commonly referred to as nootropics, study drugs or smart pills.
The most common of such substances in the UK is modafinil, a prescription-only medicine for narcolepsy.
In reality, how useful is modafinil for studying? Is it comparable to ‘NZT-48’ from Limitless, or is it just hype?
Our nootropic experts looked into this thoroughly, and what they found may surprise you. Plus, you will discover a natural alternative to modafinil for studying that works just as efficiently, costs less, and is made in the UK.
- Why are Students Using Modafinil?
- Modafinil for Studying
- Is Modafinil Legal in the UK?
- What are Modafinil’s Side Effects?
- What are the Alternatives to Modafinil for Studying?
Why are Students Using Modafinil?
The recent use of modafinil for studying in the UK has several contributing factors.
Many students feel a great deal of pressure and stress while studying. Tuition fees in the UK are higher than ever, and it is no secret that education can also be costly in other places.
As a result, many students are expected to succeed as a fiscal necessity to pay back the ever-growing pile of student debt. So they view using modafinil for studying as a way to improve the return on their investment.
Similarly, it has become much more challenging to find rewarding work. Students often need excellent academic results and extracurricular activities on their CV to get a good job.
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, 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 their mental illness.
Additionally, it's quite common for students to struggle when adapting to university or college.
There are a lot of plates students must keep spinning as there are more and more societal demands placed on young people: socialising, relationships, fitness, jobs and other factors.
This can make some students overstretch themselves, feeling they must take modafinil to stay on top of their work.
Finally, more people may use modafinil for studying because it's easy to become distracted.
Constantly having access to a phone, television, and the internet makes procrastination an ever-present problem. It can make people fall behind in their studies, so they feel they need modafinil to catch up on work they may have missed.
To learn more about modafinil as a nootropic, please check out our ultimate guide to modafinil.
Modafinil for Studying
Modafinil is scientifically classed as a eugeroic, which means its primary effect promotes wakefulness. It is not strictly a stimulant, but its effects are similar to many stimuli.
This means that many students use it as a wakefulness aid. Students working on the days before exams or deadlines might feel the need to cram study into the night to improve their grades.
According to some reports, modafinil can be used as a ‘cognitive enhancer’, which is why many students opt to use it for their studies.
The Guardian called modafinil the "world's first safe, smart drug." Some people have reported that it improved problem-solving and made tedious tasks more pleasurable to get through.
However, the NHS reports that modafinil was no more effective than a placebo when tested in this capacity.
Watch: Why University Students Are Taking Modafinil [STUDY DRUGS]
Is Modafinil Legal in the UK?
British law has placed modafinil in a legal grey area. It isn't explicitly illegal to possess without a prescription, and punishment for possession is rare.
However, modafinil is illegal to sell to people who haven't been prescribed it, following the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act.
Additionally, the Act, as mentioned above, is vague about what a 'psychoactive substance' is, meaning that possession of modafinil may become punishable by law.
Because of this, most people who use modafinil off-label purchase it from overseas pharmacies. These businesses operate outside British regulations, so they may sell adulterated or fake medication that may be ineffective or cause an undesired reaction.
What are Modafinil’s Side Effects?
According to the NHS, modafinil's side effects can commonly include headaches, nausea, nervousness, insomnia, stomach aches, irritability, weight loss, and arrhythmia.
One of the manufacturers of modafinil, Teva, says that over 10% of users regularly report headaches as a common side effect. Their list of modafinil's common side effects roughly aligns with those described by the NHS.
The American FDA sheds light on the more severe side effects of modafinil. Their documentation suggests that modafinil can cause psychological issues.
These are rare, but according to the FDA, modafinil may be connected with depression, anxiety, hallucinations, mania, suicidal thoughts, or aggressive behaviour.
Skin problems are another issue that may result from modafinil use, which is supported by case studies and the FDA.
The FDA reports that rashes “could become life-threatening”, but from our research, there does not seem to be any recorded fatalities resulting from modafinil-induced inflammation.
Some scientists are concerned that modafinil may have the potential for addiction. Researchers believe that modafinil increases dopamine levels in the brain, which is part of what makes a drug addictive.
This risk of addiction seems low, but it is a concern expressed by some researchers. It's also worth bearing in mind that most studies undertaken are over short periods - longer-term addiction might be a problem that's, thus far, gone undiscovered.
What are the Alternatives to Modafinil for Studying?
If you want to take a study drug but also want to avoid modafinil's uncertainty and side effects, you should consider a natural nootropic.
They can deliver similar results using natural, herbal or protein-based ingredients. 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 buy over the counter
Read about the 7 best natural alternatives to modafinil here!
Brainzyme® FOCUS PRO™ is an example of a great natural alternative. It contains tyrosine, which has been found to boost dopamine in the brain, similarly to modafinil. It comes from a naturally occurring protein rather than a synthetic pharmaceutical, so it causes fewer side effects than modafinil.
Take our quiz below to see what’s the best modafinil alternative for you!
We hope you found this article helpful. Ultimately, we feel that smart drugs like modafinil aren't worth the risk based on the numerous side effects they can produce and the legal grey area they exist in within the UK.
On the other hand: aside from a more subtle result, food supplement-based cognitive enhancers are generally safer than pharmaceutical smart drugs like modafinil.
Food supplement cognitive enhancers tend to be perfectly safe if consumed in moderation.
Moreover, there's frequently a lot of research being done on superfoods, herbs and amino acids, as they've been around for a lot longer than smart drugs. Most food-supplement-based nootropics are legal in the UK which makes them much more dependable than study drugs.
We strongly recommend natural alternatives over modafinil for nootropics for studying, as they are fully legal in the UK and come with much less risk to your health. Our suggestion is to try Brainzyme® FOCUS PRO™, a safer, more affordable, and 100% plant-powered alternative to modafinil for studying.
Narcolepsy medication modafinil is world's first safe 'smart drug' (2015) The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/aug/20/narcolepsy-medication-modafinil-worlds-first-safe-smart-drug (Accessed: November 11, 2022).
Kredlow, A.M. et al. (2019) The Efficacy of Modafinil as a Cognitive Enhancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis : Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, LWW. Available at: https://journals.lww.com/psychopharmacology/Abstract/2019/09000/The_Efficacy_of_Modafinil_as_a_Cognitive_Enhancer_.7.aspx (Accessed: November 18, 2022).
Talbot, M. (2009) The underground world of "neuroenhancing" drugs, The New Yorker. Available at: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/04/27/brain-gain (Accessed: November 11, 2022).
Benjamin Martin is a nootropic and brain supplement enthusiast who has tried every type of performance-boosting supplement under the sun. He uses his expertise to produce educational content for the Brainzyme® blogs.
Based in Edinburgh, Benjamin loves spending his free time in nature whenever he gets the chance.