Modafinil: The smart drug that triumphs among students

Three labels have returned it to fashion: The one of “cognitive enhancer”, the one of “intelligent drug” and the one of “having no side effects”

It was the first bars of the 90s when we first heard about modafinil. It came hand in hand with the testimonies of American soldiers in the Persian Gulf War. In the battalions, he rode well. The theoretical benefits for combat and the supposed absence of side effects made it a routine among Yankee fighters.

Modafinil did not come from the black market. By then, it was already being marketed as a drug indicated for patients with narcolepsy, the pathology that causes in its patients an unstoppable desire to sleep. To avoid them, they were prescribed this element in the form of pills.

A decade after the aforementioned armed conflict took place, the consumption of Provigil – a drug containing the substance in question – was already widespread among the best and most prestigious universities in the United States. Shortly after it landed in the pockets of the aggressive executives of the private company. He did it with the three labels that have put it back these days more fashionable than ever : The one of “cognitive enhancer”, the one of “safe intelligent drug” and the one of narcotic drug “without adverse side effects”.

This last point is the most controversial of all. What non-detectable side effects in the short term could have the regular consumption of a drug indicated for narcoleptics in people who do not suffer from this pathology? After analyzing the results of more than twenty studies, researchers from the universities of Oxford and Harvard concluded that it only entails “low risk”.

Experts say

According to this report, it is certified that the consumption of modalert increases attention and enhances fluid intelligence, that is, the speed of processing and the ability to adapt to new situations. Hence, both students and executives have decided to give an opportunity to a principle that promises, in normal conditions and subjects without contraindications, help in the decision and resolution of eventualities quickly.

The European School of Neuro-psychopharmacology appreciates that we are facing “the first real example of an intelligent drug, which generates a real ethical debate that must be faced”, putting the focus on the new scenario that was opening up after its massive consumption: “With any method used to improve cognition, moral considerations must always be taken into account”

More recently the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom wanted to analyze the consequences of its consumption through a cognitive study of which different students of this center would be part. Visual attention, spatial memory, executive functions and episodic memory before and after consumption of modafinil were compared.

Benjamin Zand, one of these volunteers, confirmed after the first dose that he felt “more awake and less tired” than usual and also “less disposed to frustration”. However, after a second dose he perceived a “greater distraction” lending an inordinate “attention to wrong things” that distracted him from his study. The thing went further and Zand alleged having felt headache, lack of appetite or wakefulness. After the third and final dose, these passages were repeated after a day in which, as a positive part, he assured, he did not stop working without feeling tired.

The doctor who attended him discovered that his liver had reacted by trying to eliminate modafinil from his body causing the physical reactions indicated in his report. Each body, the doctors concluded, reacts in a different way to the same impact.