The Terrible Truth About Modafinil

Five reasons why Modafinil and me are fini

Photo by Brian Fagan

This article was originally published Feb 25, 2017 on the Replayz blog.

At the time of writing this, it’s been seven days since I’ve taken the prescription drug Modafinil. I had been a user for about 10 years. In the past four years I’ve taken up to the recommended daily allowance as stated on the package: 200 mg twice a day.

Modafinil is considered a “smart drug”. It’s sold under the brand names Alertec, Modavigil and Provigil. It promotes alertness, deeper concentration and a sense of well being. It makes you feel happy.

Although the mechanisms of action between tobacco cigarettes and Modafinal are different, both drugs deliberately game your neurological reward response system by increasing activation of dopamine receptors.


Over the past four years in particular, I’ve experienced some “downslides” with Modafinil: I gained 30 lbs, became sleep deprived, and acquired a nasty dependency on the stuff. And Modafinil is expensive if you’re self employed and without a health plan.

Yet, despite my deteriorating looks and personal finances, I stayed in this chemical relationship far too long. Modafinil made me feel good. Smarter too. I thought we could accomplish anything together.


There are several reasons why I can’t in good conscience take Modafinil anymore:

  • It’s cheating; instead of cultivating self-discipline and good study habits, I relied too much on the pill
  • Emotions and feelings of dissatisfaction are muted by the drug, thereby thwarting my internal navigation system
  • Modafinil is heavily stealth “marketed” on Hacker News (I hate it when people try to manipulate me)

The most distressing reason is the animal experimentation that has gone on and continues to go on to develop these drugs. Michel Jouvet was the researcher who developed Modafinil. In one of his experiments, Jouvet deprived cats of sleep until they drowned in a vat of water. The cats succumbed to their watery grave after 35 days with no sleep.

Regardless of whether one thinks the outcome of this animal experiment was “worth it”, it was callous and imposed an incomprehensible amount of suffering on these animals.

I share the same view as Peter Singer (and many other thinkers more enlightened than myself) that animals are persons, non-human persons with a sense of self, the will to live, and the capacity to love.


Modafinil prescription bottles contain a sticker that warns patients not to discontinue use without medical supervision. There is a good reason for this. People who quit cold turkey have reported sleeping for 2–3 days, feeling fatigued, ‘brain-fog’, unmotivated and massive depression. Does this sound like a drug that lacks withdrawal symptoms?

The toughest withdrawal symptom for me (again, contrary to the claim put forward by the Pharmaceutical Journal that Modafinil “lacks” withdrawal symptoms) is the sudden amplification of certain emotions, especially rage. Meditation mitigates this somewhat, but settling down to do so this past week has been difficult.


In the interest of clarity, I’ll summarize the reasons why I’m done with Modafinal:

  • The drug games your neurological reward response system in a deliberate attempt to keep you using
  • The pharmaceutical industry states there are no withdrawal symptoms, which is obviously untrue judging by reports from actual users
  • The pharmaceutical industry conducts inhumane experiments on animals, including domesticated pets
  • Modafinil seems to blunt emotions like empathy and feelings of dissatisfaction, thwarting true introspection
  • Modafinil is stealth marketed on Hacker News, and information that undermines the product is censored

I’ll leave it here for now. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter. Thanks for reading.

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