Maybe you’ve heard of it before. It’s the widespread smart drug that has recently taken the throne as the limitless pill, if you will. Modafinil, however is little understood by many, and has numerous benefits in addition to its cognitive enhancing properties.

  • Modafinil is a racetam: meaning it is of a class of drugs that contain a pyrrolidone nucleus.
  • Modafinil has been traditionally used as a treatment for narcolepsy, or daytime sleepiness (Jung et al., 2012).
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and cytokine-inhibitors have shown antidepressant treatment effects compared to placebo, but also statins, poly-unsaturated fatty acids, pioglitazone, minocycline, modafinil, and corticosteroids may yield antidepressant treatment effects.” (Kohler et al., 2016).
  • Modafinil is an anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Modafinil improves working memory function via the neurotransmitters. neuroepinephrine (NE) and dopamine (DA), which are heavily linked to executive functioning: such as self-regulation of cognition, affect, and sociability – NE plays a determinant role in executive functioning regulating cognition, motivation, and intellect, which are fundamental in social relationships (Sofuoglu et al., 2013).
  • Abnormal dopamine (DA) regulation is associated with difficulties with motivation, pleasure, and reward; consequently modafinil is currently being researched as a novel treatment for drug addiction, such as cocaine (Dackis et al., 2005).
  • Though, modafinil interacts with dopamine neurotransmission, it is considered safe for long-term use, possibly not producing a tolerance to its effects; as seen in addiction.
  • Modafinil is a Eurogenic: From Latin, can be broken into euro – genic or awake – production. In simple terms, Modafinil is a wakefulness promoter.
  • Modafinil increases catecholamines, cerebral serotonin, glutamate, orexin, and histamine, also decreasing cerebral gamma-amino-butrytic acid (GABA) levels (Battleday et al., 2015).
  • Modafinil has been shown to act as cognitive enhancer by improving not only working memory, yet also episodic memory, and attention (Husain, & Mehta, 2011).
  • Modafinil is used by military jet fighter pilots: modafinil is shown to improve deficits associated with reaction time, mathematics, memory-search, and spatial processing, grammatical-reasoning, letter-memory, and tracking tasks, for up to 44 hours after administration.


100 to 400 mg

Doses as high as 1000 mg have been tolerated (though are not recommended and are likely dangerous), wherein the benefits decrease as the side effects increase at higher doses. Common side-effects include headache and nausea, often which reside with acclimation to the drug.

The half-life of modafinil is 15 hours, therefore it should be taken in the morning.


Battleday, R. M., & Brem, A. K. (2015). Modafinil for cognitive neuroenhancement in healthy non-sleep-deprived subjects: a systematic review. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 25(11), 1865-1881.

Caldwell, J. A., & Caldwell, J. L. (2005). Fatigue in military aviation: an overview of US military-approved pharmacological countermeasures. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 76(7), C39-C51.

Dackis, C. A., Kampman, K. M., Lynch, K. G., Pettinati, H. M., & O’brien, C. P. (2005). A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of modafinil for cocaine dependence. Neuropsychopharmacology, 30(1), 205.

Husain, M., & Mehta, M. A. (2011). Cognitive enhancement by drugs in health and disease. Trends in cognitive sciences, 15(1), 28-36.

Jung, J. C., Lee, Y., Son, J. Y., Lim, E., Jung, M., & Oh, S. (2012). Simple synthesis of modafinil derivatives and their anti-inflammatory activity. Molecules, 17(9), 10446-10458.

Kohler, O., Krogh, J., Mors, O., & Eriksen Benros, M. (2016). Inflammation in depression and the potential for anti-inflammatory treatment. Current neuropharmacology, 14(7), 732-742.

Moret C, Briley M. The importance of norepinephrine in depression. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2011;7(Suppl 1):9–13. doi:10.2147/NDT.S19619

Sofuoglu, M., DeVito, E. E., Waters, A. J., & Carroll, K. M. (2013). Cognitive enhancement as a treatment for drug addictions. Neuropharmacology, 64, 452-463.

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