What is Modafinil
Modafinil is a legal, prescription-only medicine that is licenced in the UK or the treatment for narcolepsy in adults. You can buy modafinil in its generic form, or also as the branded version, Provigil. Both of these drugs work in exactly the same way, as they contain the same active ingredient, but some patients prefer to use the branded version instead of the generic, and vice versa.
Modafinil helps those with narcolepsy to stay awake. It isn’t fully understood how it works yet, but it’s thought to stimulate part of the brain and affect several neurotransmitters, especially those that are involved with sleep and wakefulness. However, one theory about modafinil is that it increases the amount of dopamine – a chemical that’s responsible for regulating sleep and wakefulness.
Whilst the mechanism of modafinil isn’t completely understood, what we do know is that it significantly reduces feelings of sleepiness and fatigue, meaning that those struggling with narcolepsy are able to lead a normal life without as many sleep attacks.
Modafinil is available in several countries across the world, and you may be familiar with some of the brand names that are used online. Modafinil in the UK is available as a generic medicine (made by several manufacturers) or as the brand, Provigil (manufactured by TEVA).
Other brand names for modafinil include:
Alertec, Alertex, Altasomil, Aspendos, Forcilin, Intensit, Mentix, Modafinilo, Modalert, Modanil, Modasomil, Modvigil, Modiodal, Modiwake, Movigil, Resotyl, Stavigile, Vigia, Vigicer, Vigil, Vigimax, Wakelert and Zalux.
Not all of these are available in the UK, but they all contain the same active ingredient – modafinil. This means that they all work in exactly the same way, so if you’re looking for any of the brands above and you’re in the UK, modafinil or Provigil will work just as well.
Is modafinil safe
Modafinil is safe for a vast majority of people, but as with most prescription medicines, there are some people that should avoid it as it might not be safe for them. These include people that:
- Are allergic to modafinil/Provigil or any of their ingredients
- Have arrhythmia (irregular heart beat)
- Have high blood pressure
- Suffer with heart problems
- Have a history of mental health conditions
- Have been diagnosed with liver or kidney problems
- Struggle with alcohol or drug issues
It’s also important to know that modafinil can interact with some medicines, so even if you don’t suffer from any of the above conditions or problems, if you take any of the drugs on the following list, modafinil might also be unsafe for you.
Modafinil has been known to interact with:
- Hormonal contraceptives
- HIV treatments
- Medicines for epilepsy
- Medicines for anxiety
- Blood thinners
- Calcium channel blockers
- Beta blockers
- Statin medicines
If you aren’t sure if you’re taking any of the above medicines, make a list of everything you do take and ask your local pharmacist to check whether any of them would interact with modafinil.
If you have none of the problems or conditions listed, and don’t take any of the medicines that might interact with modafinil, it should be a safe drug for you to take to reduce your symptoms of narcolepsy.
Is modafinil legal
Modafinil is perfectly legal in the UK as long as you have a valid prescription. You can obtain a prescription from your NHS GP or a private doctor. The drug is routinely given for the treatment of narcolepsy in the UK, but there are instances where modafinil might land you in trouble.
For example, it’s illegal to sell or supply modafinil if you aren’t a registered doctor or pharmacy. However, despite the fact that selling a prescription medicine without permission is illegal, it’s fairly commonplace within colleges and universities, as modafinil has been dubbed a “smart drug”.
It isn’t illegal to buy modafinil, but you should be aware of the risks if you plan to purchase the drug without a prescription. There are a number of sites that operate outside of the UK, meaning that anyone can go online and buy modafinil that’s manufactured in places such as India or Thailand. However, this can be a dangerous practice as these medicines aren’t regulated or tested, meaning that they might include ingredients that aren’t safe for human consumption.
If you want to buy modafinil safely and legally, the only way to do it in the UK is with a prescription.
Modafinil side effects
Modafinil might be a great option for those that struggle with narcolepsy, but as with many other drugs, it doesn’t come without side effects. Some people find that they don’t experience any side effects at all, but it’s important to read the patient information leaflet (PIL) that comes with your treatment to be fully aware of all of the symptoms it might cause. Some of the most common ones associated with modafinil are:
Awareness of heart beat
Fast heart beat
Diarrhoea or constipation
Numbness or pins and needles
Increased liver enzymes
This list isn’t exhaustive, but contains most of the common side effects that people taking modafinil experience. These can usually be remedied with OTC medicines (for example, taking paracetamol for headaches, or senna for constipation). However, there are some more serious side effects that you should know about, as these require urgent medical treatment. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s important that you seek immediate help:
- Sudden difficulty breathing / wheeziness
- Swelling of the face, mouth or throat
- Skin rash or itching
- High temperature
- Changes in mental health and wellbeing such as mood swings, abnormal thinking, forgetfulness, confusion, extreme happiness, over-excitement, hyperactivity, anxiety, nervousness, depression, suicidal thoughts, agitation, psychosis, feeling detached or numb, and personality disorders.
Whilst the more serious side effects happen to very few people, it’s still important to be aware of what could happen whilst taking modafinil so that you’re prepared should it happen to you.
Modafinil and alcohol
Whilst you’re taking modafinil, you should avoid alcohol as much as you can. Alcohol can contribute to feelings of tiredness and fatigue, meaning that it could make modafinil less effective than you need it to be. Other than this, the combination can cause dehydration.
If you have problems with alcohol, you should talk to your GP about how to cut down before you start modafinil, or else it might be dangerous for you.
How long does modafinil take to kick in
For most people, modafinil only takes around an hour to start working. It’s recommended that you take it in the morning to stay awake for the rest of the day (if you work night shifts, you should take it before you start work).
As medicines work slightly different for everyone, some people might find that modafinil starts to work sooner, whilst others might have to wait longer to feel the benefits of the drug, but generally speaking, you should start to feel noticeably more awake within an hour of taking modafinil.
Modafinil for studying
As mentioned above, modafinil for studying is becoming more and more popular amongst college and university students. There could be several reasons for this. For example, students might want to stay awake as much as possible in the lead up to deadlines, and there are also several studies claiming that modafinil can improve concentration.
Modafinil for studying isn’t recommended, as the drug has only been tested on those that have narcolepsy. Unless you’re a student that struggles with the condition, modafinil shouldn’t be used to enhance performance, as there isn’t any proof that it works or if it’s safe.
Buy Modafinil UK
As mentioned earlier, some people choose to buy modafinil in the UK by importing it from unsafe sources. This isn't safe, and is something that we wouldn't recommend. If you need to buy modafinil in the UK, please visit either an NHS or private GP for a consultation about your condition.
Advice on Addiction and Medication Restrictions
If you are at all worried or concerned about an addiction to any type of medication, we urge you to speak to a professional for help and advice. Below are links to organisations that can help.
Talk To Frank
NHS Help & Advice On Drug Addiction