December 7, 2020

Modafinil is a synthetic nootropic which has well-known stimulant effects. It has been shown to increase alertness and focus, enhance executive functions, and reduce fatigue. The best thing about modafinil is that it has a lower risk of dependence than other stimulants. Let’s take a look at the history of modafinil, how it works, the benefits, dosage, and also its side effect profile.

History of Modafinil

Modafinil was identified in the late 70s or early 80s when it was discovered to be the active metabolite of a similar stimulant called adrafinil. Adrafinil was initially used to treat narcolepsy but without much success. The discovery of modafinil caused a significant improvement in alertness and reduced daytime drowsiness in narcoleptics.

The drug was approved for medical use in the US in 1998 and is one of the world’s most commonly prescribed drugs. Though it was initially used to treat narcolepsy and hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness), it found another more popular use as a stimulant nootropic.

What is Modafinil?

The first thing you need to know about modafinil is that despite its stimulant-like effects, it is not actually a stimulant. It belongs to a class of drugs known as eugeroics or wakefulness-promoting agents.

Eugeroics have several advantages over traditional stimulants:

  • Eugeroics don’t make you irritable or jittery like most stimulants.
  • They don’t have a crash phase or withdrawal symptoms that are so common with classical stimulants.
  • They have a lower risk of dependence and can even be used to overcome addictions.

How Does It Work?

How modafinil works isn’t that well understood. It is known that it has a significant effect on certain neurotransmitters within the brain that are involved in wakefulness. Here are some of the ways modafinil boosts wakefulness and cognitive function.

Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor

Dopamine is an essential neurotransmitter within the brain that is involved in several higher brain functions like motivation, arousal, and executive function. During periods of emotional trauma or extreme stress, your dopamine levels can drop significantly. 

This leads to symptoms like lack of motivation, moodiness, reduced focus, and a chronic fatigue feeling. Modafinil can help improve this condition by increasing dopamine concentration within certain key areas of the brain.

Modafinil does this through several mechanisms, but the most important is its ability to prevent dopamine from being taken back into nerves. This increases the amount of dopamine available within the brain. Those who take modafinil report increased arousal, motivation, sociability, and reduced fatigue feelings.

Affecting the Concentration of Other Neurotransmitters

Besides dopamine, there are several other neurotransmitters that are affected by modafinil. They include histamine norepinephrine, serotonin, and orexin. These neurotransmitters are known to play a role in wakefulness, though that role is not yet well-defined.

Functions of Modafinil

Here are some of the beneficial effects of modafinil:

Stimulates wakefulness

This is the most popular use for modafinil. It is commonly used by college students and those working in competitive jobs to stay awake and work longer hours. Unlike other stimulants, modafinil does not come with some of the unpleasant side effects of sympathetic stimulation like anxiety and jitteriness.

Reduces feelings of fatigue

Modafinil helps delay the onset of mental fatigue and brain fog. This helps you concentrate for longer periods and achieve more than what you normally would have in that same period of time. Not only does it refresh the mind, but it also keeps your body feeling alert and strong.

Enhances execute functions

Modafinil has shown some positive effects on the execution of executive functions, especially complex problem-solving tasks. While most users just note its usefulness for staying awake, at higher levels of testing, modafinil makes our brain better at problem-solving than a placebo.

Memory and learning

Modafinil is a great learning aid since it can stimulate wakefulness without causing the pseudo-focus of several other stimulants. So not only can you stay up longer, but your mind is also wired to soak up and process larger amounts of information than usual.

How to Take Modafinil

Since modafinil is not FDA approved for use as a nootropic, there is no official modafinil dosage. Most authorities recommend starting at a dose of 100 mg per day, taken in the morning. Some users work their way up to 200 mg per day, taken as divided doses in the morning and afternoon.

Avoid taking modafinil in the evening as it can disrupt your normal sleeping patterns. It is also advisable to take modafinil with L-theanine. L-theanine is a nootropic that has a relaxing effect but does not cause drowsiness. When combined with modafinil, it can temper some of the unwanted side effects of excess stimulation, especially at higher doses of modafinil.

Side Effects

Common modafinil side effects include:

  • headache
  • anxiety
  • trouble sleeping
  • nausea.


It is not recommended for individuals with certain heart conditions like arrhythmia, significant hypertension, or left ventricular hypertrophy.


Modafinil is definitely a nootropic you should try out if you need that extra edge. It’s safe, effective, and has been tested by countless nootropic lovers. The best way to get the best out of modafinil is to combine it with exercise, a healthy diet, and enough rest.




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