05 May

Why Students Really Use Modafinil

The cat is completely out of the bag and across the street when it comes to student use of modafinil. Increasingly, university surveys report higher percentages of students using pharmaceuticals to stay awake, keep focused, and perform better. Students are one of the biggest demographics for modafinil sales. This blog has often talked about the benefits that modafinil gives students, but one thing we haven’t talked about is why students feel the need seek medical assistance to complete their work in the first place.

Under Pressure

The late David Bowie put it well. Students are under increased pressure to succeed, and not just at the university level anymore. Pressures formerly reserved for the hardest working students, kids in law school and medical school, are now commonplace in secondary schools. A recent study that surveyed kids in three different types of high schools in New York revealed that almost exactly half of them reported feeling stressed on a daily basis, with over 40% reporting 3 hours of homework or more per night. I don’t know about you, but 40% of the people I know don’t take home three hours of extra work after they clock out for the day.

With the average school student putting in an 8-hour work day like an adult, plus this extra work at home, it’s no surprise people need more energy to compensate. Enter the stimulants: Ritalin and Adderall dominated for much of the last decade, and modafinil has gained in market share since.

Why it’s a problem now

This pressure was not commonplace a few decades ago. So why now? A big part of the problem is that there simply are more people and less seats available in university classrooms. Over 2.3 million students attend university in the UK, and most of the brick and mortar buildings are at max capacity. This has been great for online modalities, such as England’s Open University, whose enrollment is more than double the University of London’s 65,000 students.

But there is still a stigma surrounding online education. Online universities are increasingly attaining accreditation, but most parents would prefer their children study in a reputable school. Without enough seats for everyone, universities have no choice but to raise their standards of admission. And this is where the problem begins.

Students must compete harder to get into universities that 30 years ago might have taken just about anyone. A high GPA, the best test scores, extracurricular activities, all of these things are now considered necessary for a student to break into the group of chosen ones.

The logical answer

With more and more pressure on students to succeed in order to get into university, secondary schools have upped their game as well. This is especially true in the United States where a school’s funding can depend on the success of their students, and an important metric is the percent of graduates who go on to university. This results in the pressure we talked about at the opening. Effectively what we’re witnessing is a wicked bottleneck effect. As the opening for universities narrows, the water pressure builds along the way, through secondary school. For a student to swim to the front of the pack, they need to go beyond their normal human limits.

Stimulants are giving students this extra push. While substances like modafinil are safe for people to use, and provide people with the energy and focus they need to achieve better results, we shouldn’t be asking what pills students should be taking. We should be asking whether they need to be taking pills in the first place, and what can be done to reduce pressure on a student body that is increasingly suffering from physical symptoms as a result of their intense life pressures.

25 Nov

Who Ought to Try Modafinil

Who should try modafinil and who shouldn’t?

Modafinil is a unique nootropic in that it enables people to perform at peak concentration for extended periods of time without fatiguing or becoming distracted quite as easily. With that in mind, this article will examine what types of people could benefit from a dose of modafinil, and who would be better off avoiding the popular pill.


Let’s start with the number one group of modafinil users: Students. Universities are reporting an ever-increasing percentage of students taking a variety of drugs to improve academic performance. It makes sense; universities have steadily been increasing their classwork and homework burdens. As if that wasn’t enough, the recent economic downturn has forced more students to work while they study. To complicate matters more, the party scene at many universities detracts from time that could be spent on assignments, yet it is still considered an important part of many students’ university experiences. Time is becoming an increasingly scarce resource. It seems the only way to have it all is to invest to “cheat,” so to speak.

Since modafinil will help you to put off sleep it can be beneficial for people who want to cram in a study session before a big exam, or for people who’ve gotten behind on work. The added focus can help students finish papers in less time. In more demanding programs such as law or medicine, it might just be the only way to avoid falling impossibly behind. Modafinil makes sense for students, whether it’s to make up for Friday night festivities or to keep up with a crushing workload.

Shift Workers

My grandfather used to work what was colloquially called the M-A-D shift, meaning midnight, afternoon, day, two weeks at a time. It also implied that you’d have to be mad to take on such work, but in coal mine country there weren’t a lot of alternatives at that pay level. It took a toll on him, particularly when it came time to rotate to the next shift. Your body simply isn’t designed for such a dramatic change in rhythm. Of course you can adapt, but it takes a few days, and in the meantime you suffer. Now imagine suffering that twice a month. There’s a name for that suffering: Shift Work Sleep Disorder. Modafinil is actually clinically approved to treat such a situation, so if you find yourself working a shift that doesn’t coincide well with your biology, modafinil might be the thing for you.

Sleep Problems

Got them? Whatever the cause, modafinil is recommended for a chronic case of the sleepies. Anecdotally, a good friend of mine had his second baby in three years and found modafinil. Anyone who’s had a baby knows that it makes sleeping extremely difficult, minutes are scattered and good quality REM is rare. He went from a sluggish dad at a constant 50% efficiency to having a spring in his step and tackling chores, work, and his new family responsibilities without letup. That’s one instance that might cause your sleep schedule to be affected, but the same logic holds true for the on-call doctor, the late night security guard, or the busy network admin. In a constantly connected world more and more of us are subject to interruptions in our regular schedules, and modafinil is a modern solution to a modern problem.

These are a few of the cases where modafinil would make a big difference, but there are some cases where it’s probably best left behind. Consider a few.

Short, sporadic jobs

Modafinil works best when you have lots to do, your work is consistent, and your activities rarely change. This is because it’s easy to get locked in on a specific task, to the point where you might ignore your other duties. If you have a variety of things to do, it helps if they’re at least sequential and predictable. Making a list before starting will help you to stay on track. If your job requires you to pay attention to a variety of potential situations, or monitor a wide array of details, modafinil might make it hard for you to multitask.

Creative work

This is a debatable topic that will be discussed in more detail in the future. The effect of modafinil is often described as being like a laser, with extreme focus and sharp precision, but little dispersion. In creative fields that could be a bad thing as creativity depends heavily on being able to think outside the box and in diverse ways. Inspiration often strikes randomly and without reason or method. If you’re locked into a specific task you might miss out on a flash of brilliance. Some people describe their work on modafinil as robotic, which certainly doesn’t sound very artistic. You might write page after page, but it might not be very beautiful, or paint an entire canvas but lack the artistic eloquence needed to make art.

Customer service

Again, this depends considerably on the user, but many people experience a negative mood shift on modafinil or find themselves easily irritated when something disrupts their rhythm. Modafinil can really get you into a groove, and as the Disney animated feature taught us years ago, you never want to throw anyone off their groove. I know this happens to me and I’m not the only one, I tend to be significantly more snarky (which means a great deal more than what is socially acceptable) when someone so much as asks me a question while I’m working on modafinil. Keep that in mind if you’re going to try modafinil with any sort of job that involves working with customers, as friendliness is key in those environments.

Share your experiences in the comments. When do you find modafinil to be beneficial?

Medically Contraindicated

Modafinil is safe for almost everyone but of course as with any medication some people should consult a doctor before taking modafinil. The main group that is excluded are people with heart conditions, such as chest pains or those who have had a heart attack. Heart deformities, such as valve problems, also should avoid modafinil. As modafinil acts as a stimulant it can put additional stress on the heart, which could cause problems in those with said conditions.

Mentally ill persons should also avoid modafinil. It’s mechanism of action is still not fully understood, as with many things in the brain. People suffering from depression or other mental disorders should exercise caution with modafinil.

Lastly, modafinil can raise blood pressure, so those with high blood pressure would do well to consult a doctor before adding modafinil to their regimen.