This is my brain … this is my brain on Modafinil

I had heard about Modafinil — or at least the existence of a ‘mental performance enhancing drug’ — a few times over the years. But I never had any interest in putting such a thing inside me.

I figured it was great for people who wanted to work 80 hour weeks, pull all-nighters, or otherwise burn the midnight oil candle at both ends.

This is not me. I know how much sleep I need and I get it. When I work, I shut out all distractions and just work. And on the flipside, I’m not averse to sliding down into the couch and watching TV for an hour or two.

So a ‘focus drug’ isn’t really for me.

It would be nice if this story had a pivot point where some interesting life event pushed me into the arms of Modafinil and you and I into the second act. But to be honest I simply don’t recall what made me want to give it a go.

I hate those moments in origin stories where, like, “the inventor of the Concorde was walking in the wilderness, it was spring or some shit, when he saw an eagle fly overhead. He noted that the beak was pointy and was like, yeah, of course! I’ll make the front of the plane pointy!”

So, having decided, for no real reason, to consider putting Modafinil up into my brain, I went to the quintessential source of medical information and guidance on the internet: Reddit. Here I found various forms of first hand accounts followed by comment sections detailing the character flaws of OP.

After reading Reddit long enough to be angry, I widened my search to the greater internet, where I found a handy list of reasons to steer clear of the ‘smart drug’:

  • You’re pregnant
  • You have heart problems
  • You have a history of depression
  • You suffer from anxiety
  • You have epilepsy

And I thought: fuck it, at least I’m not pregnant.

One informative, sciency-looking site had a handy “buy now” button — a link to their “e store” where I could buy Modafinil from a digital shed in India with Bitcoin. I was surprised and delighted by their offer to send me a free sample. (And when did a drug that came with a free first hit ever do any harm?)

While the cogs of the global supply chain did their thang (global supply chains are so interesting!) I read up on what a sensible starting dose might be, and how many days a week I should take it. The normal effective dose is 200mg, but it seemed like 50mg was a good dose for my first rodeo. Internet consensus seemed to be to take it a few days a week for the first few weeks.

Sensible.

What I actually did was take 200mg on the first day and every day since. I burnt through the freebies pretty quickly and picked up another 300 tablets from the shed in India. At 65c a pop, it’s a bit of a no-brainer.

There were two days between when I finished up the free sample and the poorly-timed new batch arrived, so I returned to being ‘normal Alex’ for a bit. A reminder of what a sub-par human being I used to be. A beta version of myself. I hate Beta Alex now, ineffectual little blighter. Real Alex is where it’s at.

Beta Alex could focus well for maybe four or five hours, but in the afternoons would fade into ‘sigh, I feel like I’m done for the day’. Loser.

Real Alex doesn’t know how to sigh. If Real Alex even tries to sigh it comes out as “hooray!”.

Beta Alex could throw a ping pong ball up and catch it maybe seven or eight times in a row before thinking “I’ve had enough of this”. Real Alex can do it all day.

Beta Alex didn’t like techno. Real Alex knows better. Doof doof, arm movement, head wobble, etc.

The thing I love about Modafinil is that I don’t feel any different. I mean, there is no bodily sensation that accompanies the drug. The only difference is this: however I used to feel in the mid morning — at my focus peak — I now feel like all day. I’m just a better version of myself, without being different. It’s all upside (and when did anyone saying “it’s all upside” ever come to regret it?)

Or another way to look at it, I’m just me, with the tiredness removed. The feeling of ‘tiredness’ is no longer something I experience. Which might lead you to wonder about …

Sleep

My sleep has — dot dot dot — improved. Amazing!

I now go to sleep more quickly, and when I wake up I am fucking up. It’s like all the mild lethargy that followed me around in the afternoons is now stored up under my pillow and released into my ear hole when I lay my head down.

I’m more awake during the day and less awake during the night. It’s great. Why is this not mandatory? Put it in the drinking water, I say.

I drew a fucking chart.

My chart game has improved too

After a few days — say the scientists — you reach a ‘steady state’ of the drug in your system. You only take a pill once a day, but because it’s quite a slow release, it smooths out to be a constant supply of the good stuff to your brain.

So I take it first thing in the morning with the other medicine that it might mix badly with, but because it isn’t legal in my country, I wasn’t able to consult a doctor about it. Tsk tsk to the government for making great drugs hard to get.

Tolerance

The information about tolerance on the internet can be summed up thusly:

  • Science says your body does not build up a tolerance to Modafinil
  • Internet people say that they built up a tolerance to Modafinil

I think there’s three parts to this seeming contradiction:

  • If you take the drug because you want to study all night, and then study all night, you’ll build up a sleep deficit, dummy. So you’ll be increasingly tired, which will feel like the drug not working as well. But if you look after your sleep (as tends to be encouraged in the scientific studies) then it is more likely to keep doing its job.
  • The scientific studies tend to attempt to quantify whether or not the drug is ‘working’. They might do tests of some sort, or ask careful questions aimed to rule out ‘subjective’ responses that are more easily swayed by preconceptions. If you’ve self-prescribed yourself Modafinil and read everywhere on the internet that you will build up a tolerance and must take ‘a few days off each week’ then it’s more likely that this is how you will feel.
  • There may be no contradiction at all. If a study has 1000 participants and 98% of them experience no tolerance, then that’s a pretty conclusive result for science. But if the 20 people who experienced tolerance take to the internet to share their experience, and you’ve just Googled “Modafinil tolerance”, you’re going to find those 20 people, and 100% of them experienced tolerance.

All I can tell you is my experience, based on 3 months of data: for the first day, I actually felt ‘hyped’. After that, I just felt like I normally felt at my peak, as described above. I’ve seen no difference whatsoever in the past three months.

Side effects

As part of this experiment, I decided to actually write down any negative experiences as I went. There weren’t any. The only downside is that if I don’t set an alarm, and sit down to work, I get in the zone and go for two hours straight and wind up with a bad back or neck. So I’ve gotten into the habit of setting an alarm for 60 minutes — or 30 minutes on a bad back day — and getting up and doing a few stretches.

Almost without fail the timer will go off and I think really? That was an hour?

That’s something that hadn’t dawned on me until I cocked my head to the left 12 seconds ago: this drug makes time go fast. I like that.

I had worried that I would become anxious, or more easily agitated, or even less creative or in any other way less like myself. None of which transpired. I dare say I’m more creative, because I can sit down to do something, and just do that thing.

Long term

I don’t know. It seems weird that I would take this for the rest of my life. On the other hand, why not? This seems like a decision for future-Alex.

As with all things in life, if the situation goes pear shaped I’ve always got suicide as a backup. Safety net!

Recommendation?

Don’t follow recommendations that you find on the internet. You idiot.

I only exist while you're reading my posts.