For the past four days, this has been Harry’s * routine: alarm clock set to 4.30am, wake up, let 200 mg of Modafinil burst out of the blister strip, envelop it with water, fall asleep again. An hour later, he is “uplifted,” showered and dressed – a brisk process, as he has already laid out “underpants, shirt, socks, suit pants, tie in order.” He scratches a razor around his jaw, makes his teeth, swirls around with his hair, and then puts on his jacket and is out of the front door and on the subway in South Ken.
At 6.30am he is on his way to his office in Canary Wharf with the joggers and traders. When stray colleagues arrived at 8 a.m., Harry had already worked through several wedges of corporate documents. He didn’t have breakfast or drink coffee. He barely said the word “hello.” But it is “completely impossible” to meet the demands of his high-pressure job at crisis points (he can often work all night) without Modafinil – “unless you are one of the losers, the ProPlus and ends with a nervous breakdown.”
Modafinil (also marketed as Alertec, Modalert, Wakelert, Provigil, Artvigil and Modvigil) is a smart drug – also referred to as cognitive or memory enhancers or nootropics. It was developed in the 1970s for patients with narcolepsy, but in the 1990s soldiers and fighter pilots tested it. The U.S. military passed it on to Air Force personnel during the 2003 Iraq War. Between 1998 and 2004, the British Ministry of Defence purchased 24,000 Provigil tablets, with orders peaking in 2001 during the Afghanistan war and in 2002 shortly before the invasion of Iraq. It is believed the stimulants were used for troops “entering enemy territory,” but the mild official line is that all medical supplies “maintain the UK’s military capabilities.”
Civilians who use it claim it increases their productivity, memory function and reflexes (a postgraduate at Oxford University says Modafinil allows him to work 20 to 30 hours in a row). As with smart drug relatives Adderall and Ritalin, both designed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, there is a revolution in application by professionals looking for a head start in a world of work that is more competitive than ever.
Modafinil also improves the power to stay awake under sleep-conducive conditions (sleep loss and adverse circadian phase) in the dose-dependent fashion.24 Like caffeine, modafinil can impair sleep when the sleep period is initiated within modafinil’s duration of action.25 Although modafinil’s low abuse potential profile can make it more inviting than other controlled stimulants (e.g., dextroamphetamine, methylphenidate), it has yet to be determined whether modafinil provides any performance, subjective side effect, or abuse potential edge on noncontrolled stimulants including caffeine.
The idea that there could be a non-consequential drug that makes us more efficient is fascinating, but perhaps we are rightly suspicious of a shortcut to brilliance – especially when the use of these drugs leads to a 24/7 work culture. Smart drugs were faked in a 1999 episode of The Simpsons – Bart takes ‘Focusyn’ and goes bananas – and more recently in Family Guy; The idea of an ingenious pill was explored in the 2011 sci-fi film Limitless, in which Bradley Cooper’s character learns piano and several languages within days before suffering from horrific withdrawal symptoms. more here
But activists such as Barbara Sahakian, a professor of clinical neuropsychology at the University of Cambridge, believe these drugs can play a benevolent role in society. She calls for Modafinil to be developed for surgeons who perform hours of surgery: “We’ve studied the effects of Modafinil on doctors with sleep deprivation – it has improved cognitive flexibility in solving problems and reduced impulsivity. It can be beneficial for society if certain groups of people use drugs for their safety and safety. “
Meanwhile, private doctors are seeing a huge increase in the number of patients asking for a drug five years ago. According to psychiatrist Dr Jeremy Pfeffer of Nightingale Hospital, you could “prescribe only once a year.” Should we be worried? If you put it in the context of the mental drugs that we already use as a society, maybe not – one in eleven people in the UK takes antidepressants like Prozac. Dr. Pfeffer describes Modafinil as a “new thing” that “has become popular in a few years … I certainly write it a lot more”. Who asks? “Normal people in normal jobs,” he says. “It makes people sharper. It allows them to concentrate. If a patient is very sleepy and there is a lot going on professionally, I will give him Modafinil. ‘ In the fields of banking, technology (“programmers love it”), law, medicine, media and politics, high usage is reported. It is popular with professional poker players who have been at the card table for a long time, and with academics (“to support the retrieval of words”). And in 2013, a survey of 2,000 British students on the university website The Tab found that one in five had taken Modafinil, leading to great concern (cheating? Can they overdose?).