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My experiment with smart drugs (2008) (johannhari.com)
157 points by pmoriarty on Jan 10, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 128 comments

I've been taking 200mg of Modafinil probably on average of 3 times a week for the best part of 4 years now and it has certainly changed my life for the better. It is very effective at raising my mood and motivation. I disagree that it doesn't have a stimulant-like effect though. Before taking Modafinil, I had a very high caffeine tolerance (I could drink as many cokes or coffees as I liked and not even notice the effect). I usually have to limit the amount of caffeine I drink to one coffee these days, or my heart rate goes through the roof. It also makes my jaw tense (a common side-effect of stimulants, apparently). I am quite a clumsy person at the best of times, but I've also noticed that my co-ordination seems to be adversely effected (poor judgement of space, etc) although my reaction times do seem to improve (I've surprised myself sometimes catching falling objects that I'm sure I'd never catch if I hadn't taken Modafinil). I haven't seen this effect documented anywhere though.

> I am quite a clumsy person at the best of times, but I've also noticed that my co-ordination seems to be adversely effected


> I haven't seen this effect documented anywhere though.

Astereognosis (loss of 3d perception) is a documented side effect of modafinial use - in fact, it was the ONLY documented unwanted effect of modafinil when it got approved, IIRC.

My co-ordination improves considerably with great omega 3 intake (3-10 grams per day) after a few days. This has been described in several places, though as far as I know was not studied rigorously.

The point about caffeine is important. For me, mixing caffeine and modafinil is not a pleasant experience, both with tea or coffee. The experience is counter-productive as I often feel too jittery to do anything and my mood crashes.

As a northern Brit, the tea flows like water in the office I work at. It's quite hard to resist, again, as a northern Brit.

Also, to add, modafinil gives me bruxism and tension in the jaw. If you have any issues with your TMJ, this will definitely not help.

Where do you get it? I'm very, very curious.

Not affiliated, but modafinilcat.com is amazing. 2 successful orders. Subreddit with reviews and such here: http://www.reddit.com/r/ModafinilCat/

Thank you. My curiosity has been satisfied.

Modafinil is easy to get a legal prescription for in the US. It certainly was for me.

I get mine paid for by insurance.

Read the last line in the blog post.

Modafinil and Startups (Daniel Tenner): http://swombat.com/2012/2/27/modafinil-and-startups

Here is the conclusion:

"I will come strongly on the side of saying that anyone who wants to build a startup should stay away from any regular or semi-regular Modafinil use, as it will impair their judgement enough to make up for any apparent gain in productivity, and I would further posit that any founder who takes Modafinil regularly has a habit (as I did) of taking on potentially large, unknown long-term liabilities for small short-term gains, which is not a good thing."

The impaired judgement he experienced could just as easily be attributed to his prolonged sleep-deprivation rather than the Modafinil.

Neither is recommended.

Modafinil/armodafinil are great, but you can easily abuse them for replacing sleep.. That was a long dirt road to come back from.

I'd like to hear more about it, if you're willing to share.

I've had a Modafinil prescription for more than a year. I've used fewer than 60 tablets in my whole life.

I needed every single one of those tablets though.

I travel extensively for work and I'm often called upon to be "on" when I arrive somewhere, in their time zone, and/or drive to a final destination when I arrive. Since sleep deprivation is something that has twice almost killed me (or others) while operating a vehicle, I decided to get that prescription and deal with the problem rather than continue to be unsafe.

What I can say is this: Modafinil works. The effect is very subtle but it very clearly eliminates what might be termed "sleep pressure" or the effect of the body trying to FORCE you to sleep. It doesn't actually do anything for your sleep REQUIREMENT.

One nice thing about Modafinil: you can sleep on it. If you take a pill and then have an opportunity to sleep, you can. It doesn't FORCE to to stay awake like other stimulant drugs do.

So it'll keep you from nodding off at the wheel of a vehicle, but won't do anything to help you perform at your BEST when you use it for an extended period of time.

I take it very occasionally (say, once every month or so) and only for a 24 hour period. That kind of on-/off cycle is designed to minimize any side effects and keep me from using it to replace sleep.

On another note: the US special operations community has been using Modafinil (along with other stimulant drugs) to help solidiers/sailors/marines/airmen to overcome the effects of extended sleep deprivation. I've confirmed this directly with members of those communities and their experience mirrors mine. Modafinil is a useful drug, with minimal reported side-effects, that is better than other stimulants because of its low abuse potential and non-euphoric profile.

My experience parallels yours.

I occasionally take prescribed Modafinil for daytime somnolence resulting from sleep apnea. On the occasions I use it, it's the difference between having the energy and clarity to contribute or not being able to bring much at all to the table.

The only side effect I've noted is a minor increase in anxiety, not enough to be problematic.

It's been exceptionally helpful for me. YMMV.

How did you get it prescribed?

It's part of my treatment regimen for sleep apnea, which includes a CPAP breathing assist device. That's usually enough to reduce the low energy and daytime sleepiness that come with sleep apnea. When it isn't, modafinil works very well. So I was prescribed both the CPAP assist and modafinil after a brief sleep study disclosed sleep apnea. The two other on-label uses for modafinil (IIRC) are for narcolepsy and daytime sleepiness due to shift work. Being prescribed for an on-label use is often important for insurance coverage.

Honestly, I just went to my family doctor and asked for it.

I took a look at the symptoms for Shift Work Sleep Disorder, decided that I was a close match for that cluster of symptoms and took my story to the doc.

Modafinil is not really prone to abuse. It isn't a euphoric, so using too much isn't going to give you a "high". Consequently, doctors are more likely to give you a prescription for it. That's not the case for an abused drug like Adderall.

HOWEVER: all drugs have side effects. I think Modafinil is relatively safe but YMMV.

Anyone interested in "smart drugs" must read HN's own gwern on the topic:


I tried modafinil for about a month -- maybe a bit longer; I don't remember -- and believe it had the desired effect (although I'm not convinced that wasn't a placebo). I felt more focused and, importantly, less prone to anxiety and depression, without the unstable skittishness that, say, caffeine gives me. (That said, it made my pee smell rather funky!) After researching as much as I could, I felt the risk was acceptable. The only reason I didn't continue my "experiment" was that it's a bit too expensive for the relatively mild improvements. (e.g., A good holiday, as the article mentioned, has a similar effect.) I considered trying to get it on prescription -- as it definitely seemed to help with my anxiety -- but felt that, besides that being off-label and therefore unlikely to be approved, it would be an somewhat unethical use of NHS resources!

> I felt more focused and, importantly, less prone to anxiety and depression, without the unstable skittishness that, say, caffeine gives me. (That said, it made my pee smell rather funky!)

This is my experience too. My first order of Modafinil was actually an afterthought tacked on to an order of Propranalol (after deciding I'd had enough of being stunted by anxiety). It turned out that the Modafinil was way more effective than the Propranalol, although this is no longer the case for me. After an extended period of taking Modafinil, I find that my heart rate increases too much when I'm anxious. Not quite sure what caused this shift (could be tolerance, or my guess is heightened awareness of the effects after taking it for so long). However, taking Modafinil with Propranalol works wonders. Funky pee be damned!

L-tyrosine may have a similar effect but cheaper. It certainly can replace the daily cup of coffee for focus.

I always suspected cheese was the answer

L-theanine is #1 recommended by http://www.reddit.com/r/nootropics/faq

From the FAQ:

"Most studies done on the l-theanine-caffeine combination have a l-theanine to caffeine ratio that isn't consistent with ratios you would expect from most teas. The studies used about twice as much l-theanine as caffeine by weight. The ratio found in most teas is reversed, with the possible exception of high quality green tea. Tea also increases fluoride intake which may lead to skeletal or other health problems when consumed in excess."

I'd just like to put in a word for good deep-steamed sencha (fukamushi-cha), and for special occasions the more expensive gyokuro. Brew it properly and it's very, very delicious, and the effects are just lovely. You easily get four brewings from one dose of tea leaves. I drink it most days at work and it's such a delight!

I've been taking L-theanine with my coffee for a few years now. It has a noticeable positive impact on my ability to focus and think clearly. I also feel a lot more comfortable taking it than other nootropics, because a) it's just a naturally-occurring amino acid, b) I'm not aware of any negative side effects reported from using it.

Creatine (monohydrate) is another very beneficial supplement for most people. It has well-studied mental benefits if you don't get a lot of dietary creatine (mainly red meat). Tip: it'll dissolve nicely in your hot coffee.

Worth mentioning but hardly comparable to Provigil

Not even the same ballpark.

L-theanine is meant as an addition to high levels of caffeine to reduce the negative effects of caffeine.

On so many levels I am so tempted to try this, but I just can't bring myself to - but I am in constant envy of co-workers who 'juice' and watch their productivity soar.

I dunno...me and my cousin call it "farm logic"...nothing more than a version of TANSTAAFL. My guess is that the side effects of these controlled substances will be shown in the long run to be net negative on health and life quality, just like alchohol, meth, sugar, and anything else that throws the body out of equilibrium for short-term gain. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

Does everybody at your workplace agree that those co-workers produce more work product of better quality than you and your other co-workers?

If so, Modafinil probably shouldn't be your first choice, but that's just me. I would recommend Piracetam or something similar.

/r/nootropics has a lot of useful information in their wiki [1] and the community is pretty friendly and helpful to newcomers.

[1] http://www.reddit.com/r/nootropics/wiki/beginners

What exactly do you mean by juice? I'm guessing not the fruit/Veg kind...

"Juice" or "being juiced" is a pretty common term for any kind of steroids or performance enhancing substances.

See for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juiced:_Wild_Times,_Rampant_%27...

I believe his use of 'juice' comes from the sports world and how they refer to the use of performance enhancing substances as 'juicing'.

These things make me wonder how soon until all of our life will be based on medicated states. Take a smart pill for work, and a fun pill for the pub... While Modafinil and similar "smart drugs" currently don't actually improve cognitive functions all that much and are most like a nanny for your brain telling you to stop watching cat videos and work what happens when a smart drug will actually hit the market? It only takes a tiny fraction of the workforce to be taking those to create an avalanche. If true smart pill will hit the market that say increases your cognitive function and concentration and straps say another 50 or 100 IQ points (i know it's a bad measurement unit for this but i don't have a better one) on you then even a single average guy in your workplace is enough to trigger this. This is the same reason why we do not allow performance increasing drugs in (most) sports, it's not because it's unsportsmanlike or because they are scared people will stop watching, it's because even a single athlete on those forces everyone else to take them just to even out the playing field.

More of a side note; your comment sounds a little naive regarding PEDs in sports. The idea that you can compete at the highest level and be drug free is practically a myth. Anti doping in sports is laughable and anyone with a intermediate knowledge on the subject could pass an olympic level drugs test. Plain and simple, when there's vast sums of money and fame involved people will cheat. (Whether it be an athlete taking PEDs or a banker insider trading)

I know that and you can see it in Olympic sports every time they introduce some new drug testing method all the results go down a notch or 2. On that level it's more about who has better technology and scientists than who has better genes and works harder. But it doesn't mean we want this attitude proliferating to the work force, no one should be forced to become a hyper focused drone so he could code better to get a job, and if things continue this way it might as well happen.

Modafinil has actually been shown to have negative effects in high performers. It is a wakefulness agent that promotes alertness and not necessary memory formation. For the ladies out there regarding modafinil, provigil, and adrafinil (an upstream analogue that requires no prescription in the us) watch out as it can interfere with birth control.

I think what most healthy individuals looking into substances like this actually want, are nootropics. I want to draw a line here between cognitive enhancers and nootropics though. All nootropics are cognitive enhancers, but not all cognitive enhancers are nootropics. Nootropics have to enhance learning and memory, while being extremely safe and actually neuroprotective (from the disruption of memory formation from chemical and physical damage). Nootropics are generally safe and beneficial for everyday use and with the racetams, Rhett actually have a better effect overtime.

So what's the modus operandi when going to the doctor? I've got some legitimate symptoms - lack of energy, focus..especially in the afternoon, but I'm wondering what people are saying to their doctors? Are you suggesting Modafinil?

Also, what's the cost for a monthly supply with insurance?

A nap in the afternoon might be as helpful. I found taking an hour nap or hour run after lunch helps with my focus/drive. Lifestyle changes shouldn't be downplayed.

Unfortunately or fortunately, I don't live in Spain so that's not an option ;)

I have a prescription for Provigil for jetlag, but like the author, I'd found non-prescription channels for it before.

I've found it excellent for combatting tiredness, and it can improve my focus, but nothing like the Limitless-esque drug the author talks about. Admittedly I've only taken 100mg at a time, but still - about 5 hours after I take it, I tend to become cranky. I get obsessive about things, rather than focus, and if my obsession falls on the wrong thing, I find myself having wasted 6 hours on writing up or investigating some hare-brained business scheme, rather than my work.

I have easy, legal access to it, and I only take it these days if my sleep is majorly disrupted. If I was getting the benefits the author was, I'd take it every day.

The story tells of how some guy took some drug and apparently had positive effects. How does this anecdote affect me? Any medication I use should be tested in clinical trials and be prescribed to me personally, or be deemed safe for sale over the counter; i.e. non-prescribed use. Are other people using these anecdotes as sufficient reasons to actually take random drugs? I have to ask: Are these people insane?

If you have “an Everest of work”, the solution is to get less work, not to take drugs. Be the person you are.¹

① (Not applicable to actually prescribed medication or care from a licenced professional.)

Does your doctor prescribe your caffeine and alcohol? How about your artificial light and your exercise? Or perhaps your intake of B-complex vitamins or various edible oils? The various natural dietary supplements available at every Walgreens and CVS? All of these have known effects on mood and productivity, and pretty much everybody just tries 'em and sees what happens.

Nearly as many people have the experience of going to a doctor, getting diagnosed with something moderately uncommon, and going through a trial-and-error treatment process where they are guiding what happens as much or more than the doctor.

So no, they are not necessarily insane. What is covered by prescription varies a lot from country to country, and the line is at least as much about medical economics as it is about safety. There are plenty of things that aren't available over the counter not because they're more dangerous, but because they were discovered after the FDA was created and because the financial incentives are to keep them as prescription drugs.

> Does your doctor prescribe your caffeine and alcohol?

Strawman. I saidor be deemed safe for sale over the counter”.

> many people have the experience of going to a doctor, getting diagnosed with something moderately uncommon, and going through a trial-and-error treatment process where they are guiding what happens as much or more than the doctor.

The key word here are, I think, “going to a doctor”, as opposed to unsupervised self-medicating, or at least without supervision of a trained and licenced professional.

> What is covered by prescription varies a lot from country to country […]

Yes; see my other comment. (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8869314)

That is not a straw man. My point is that the distinction between "thing I am doing to my body alone" and "thing I am doing to my body with the involvement of a licensed professional" is somewhat arbitrary.

Alcohol is not in fact safe for sale over the counter. But still, we sell it over the counter. Having a licensed professional involved on average makes some things better, but only on average, and only for some things. You don't have to be insane to say, "For X, I know better than my doctor." Indeed, that's an important component of people getting optimal treatment outcomes, doctor or no.

> My point is that the distinction between "thing I am doing to my body alone" and "thing I am doing to my body with the involvement of a licensed professional" is somewhat arbitrary.

Then you should have made that point explicitly. Instead, it looks like you are arguing against something I did not write.

And yes, the line is very arbitrary. However, that doesn’t mean that it does not exist, or that you are free to set it anywhere you feel like without worry or care. Unless you have the enormous resources to research on your own (but you don’t, nobody does), you should pick some other party which has done so (scientifically) and has subsequently set the line somewhere. And unless you have reason to doubt their veracity, you should adhere to that line. No, “I feel like it, it could be fun” or “I could make more money by using these performance-enhancing drugs” are not good enough reasons.

The point was made by the comment taken together. But I did make that point explicitly in the last paragraph. That you took the first sentence as if it were a standalone argument is not something for which I feel responsible.

> that doesn’t mean that it does not exist, or that you are free to set it anywhere you feel like without worry or care

Speaking of arguing against something I didn't write...

I still have trouble seeing it – it still looks very much like a classic strawman attack to me. I’ll believe you when you say that this is not what you intended, and that this is not what you see when you read it, but it is not what I saw or see. I think we can respectfully agree to disagree here.

> > […] that you are free to set it anywhere you feel like […]

I didn’t really mean you personally; I probably should have written “one” instead of “you”. The reason I didn’t is that it flows much worse, and “you” is also often used in that sense.

Alcohol is not in fact safe for sale over the counter.

Say what?

"Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years. Further, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years." from http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm

"5,000 people under age 21 die each year from alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning, and other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning. [...] More than 190,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries in 2008 alone." from http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-...

If somebody invented it today, it would be thoroughly illegal. My point here is that teddyh's conflation of "legal to buy without a prescription" and "safe" is incorrect.

> If somebody invented it today, it would be thoroughly illegal. My point here is that teddyh's conflation of "legal to buy without a prescription" and "safe" is incorrect.

Fine, so exclude alcohol for being a special case as it was grandfathered in. I’ll readily grant this, since reclassifying something from safe to non-safe is generally risk-free. How does this affect the issue at hand, which was about Modafinil, Provigil and the like? If you think that alcohol is a special case, treat it as such; either it is an exception since it was grandfathered in, in which case it shouldn’t fall under the categories which you should consider safe merely because they are non-prescription, or it really is safe, in which case my argument is still valid. You can’t have it both ways, and it is really an irrelevant outlier example. What matters is not how I categorize it, but how you categorize it, and however you do, the argument works.

As I mention in my profile, anonymous argumentative people get less leeway. And you in particular seem to be looking for things to argue with, not trying to understand my point. So this is the last reply unless yours make a substantial jump in quality.

I am saying that what you claim as a clear bright line is in fact a wide blurry line that zigzags all over the place. The majority of Americans screw with their metabolisms and brain chemistry every day without the involvement of a doctor. And they do it based on nothing more than, "Well, that seems ok."

That Modafinil currently requires a prescription while caffeine and alcohol don't is mainly historical accident. That tells us very little about their relative safety. So again, your conflation of "legal" with 'safe" so you can call people insane doesn't really work.

I’ll summarize my arguments for clarity:

There are obviously some things which affect metabolisms and brain chemistry which are either perfectly harmless or things that should obviously be permitted without supervision, e.g. exercise. Likewise, there are many, many things which nobody should ever mess with without serious medical consultation and possibly exploration of all other alternative options.

The question is, how does one draw the line between them? The government/state/doctors (one’s local FDA equivalent) purports to do this, and they have a lot in their favor, with large budgets, scientific studies and general trustworthiness. They are, however, hampered by tradition (e.g. grandfather clauses) and politics (e.g. drug war). This makes them obviously imperfect. The second, fallback, alternative, which people have relied on for as long as people have existed, is the grapevine. Hearsay, rumors, anecdotes, fads, trends, that sort of thing. These also have obvious problems, which I trust I don’t need to enumerate further.

My first argument is this: However imperfect the first option is, it is obviously better than the second option. I also suggested a third option, namely to select another large institution with the same advantages as the first option, but perhaps with less of the disadvantages. One could even mix and match, and, for instance, follow the FDA’s recommendations for all things except for weed, where one might choose to follow the equivalent authority in Portugal or maybe the Netherlands. My second argument is that with this third option, simply choosing the fallback second option is, indeed, of questionable sanity and prone to self-selection, cherry-picking and other kinds of experimental failure, all of which leads to bad science and extremely questionable and unreliable results.

The first option is the simple one, and is obviously acceptable. The third option is reasonable. The second one is indefensible given the availability of the other two.

The ease by which people fall to the second option when the first (large, traditional and authoritative) one fails them reminds me of this passage from Father Brown in The Oracle of the Dog (G. K. Chesterton, 1926):

[…] It’s part of something I’ve noticed more and more in the modern world, appearing in all sorts of newspaper rumours and conversational catchwords; something that’s arbitrary without being authoritative. People readily swallow the untested claims of this, that, or the other. It’s drowning all your old rationalism and scepticism, it’s coming in like a sea; and the name of it is superstition.’ He stood up abruptly, his face heavy with a sort of frown, and went on talking almost as if he were alone. ‘It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense and can’t see things as they are. Anything that anybody talks about, and says there’s a good deal in it, extends itself indefinitely like a vista in a nightmare. And a dog is an omen, and a cat is a mystery, and a pig is a mascot and a beetle is a scarab, calling up all the menagerie of polytheism from Egypt and old India; Dog Anubis and great green-eyed Pasht and all the holy howling Bulls of Bashan; reeling back to the bestial gods of the beginning, escaping into elephants and snakes and crocodiles; and all because you are frightened of four words: “He was made Man.”’

Your argument has a couple of false dichotomies. A, the person you're calling insane isn't necessarily picking from your first two options. And B, for each X, they may be choosing a different heuristic based on a sense of risk that has finer discrimination than your draw-a-line dichotomy.

The people I know who self-experiment certainly do better than running with, as your section option suggests, fads and hearsay. That's true both when they're using things that are legal but have mysterious health impacts and things that are sold by prescription but have reasonably well understood health impacts.

That you are ignorant of what they're up to isn't license to call them insane.

I am doubtful of anyone’s ability to, by themselves, research these matters sufficiently to have a supportable opinion on what risks are involved and what is safe or not. If I’m right about this, it makes options one or three the only reasonable options. I think this quote by Richard Feynman summarizes my thoughts quite well:

Now, I might be quite wrong, maybe they do know all these things. But I don’t think I’m wrong, see, I have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to get to really know something, how careful you have to be about checking the experiments, how easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself. I know what it means to know something. And therefore, I can’t… I see how they get their information, and I can’t believe that they know it ­– they haven’t done the work necessary, they haven’t done the checks necessary, they haven’t done the care necessary. I have a great suspicion that they don’t know.

— Richard Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (1981)

This is why we have large double-blind studies with control groups, and published papers, and peer review, and committees, and so forth – it’s really hard to actually know something. By contrast, it’s extremely easy to read a lot about something, listen to what a lot of people say about it and come to have what you might consider a reasonable, well-informed opinion about something, and therefore think you know something. But you don’t then actually know, you just think you do.

You are not right about that. I think your faith in the medical system is touching, and I hope you never have to experience enough of it to lose that faith.

Doctors have a reasonably good general medical background, but most of them have little or no idea on specific issues that they have not encountered directly in their recent practice. When something like that comes up, they go research it. Given typical patient loads, they research it quickly.

It is very easy for people to do that research themselves. They have access to all the same material that doctors do. Educated laypeople will quickly end up knowing more than the average doctor about their specific conditions.

This was especially obvious to me when dealing with my mom's cancer. E.g.: https://www.quora.com/If-you-had-15-minutes-to-educate-a-doc...

Or pop over here, where HNers are currently discussing how an active advocate made a huge difference for another cancer patient, and how scarily little doctors know: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8886164

With well-documented drugs like modafinil, your average GP will have little or no advantage in prescribing them over an educated layman who has really studied the topic. Indeed, the way many drugs with mental effects get used in practice is a doctor saying, "Well, let's try this." Followed by, "Does that feel better?" When I was my grandfather's conservator, his GP did exactly that with Prozac. When I asked some follow-up questions, it was painfully clear that he knew approximately nothing about the drug other than that the pharma marketroid said it could help with moods.

The point of the medical licensing system isn't to create perfect wisdom and great outcomes. It's to place some broad limits to limit some obvious harms and establish a mechanism of control. It should be no surprise that smart and motivated people can, in specific and limited circumstances, do better than that very low bar.

When your doctor is untrained, and you might do as well a job (or better) yourself, the conclusion is not to do the job yourself, but to get a competent doctor. Sure, that might not always be an option, but you should follow this principle as long as you are able.

Anyway, you’re talking about individual doctors; I was talking about the medical establishment as a whole, and in particular the FDA (or their local equivalent) and the medical scientists who do the studies upon which the FDA’s decisions are based. I have more faith in these sorts of institutions than any single random GP doctor – I don’t let my views on them tar the whole system with doubt.

> It should be no surprise that smart and motivated people can, in specific and limited circumstances, do better than that very low bar.

Yes, there are exceptions to every rule. But everyone believes themselves to be the exception, so you can’t trust your own opinion.

Since when has alcohol been deemed "safe"?

“Safe” enough to sell over-the-counter and not need a prescription. Which is what I wrote.

> Strawman.

That seems very rude and uncalled for.

> I said “or be deemed safe for sale over the counter”.

You also said "Any medication [that] I use ...". So, are you saying that these rules are just for yourself or that everybody should follow the same logic that you do because you think it's the only logic and that anyone else who follows any different logic is "insane" as you said earlier?

In any case ~ I'm guessing you've never tried Marijuana, but what I'm really wondering is if you think all Marijuana users are insane? If the answer is no, then you're obviously contradicting your own argument. Otherwise, I'll have to conclude that you're just being a ridiculously overbearing ultra-conservative dickhead who speaks in one word sentences like "Strawman".

> ...you should find some other suitable scientific institution to trust.

Why? Because you said so? You didn't give a reason why you think that revealed knowledge is somehow better than rational knowledge....

If I know large groups of people who take a certain drug whether it be Modafinil or Marijunana and everybody reports positive effects...I feel quite confident enough to self-experiment. How am I insane?

> To instead trust random people’s anecdotes on the internet is quite possibly the worst thing you could do.

Do you have any proof that that's what's happening though?

In my experience people don't read one article and make a decision. They typically use this thing called a Search Engine to find out more information about the topic and end up reading dozens of articles, studies, user testimonials, etc.

The rules I stated are (as I wrote) for myself, and others might follow different rules (like the one I suggested in my linked comment), but yes, using anecdotes from the Internet as sufficient reason to take drugs seems to me to be insane. (Not necessary clinically insane, mind you, just your garden-variety crazy people type of insanity.)

> [Do] you think all Marijuana users are insane?

The people who live where it is legal are certainly not insane (necessarily). The people who don’t might choose to place their trust in credible scientific institutions other than their local government or doctors, and those people are not necessarily insane either. However, if you choose to smoke weed for a reason like “all my friends are doing it” or “I read about how some other people claim to be doing it” then yes, that is slightly insane and idiotic.

> Why? Because you said so?

No, but because it would be obviously better to do what I wrote than to trust a too-small non-random (often self-selecting) sample of stories of unknown veracity.

> > Strawman.

> That seems very rude and uncalled for.

It was a strawman argument. I never called for avoiding caffeine or exercise just because these things affect people’s mood – I explicitly exempted all things which do not require a doctor’s prescription. To pretend I said otherwise and argue against it is a strawman argument.

That's a very conservative way of looking at it. One can also observe that the political establishment concerned with the "war on drugs" is driven by moral panic, not science, and the legality and availability of psychoactive substances is therefore a function of politics, uncorrelated with safety or efficacy.

I trust random strangers on the internet to provide me with accurate and useful information about the composition and subjective effects of various experimental drugs far more than I trust the official bodies in charge of regulating them, because the official bodies are proven to be untrustworthy, while random strangers on the internet may or may not be untrustworthy.

If, for political reasons such as you mention, you don’t trust your the government of your own country to determine which medications are safe, you should find some other suitable scientific institution to trust. Perhaps some other country’s, which does not have the problem you see in your own country.

To instead trust random people’s anecdotes on the internet is quite possibly the worst thing you could do.

Modafinil is fantastic if you want to super-procrastinate on steroids. Rabbit holes go on forever.

You have to have tasks all lined up and the interwebs unplugged (selfcontrol doesn't help if you know how to disable it)

> You have to have tasks all lined up

I rarely see this mentioned, but I cannot agree more. In my experience with Modafinil, if I had tasks lined up before the effects took hold, I was golden and would obliterate that to-do list/etc. But if I were left with 'nothing to do', it was just like you described...the rabbit hole just got deeper.

So many people have had wildly different experiences with modaf (as with any drug really)...for me it's biggest positive was that context switching, mentally, became nearly 'free'. Generally my biggest hurdle in completing tasks through the day is when I finish with one task in one context and am tasked with unloading all of that information and jumping into something new...this is where I procrastinate, or generally just struggle with maintaining pace. While taking modafinil that penalty was seemingly non-existent. I was able to bounce from problem to problem, project to project with no mental penalty or friction. Quite amazing really.

Though I generally just don't find the sensation while taking them enjoyable or even worth it in many cases...increased heart rate makes me and my hands sweat (and smell), tight jaw and general inability to just 'relax'. I bought 60 nearly two years ago and have taken maybe 10 of them. I'm also a contractor who doesn't work under any or much stress/pressure, which may have something to do with my apathy towards their positive effects.

To each their own, I can absolutely see how this drug has and can change people's lives.

In the past I mostly used modafinil for driving long distances, which it was exceptional for. Now, I simply sip Yerba Mate the whole time and get a very similar effect.

I can definitely recommend yerba mate to anyone trying to stop drinking coffee or just people in need of a longer lasting stimulant with no crash afterwards.

I would describe modafinil as an internal task-switcher disabler. For this reason, I don't use it often. For example, if I accidentally start reading reddit, on modafinil this will probably end in writing long, thoughtful comments for the whole day. The thought of stopping simply doesn't occur. My stomach will rumble, but I won't feel hunger. Conversely, changing tasks in response to external input becomes much easier.

This uncontrollable concentration applies to all levels on all tasks, which is why modafinil kills creativity, at least for me. If I have lot of grunt job that doesn't require creativity, sure, modafinil will make me plow through it. However, in today's world valuable grunt work is rare, so it's not that useful. It kills task-related mind wandering, it kills daydreaming, it kills original thought. Sort of a zombie state really.

Constant use would probably make me a top burger-flipper at McDonald's or similar, but that's it.

Another very big cons is its long half-life, which eventually results in sleep deprivation. Sleep at normal hours becomes next to impossible.

Good for emergency situations when I have to be able to function despite severe sleep deprivation (like not sleeping for one or two nights).

> The thought of stopping simply doesn't occur. My stomach will rumble, but I won't feel hunger. Conversely, changing tasks in response to external input becomes much easier.

This sounds like my daily life, actually. (I'm pretty sure I have ADHD). I've tried modafinil a couple of times, and interestingly, I have the opposite reaction- I find that it makes me quicker on my feet, more 'on edge'. I respond and react to things faster.


As someone with ADHD who takes Ritilin, this seemed interesting to me as a non-stimulant alternative. However, it appears that Modafinil is a "pro-histamine" which would mean that it could aggregate allergy symptoms. I wonder if anyone has ever studied the correlation between anti-histamine use and the development of ADHD.

You should ask your doctor about Intuniv. It's a non-stimulant option only approved for ADHD in children in the US right now, but my psychiatrist has been using it off-label with adults pretty successfully.

In my experience, I've found it to be a very pleasing but subtle option, and when taken with stimulants, reduced some of the unwanted side effects I experienced. The only negative side effect I had from Intuniv was noticeable hypotension, but since I didn't experience much ADHD-related change between doses, I probably could have stepped down to a lower dosage to combat that. I only stopped because I was trying to get pregnant, and once it's okay again, I'll start back on Intuniv most likely :)

There's also Strattera, though I have no personal experience with that.

As someone with allergies, I can tell you that it doesn't really aggravate any of my symptoms. Its pro-histamine effects are mostly observed in the CNS, and not in the rest of the body.

My personal experience with Modafinil is that it very much does have a stimulant effect, if that makes you feel any better.

Very provoking article. A little correction though, although Sartre found inspiration for his writing from his mescaline experiences (especially for Nausea) he did not write on mescaline, he rather preferred amphetamines. On the same note the lobsters only(!) stayed with him a few years not for the rest of his life.

For mild depression, anxiety and ADHD, I've been using an all natural vitamin supplement called EMPowerPlus from Truehope for the last three months. I've noticed mild improvement in my mood. I've been on anti-depressants before that didn't work.

Last week I went off of it for two weeks just to see if I could discern any difference. I felt my mild depression return and I couldn't lift myself out. With the supplement, I can.

Very expensive, but I'm going to keep using it as I feel the results are worth it. Their website cites published clinical studies to it's efficacy.

Disclaimer: I have no relationship with the company other than being a customer and I don't derive any direct or indirect benefits from sales of their products. Just sharing this in case it helps someone and to see if anyone else has experience with their products.

I've been mostly a lurker here on HN for the past few years, and haven't made many comments.

So for the sake of my learning curve, can anyone clue me in to the reasons for down votes? I don't take them personally. Just curious and wanting to learn. Is it because the comment seems spammy? Or is it off topic? Sloppy writing?

I didn't downvote, but: it seemed alightly off-topic; also it's in the worst possible range of anecdote/bad science (N=1, no blinding, it's a vitamin supplement so I suspect it contains no active ingredients anyway, you claim anti-depressants don't work on you†).

gwern's articles on how they try out drugs is very good at explaining how to do blinding etc. and is actually credible. Do something like that and you'll definitely get upvotes.

† No judgement here, but the burden of proof is quite high when you're claiming a properly tested medicine doesn't work and a supplement does.

Thanks for the feedback.

Really my purpose in the comment wasn't to convince anyone they should take this. My intention can be summed up by "Hey, I tried this and it seems to work for me and is safe; it's just vitamins. If it piques your interest, do your own research on it and decide whether you want to try it"

You are not staying on the subject of productivity enhancers when you are talking about mood enhancers for treating or managing depression. I think that is my sense why you are down-voted, do not take them personally and if you do, use it as a learning tool. HN uses karma to nudge the reader to write with certain level of quality, substance and style in posts.

How did you go off of it for two weeks last week?

Sorry, sloppy writing. It was actually about a week and a half. I wasn't very scientific about it at all, just went off for awhile to see what would happen.

The wikipedia article on Provigil[1] mentions toxic epidermal necrolysis[2] and Stevens-Johnson syndrome[3] as possible side effects. That's enough to scare me off trying this particular drug.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provigil

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxic_epidermal_necrolysis

[3] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevens-Johnson_syndrome

This was found as a part of an ADHD study of close to a thousand young children, in which one kid may have had SJS, and another kid had a non-serious suspicious rash, and that was enough to kill the whole study with no such repeat studies being done since.

So yeah, 1/1000 chance going by that study alone, which doesn't say much since the drug has been prescribed millions of times in the US and abroad with no significant mention of SJS outside of the study. In short, it's just ass-covering medical paranoia.

What has been shown is that modifinil can mess with liver enzymes over time, and that should be scary enough to tell people not to use the drug long-term.

My own experience with the drug is pretty similar to the article's, but without the strange addition-like component this guy seemed to have. I was able to quit cold turkey after a month without so much as an after thought, and I still use it from time to time when my autoimmune disorder flairs up and causes fatigue and brain fog that not even ten cups of coffee can cut through.

I think SJS has only resulted from modafinil use fewer than ten times in total. It's a rare enough response that it's difficult to figure out the actual risks, and I can't find info on the actual rates of modafinil usage. But it seems like something that's probably on the order of a 1/100,000 chance.

Ouch, I knew someone who had SJS from a reaction to some drugs and it was a truly horrible experience. Ended up in the burn ward for a while because SJS was basically causing their skin to come off. Would not wish that on my worst enemy (luckily they recovered after a grueling week or two).

I tried Provigil two years ago and it came in powder format and I had to mix it. It tasted bitter and had no pronounced effect me. I had better response to coffee but then again they say placebo is hell of a drug.

That doesn't sound like modafinil at all. I've never heard of it being sold outside of pill form. Typical dosage is 75-150mg, making a powder easy to mis-dose. Although overdosing on modafinil isn't possible, too much would result in unpleasant side-effects: stomach pains, headache, nausea, insomnia, etc.

Also, the effects of modafinil are obvious. In addition to being coffee++, the metabolites make your urine and sweat smell weird. If someone says modafinil didn't work on them, it's probably because they ordered it illicitly and got counterfeit drugs.

Are you perhaps thinking of a different nootropic? From your description, piracetam seems much more likely. It typically comes in powder form, and its effects can be charitably described as subtle.

Side note: If you're interested in nootropics and modafinil, I highly recommend gwern's articles on the subjects[1][2].

1. http://www.gwern.net/Modafinil

2. http://www.gwern.net/Nootropics

> I've never heard of it being sold outside of pill form.

Powder is not unheard of: Air Sealed use to sell modafinil powder sourced from Sun, which was apparently legitimate and quite competitive on a per mg basis.

But as far as I know, they were the only powder source and they shut down quite a while ago (maybe 2011? I'd have to check my price-tables to see when I dropped them), and only in the past few months have any new powder vendors showed up (on the blackmarkets). So unless one of us is considerably off on dates or my knowledge of modafinil sellers is less complete than I thought, I'm not sure where noname123 could've gotten modafinil powder.

Sounds like you might actually be thinking of Piracetam (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracetam)

I took dexedrine from middle school through college and my early work years. Once I learned how to use it (which took a long time), it was an incredibly fun drug that I could also use very effectively.

But I felt like it stole time from me, I could be productive and happy all week on it, and then I'd be depressed and tired all weekend as a I took a drug holiday. It was worth it to me when I was younger, but now that I have kids, I can't trade time like that.

You know what the worst thing is? I'm depressed, on antidepressants, can't sleep, can't concentrate, always tired, unproductive, unfocused. I fall asleep in meetings. I am not quite the target audience for this drug (I'm not actually narcoleptic) but I'm pretty darn close.

And, as far as I can tell, it doesn't work on me. Ordered some from an online pharmacy, took it for ten days straight... no detectable change.


I strongly recommend you get a prescription to try known real modafinil. You simply cannot trust online Rx unless you have HPLC/NMR analysis capabilities at your disposal.

You would know if it was working for you.

I too have tried them, and the effect is so intense that it's a deterrent from actually using them.

It's apparently also been shown to have positive effect on depression, when taken with anti-depressants[1]. That alone makes it very attractive to me. Who knows, maybe I'll try it some day if it gets proven safe but I can't bring my self too at the moment.

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17729016

I tried Modafinil (provigil). Its effect was mild at best, and it was hard to determine whether this was a placebo effect or not. Ritalin, on the other hand, was very effective, but it gives a bit of a cocaine-like high, which scared me enough not to use it for more than a week. Luckily that was enough to get me through that seemingly insurmountable pile of work I had to do.

How much did you take?

I tried some indian knock-off in 2009 and some piracetam manufactured locally (in Belarus,) none had any effect on me. I wonder if indian knock-off wasn't modafinil at all. I had no any side effects even after bumping to 500mg. I wonder if these drugs have selective effectiveness?

If you think Modafinil and Provigil are controversial today, wait until we have genome-editing techniques for increasing intelligence. Transhumanism is inevitable. I really do not understand the opposition to allowing individuals to increase their intelligence.

Genome-editing techniques for increasing intelligence look like they are a very long way off, as I have learned from the behavior geneticists with whom I participate in a journal club.[1]

[1] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289614...

What is the connection between that paper and your claim?

I don't think there's an opposition to it. People just don't want to shoot themselves in the foot by gambling on Modafinil having no long term effects.

>I don't think there's an opposition to it.

There is definitely opposition. It's mostly on religious grounds, a la "My beliefs dictate that I should prevent you from 'playing god', because that privelege is reserved for my deit(y|ies).".

I bet they all consume copious amounts of coffee while saying it.

Don't forget alcohol! Watching people climb up on a pedestal and try and tell me that alcohol is somehow not a drug makes my blood boil every damn time I hear it. I think it's hard to correct these people's thinking because our society drills the very phrase "drugs AND alcohol" into children's brains from a very early age including in the DARE programs in our schools. Somehow everyone is okay with casual abuse of alcohol because they don't think of it as a drug. "What else can you take into your body that fucks you up like alcohol does, but is not a drug?" is the retort I've been using in recent years.

Tell that to the idiots who make every slightly risky (aren't they all?) drug illegal or, if we're lucky, prescription only.

Oh, that includes Modafinil, and I'm counting the days until someone notices Phenylethylamine.

>I'm counting the days until someone notices Phenylethylamine

You can't ban chocolate in the current world. Dark chocolate can contain up to 0.7% of PEA.

I can only compare this to my coffee habit. I have to have it. No project, especially a physical one, can start without it.

But, gotta be careful with stuff like this. It sounds great, but is it really gonna be you who controls the drug ?

Maybe, but it might not always work out that way...

The U.S. gives it to fighter jet pilots often, to make sure they stay awake.

Where can I buy Modafinil?

I'm just wondering how people can order this stuff over the internet and expect it to be the genuine thing...

It just sounds extremely incautious to me.

It sells in India for about one eighth of online's price. The price of ten 200mg Modalert pills is about $2.5. Counterfeiting simply doesn't pay, as it would kill any return business for minuscule one-time gain.

Sounds to me like a guy who's never taken adderall before

The effect is actually quite different. Much more subtle and therefore more effective in a way - less intrusive. It's very much a drug, though.

Having taken both, I don't think they're the same. (Modafinil is more pleasant.)

Not so smart: getting busted for plagiarism: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/jan/20/johann-hari-qui...

From a recent Guardian article: "Using a false identity, Hari had maliciously amended the Wikipedia pages of journalists he disliked [...]"


How is this related to the original article? Are you saying he might be lying about his experiences ?

It's the same author. There's a pretty big overlap between plagiarists and fabulists, so it's hard to put much stock into a subjective article like this.

Perhaps the drug made him a more prolific plagiarist.

Yep definitely felt like I watching the trailer for the movie limitless.


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