Will it help adderall or hurt the perception

The smart drug Modafinil lets its consumers spend hours studying for university

In the not-so-dark corners of the Internet, the drug Modafinil is currently being discussed lively. As a drug, however, it is not consumed for pleasure, but to be able to work better, to be more concentrated and to stay awake longer.

“It helps a lot with my typing speed. OMG! I'm so fast, so fast, so fast, so fast, so fast, so fast, so fast, "writes a user on a Facebook page about the drug.

Modafinil has been approved by the US FDA as a drug for narcolepsy and is sold in the US under the brand name Provigil — in Austria and Switzerland under the trade name Modasomil. However, some people use the drug off-label and without a doctor's prescription — illegally — in hopes of improving their mental abilities.

A critical review of 24 studies, the oldest from 1990, brought the drug into focus in August when the researchers concluded that the drug did indeed improve cognitive abilities. According to the scientists, the results are much more nuanced than the headlines currently circulating suggest.

Modafinil is often compared to Adderall and Ritalin — the latter are US-approved amphetamines primarily used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADHD) and some sleep disorders. However, all three drugs are also extremely popular among healthy people who take them to study for exams or to work on important projects.

Despite extensive research, it is still unclear how exactly Modafinil works in the brain. It is seen as a stimulant like Adderall and Ritalin, but instead of releasing dopamine and norepinephrine - biochemical messengers that stimulate the nervous system - Modafinil is thought to reduce another messenger substance called γ-aminobutyric acid, which normally slows the brain down. Amy Potts, a pharmacist at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital in Vanderbilt, told VICE News that this "double-negative effect" causes modafinil to work as a stimulant, even though it works differently than classic stimulants.

Unlike Adderall and Ritalin, Modafinil doesn't cause euphoria. The US drug enforcement agency (DEA) therefore assumes that the drug does not have a high potential for addiction and abuse and has categorized it as a Schedule IV substance. Nonetheless, VICE News spoke to various moda users who illegally obtain the drug for non-medical purposes.

"Your level of concentration on exams goes through the roof."

A 33-year-old college student named Quinn, who wanted to be called by his first name, told VICE News that he tried modafinil for the first time last semester after a friend mailed him the pills with the comment that he was like Bradley Cooper in the movie No limit would feel. In No limit Cooper plays a man with writer's block who throws himself a fictional, intelligence-boosting pill that manages to finish his book, speak multiple languages ​​fluently and get rich on the stock market.

"I only tried half a tablet and it worked," said Quinn. "I had more energy. I could see better. My cognitive skills were better. Things made more sense."

He said he would not take Modafinil every day and never felt the need to use it for any other purpose. In return, however, his average improved by a full grade. In contrast to Ritalin and Adderall, which made him palpitations, with Modafinil he was not able to perceive any heart symptoms. His only complaint was that the drug sometimes prevented him from falling asleep — a not uncommon side effect of narcolepsy drugs.

According to a recent report from the Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health for the Department of Health, approximately 137,000 college students in the United States start using prescription stimulant abuse each year. The report, based on an annual survey of 67,500 respondents, doesn't list specific stimulants, but shows that use peaks in November, December, and April — all key dates on the academic calendar. A smaller, less scientific poll that was in the UK newspaper The tab published, estimates that one in five British students has used Modafinil at some point. In 2013, according to a study in Germany, every fifth student took performance-enhancing drugs, but not only Modafinil.

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"Your exam concentration levels go through the roof," someone wrote on a Reddit thread on Modafinil. "[It's] great. But there's a catch too. If you don't know the stuff, you're probably wasting [too] much time spend answering a question. "

According to an administrator of a Modafinil Facebook group who also wanted to be called Mike by his first name, 80 or 90 percent of Modafinil users he knows are men — the age range would be in their early 20s to mid-50s.

"Maybe that's because men are more interested in getting advantages," he suggested as an explanation during the telephone interview. "They are generally more willing to take risks. At least that would be my explanation."

Mike said he ran into a few women who were taking modafinil. He said that they tend to be "very advancement-oriented people" - "entrepreneurs or businesswomen." This is in line with other anecdotal reports about the drug. The Men's journalwrote in 2008 that the drug was "very popular as a wake-up call with Air Force pilots, emergency room doctors and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley."

Adderall XR 20mg capsules | Photo: Patrick Mallahan III | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Ruairidh Battleday and Anna-Katharine Brem, two researchers at Oxford, looked through 24 studies that had appeared between 1990 and December 2014 to see whether modafinil really improved cognitive abilities in healthy individuals. In fact, they found that it did, refuting an older research that concluded that people were no better at doing simple tasks while under the influence of Modafinil than they were without. Battleday and Brem told VICE News that the test tasks were too simple — but when users were asked to respond to visual and auditory stimuli, modafinil was shown to be effective.

Nevertheless, the researchers do not want their study to be understood as a recommendation for the use of the little white pill. "This review is not intended to be an advertisement for the use of drugs to improve performance," said Brem.

Instead, the study should focus attention on the subject of "neuroenhancers" - brain performance enhancers such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Modafinil - as well as the ethical issues surrounding them and the methods used to study them.

"I would advise against taking drugs to increase or improve cognitive abilities," said Brem, adding that these drugs might even have a negative effect on memory, as they make users sleep less. " If you get enough sleep, live healthily, eat sensibly, get enough exercise, do some exercise, then it is likely to have a better effect on your performance than swallowing a pill. "

Battleday and Brem also found no regular side effects, but noted that the people in the studies typically only consumed one dose of Modafinil. It is still unclear what happens if you take the remedy regularly for a week, a year or an even longer period of time.

The most common side effects, according to the US National Library of Medicine, include a burning sensation on the skin, trouble falling asleep, and problems with the digestive tract. Less common but more serious side effects include chest pain, racing heart, depression, and thoughts of harming yourself and killing yourself. Brem also said a rare allergic reaction called Stevens-Johnson syndrome had been reported with the drug.

The researcher hopes that one day modafinil will be tested on healthy people in a "real-life" setting. She wants to find out whether the body ultimately adapts to the modafinil and accordingly needs more and more to achieve the same effect.

“Finding it is not difficult. Finding a good quality source is much more difficult. "

"The design of such real-life experiments is very difficult and at the moment we don't have the possibilities," said Brem.

In the meantime, people cheerfully write about Modafinil on the Facebook groups and Reddit threads — tips on where to get it, how much to take, and what to expect from it.

Mike, the admin of the Facebook group, said he recently wrote a book - almost like Cooper's role in No limit—And that he takes modafinil once or twice a week.

He said the Modafinil community on Facebook is a great place to ask questions and get them answered by knowledgeable people. He would advise other members not to take Modafinil later than 9 a.m. — otherwise they would have trouble falling asleep in the evening. And he warned that it was important to remember to drink water and take a break every 30 or 45 minutes, which is sometimes not that easy because the modafinil makes you extremely immersed in tasks.

People would often ask where to buy the pills, he said, explaining that the cheapest would be in Asia and India, where they cost between $ 1 and $ 5 apiece. In the US, modafinil pills cost $ 20 each, and they too come with no warranty. There seem to be some scammers out there too.

"Finding it is not difficult," he said. "Finding a good quality source is much more difficult."

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The FBI, of course, advises against any online pharmacy that doesn't require a prescription and medical history — the drugs could be adulterated, contaminated, counterfeit, expired, or mislabelled.

"Stay away from illegal internet pharmacies - even if the prices are tempting," the FBI website says. "It's about your health, after all."

Mike, who buys his Modafinil online, describes the drug's effects as a natural state of "total focus" but "better" and without the flutter, nervous agitation, or hard landing that can occur with other drugs or caffeine. According to his own statement, this allows him to concentrate for about five full hours at a time without the urge to check his Facebook page or otherwise distract himself.

"I can emphatically say that the off-label pills work very well for increasing concentration," said Mike.

When asked if he might just feel a placebo effect, Mike replied, "If I'm honest, that's not so unlikely" - only to add that the same would apply to many other drugs.

“I just know that it works. That's all that matters to me. "

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