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26th February 2015

Modafinil: Become a genius for a few hours?

Is it possible to become smarter, more focused and alert for a few hours from just taking a pill? Modafinil is just one of many study drugs that has been associated with these effects. But can it be beneficial to student life?

What if there is a way to make yourself smarter, more focused and motivated for a few hours without any long term negative drawbacks? These are the characteristics given to Modafinil, one of the most popular and prevalent study drugs out there now.

Originally used for narcolepsy, the drug has become more mainstream. Being seen as a drug that makes you a genius for a few hours, it’s easy to see the appeal of it and why people choose to take it.

Modafinil is a central nervous stimulant and prevents excessive sleepiness, which narcolepsy is known for. It affects three sections of the brain, the dopamine system which will make you more alert and interested in something, norepinephrine which, again, makes you more alert and focused and finally histamine which will keep you awake.

The drug claims to increase and focus attention on a certain task, enhance memory, motivation for a very generous length of time. It also claims to enhance short term memory by up to 10 per cent. By also keeping you awake, it seems to knock caffeine out of the park.

Some describe virtually no side effects from it, feeling calm, clear headed and focused while others say they feel agitated and anxious. Some students have reported the lack interest in socialising while on it as the mind is solely focused on working, which isn’t an awful thing given the reason that someone would take it. Julia Smith, of the Guardian , also reported that while  Modafinil stopped her feeling sleepy, her body felt tired and lethargic.

But, where there are highs, there are also lows. What goes up must come down as they say. A major crash after the effects have worn off can sometimes be expected, especially if someone has undertaken repeated dosages. The biggest drawback would be that it can mess up a person’s sleeping pattern if taken regularly. You are unable to fall asleep which becomes counterproductive given that we consolidate our memories in our sleep.

The Guardian reported that some students, after regular doses, felt trapped in a ‘twilight zone’ where they were neither awake nor asleep. Eventually, however, this would wear off, it’s never smart to take too much of anything.

One-fifth of students have taken Modafinil, according to The Guardian, and there haven’t been any serious adverse effects reported.

The effects are taken from a laid back stance; they are seen to wear off with no lasting side effects. The average length of time that Modafinil lasts for is reported as around seven hours, but this would vary depending on the individual. Some have reported feeling the effects for 24 hours or more, again this is usually associated with regular dosing.

Everything is best in moderation; it is true that there can be too much of a good thing.  Dr Peter Morgan of Yale University stated that while it does help enhance the memory, frequent use could actually harm it.

Since it is a prescription drug and not every student has narcolepsy, the main source of getting them is through the internet. One of the most prevalent brand of Modafinil in the UK and US is Provigil. There are a lot of different websites that do sell it but this brings up many problems of buying on the internet that are obvious. The main danger is do you know what you’re putting into your body? Given the prevalence of drugs among university, it is doubted that students care that much.

The hard bit can be deciding what dosage to take and at what time for optimal results. 50mg has been described by some to not have any effect that is worth it, but it’s good to build it up. It’s always better to not take enough rather than to take too much. 400mg, however, has been described to have the same effect on the brain as involved with substance abuse. The usual amount tends to be between 100 – 200mg.

It does make you think, how much is the development of Modafinil going to change society? Will we get to the point where we don’t need that much sleep? The author of The 24 Hour Society, Leon Kreitzman, said that drugs like Modafinil will transform society. He went on to say that within the next quarter of a century, we’ll reach the point where sleep becomes optional.

The NHS discussed an experiment to check the validity if the claims of Modafinil i.e. it makes you smarter. There were two groups, one group was given Modafinil while another a placebo, neither knew which group they were in.  It was found that the people who took Modafinil had a slower response than the ones who took the placebo, and were no more accurate.

It doesn’t seem like it would end the world to try Modafinil once if you’re feeling up to it. Testimonies show it to be something that can help, combined with the usually lack of side effects (depending on the individual), why not?  It makes a nice change from the jitteriness of caffeine. Also, not being addictive, it could be a miracle when work gets too much. Some doctors have even reported using it to perform better surgery. There hasn’t been that much research on study drugs so each experience leads to more understanding.

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