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Modafinil: The best medication to sleep less and increase the level of attention?

Marketed under the name of Modiodal, modafinil is a drug that, like methylphenidate, bases its effect on neurotransmitters that intervene in mental tasks such as attention, such as dopamine and noradrenaline.

The advantage of modafinil is that it does not seem to have a risk of addiction, and besides increasing our attention it makes the tasks more pleasant. A survey of Nature’s readers suggests that one in five people have used drugs to improve their attention or intelligence, and 44% point to modafinil as the drug of choice. Is this a medicine that we should all start taking?


Modafinil is usually prescribed to treat narcolepsy, that is, people who tend to fall asleep. Therefore, some doctors also prescribe it to workers who suffer rotating shifts and must stay awake and at the maximum attention.

However, a few months ago, to buy modafinil became fashionable as a result of studies carried out by scientists from the universities of Oxford and Harvard. In these studies it was suggested that modafinil was the first enhancer of the mental faculties and that it was safe (although there are no studies of its long-term effects).


After the meta-analysis of dozens of works on modafinil on attention, learning, memory, creativity and executive function confirmed its effects, and also feeds fast and flexible thinking. In other words, this is the first medicine that really increases our intellectual abilities.


Emergency physicians who take this substance make fewer mistakes. They also described themselves as more awake and agile mentally the airplane pilots who had not slept for 40 hours, also showing greater skills in the flight simulator. In the words of Guy Goodwin, president of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, “modafinil is the first real example of an intelligent drug that can really help, for example, with exam preparation.”

However, we should not take this drug without consulting a doctor first. Although a thorough investigation has been carried out, it is still unclear exactly how modafinil acts in the brain. Although it seems that the drug is relatively safe in the short term, it is recognized that there is no information available on the effects of long-term use. Despite its growing popularity, there has been little consensus on the extent of the effects of modafinil on healthy humans.

Modafinil may also mask the signs of a physical need for sleep, and in patients with a history of psychosis, emotional instability and other psychotic disturbances, modafinil should be administered with caution. In some clinical trials, the administration of modafinil was associated with cardiovascular alterations in patients with heart disease.

Its uncontrolled use could overexcite the nervous system and damage or kill nerve cells, warn Kimberly Urban of the University of Delaware and Wen-Jun Gao of ‘Drexel College’ in a study published in Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience : ” urgently need further analysis on the long-term effects of the drugs methylphenidate, modafinil, ampakines and other “smart drugs”.

In any case, this class of pills are not a miracle nor are they the panacea of ​​all our problems. At the end of the day, if you get enough sleep, you lead a healthy lifestyle, you eat well and you do some sports, there will probably be a greater cognitive effect than taking a pill


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