If you are obsessed with supercharging your brain and hyper-productivity, then you must have heard of modafinil. Although it is an amazing and time-proven nootropic with immense benefits, the fact remains that it doesn’t work precisely the same way for everyone.
If you’re new to “smart drugs” or just feel you’re not getting enough from modafinil, there are several alternatives you can bank on. Although the list is endless, in this guide, we will help you narrow down your search by enumerating the 10 best products to look out for. Read on.
What Is Modafinil?
Modafinil is a potent oral eugeroic drug used for promoting alertness and wakefulness in people – especially in those who suffer from certain sleep disorders or work long hours at a stretch.
Manufactured by Cephalon, Inc., modafinil is commonly marketed under the brand name Provigil. Although it was specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA in 1998 to treat only sleep disorders, it became more popularly known as an off-label drug after discovering its cognitive-enhancing effect . Ever since thousands of people have been buying it purely for this purpose.
Generally, modafinil is considered effective and safe because of its low potential for addiction and abuse. In fact, researchers from Oxford and Harvard termed it the “world’s first safe smart drug.” The medication is meant for only certain individuals (those free of some underlying health conditions) who are 17 years of age and above. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are advised against using it, as there’s limited literature on the possible resultant effects .
What Are Nootropics?
Nootropics are drugs, supplements, or any other ingestible substance capable of boosting cognitive function and ultimately increasing the productivity of healthy individuals . Although they’re quite new when considered in the form we know them as today, the term has been around for over 6 decades.
The word “nootropics” is coined from two Greek words, “noos” and “ tropein,” which mean “mind” and “bend or shape,” respectively. This translates to the term “mind-bending.” No wonder nootropics are nicknamed “smart drugs” and cognitive enhancers .
Nootropics are classified into prescription drugs, dietary supplements, and synthetic compounds, which have been formulated into different products that are sold over the counter (OTC). High-skilled workers, students, top-level office executives, and many other individuals whose day-to-day activities require apt alertness, focus, and memory are all clamoring for the drug to increase productivity.
Although cognitive enhancers offer immense benefits, they also have side effects that may occur if misused.
Consult a doctor before taking nootropics or any other drug, for that matter.
Nootropic Side Effects and Warnings
Everything has two sides: the good side and the bad side. Nootropics are no exception. However, Dr. Corneliu Giurgea, the father of nootropics, would beg to differ, as he asserted that “true nootropics are side effects free.” This is mostly true, but people taking the product for the first time may experience mild adverse reactions, and it’s completely normal; it’s usually the body’s response to new substances.
The common adverse reactions include :
- digestive discomfort;
Although they’re common, not everyone who uses “smart drugs” for the first time experiences them. It is worth noting that nootropics can cause severe side effects if misused. Some of them include fever, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, mood swings, hallucinations, and depression.
Nootropics may not be safe for some people and under certain circumstances. For example, some of them are not to be used by people with a history of addiction, high blood pressure, suicidal thoughts, aggressive behavior, and liver disease unless advised otherwise by a doctor.
What’s more, some nootropics interact negatively with certain foods, drugs, supplements, and other substances. It is crucial to find out what can and can’t be combined with them by consulting a doctor or referring to the product’s instruction leaflet.
10 Best Alternatives to Modafinil
Modafinil has proven to be a fabulous cognitive enhancer time after time, but there are several alternatives that also work well. They’re safe, and just about anyone looking to increase alertness, improve memory retention, and boost creativity can try them out.
So, here are the 10 best alternatives to modafinil.
Armodafinil, sold under the brand name Nuvigil, is a popular nootropic used by professionals and students alike to enhance cognition and ultimately improve performance. It is very similar to modafinil but stronger than it by 1.33 times . To put this in perspective, its 150 mg tablet is comparable to modafinil 200 mg. Armodafinil’s ability to deliver more strength at a lower dose makes it a great alternative for people who consistently experience side effects with modafinil use.
Armodafinil is an excellent drug with minimal negative reactions, and it is safe if used correctly.
Mind Lab Pro
Mind Lab Pro is a top-notch “smart drug” that increases focus and boosts overall brain health with very little to no side effects. Its high safety profile with minimal adverse reactions stems from the fact that it’s formulated with natural ingredients such as L-theanine, vitamin B6, Bacopa monnieri, maritime pine bark extract, and others that directly benefit the brain . Unlike modafinil and armodafinil, this nootropic is a supplement. Mind Lab Pro is a great drug, and considering its safety profile, it is a great option for long-term use.
Gorilla Mind Rush
Gorilla Mind Rush is a relatively new “smart drug” that provides 8+ hours of laser-like focus and concentration without causing energy crashes associated with stimulants like coffee. Like Mind Lab Pro, it is a dietary supplement and can be purchased freely over the counter.. Gorilla Mind Rush is generally safe, and it has a good number of positive reviews from people who’ve given it a shot. It is likely to improve overall cognitive functioning and productivity if used correctly.
Qualia Mind is a nootropic dietary supplement with a unique formula that consists of a complex blend of herbal ingredients, amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. The formula is based on the combination of Bacopa monnieri and citicoline – two natural nootropics that directly impact on reaction time and memory, respectively . The nootropic’s effects kick in within 20–30 minutes of taking it and lasts for 8+ hours, where it provides boosted energy and focus. Qualia Mind serves as a great alternative to modafinil. It is safe and well-tolerated and can be used by anyone looking to try something other than modafinil.
Adrafinil is an effective modafinil alternative because it promotes wakefulness, increases alertness, and improves mood. However, it’s no match for modafinil in terms of safety and effectiveness. The drug was initially used in France to enhance cognitive function in older adults and later adopted by healthy people as an off-label solution to fatigue and mental sluggishness.
Today, adrafinil has been discontinued because it was less potent than modafinil and thus required a higher dose to yield a similar effect . Note that a higher dose translates to a higher risk of side effects.
This drug should not be used unless prescribed by a doctor.
Flmodafinil, also known as CRL-40,940, is a derivative of modafinil patented in 2013. It also belongs to a class of drugs called eugeroics and was developed to treat narcolepsy and some other sleep disorders. However, it is now mostly used by healthy individuals looking to hack their cognitive abilities, lift mood, boost creativity, and ultimately improve their performance at work or school.
Flmodafinil inventors claim that the drug is better than adrafinil and modafinil in terms of safety and effectiveness. But this claim is yet to be confirmed, as the first phase of its clinical trials, which started in 2015, is still on . This is one situation where it may be safe to say that time will tell. Meanwhile, the drug appears to be OK so far, as most reviews from people who’ve used it are positive.
Alpha Brain is a safe and effective “smart drug” developed by Onnit – a renowned brand popular among athletes and sportspeople. It helps promote several brain functions, including focus, alertness, mental processing speed, and memory. The supplement contains zero caffeine and doesn’t cause energy crashes associated with some other nootropics. However, Alpha Brain has side effects, with nausea and vomiting being the commonest. A good number of its users reported vomiting frequently after taking it. It is advisable to consult a doctor before taking this supplement.
Brainzyme is a natural nootropic that contains plant-powered ingredients scientifically proven to positively impact on mental performance. The supplement provides a strong boost to energy, memory, concentration, and several users have left reviews on platforms like Reddit, indicating that it does a great job of clearing brain fog. Brainzyme is a wonderful alternative to modafinil, and it can help you get a lot done if used correctly.
However, it is worth noting that some other users have complained about experiencing zero effects after spending so much money on the tablets.
Going by the overall product reviews, it appears that the supplement doesn’t work for everyone.
Good thing modafinil, armodafinil, and other awesome alternatives exist.
L-theanine is a plant-based amino acid derived from a perennial evergreen shrub called Camellia sinensis. It is structurally similar to glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), two neurotransmitters that offer immense cognitive-enhancing benefits and lift mood. L-theanine combined with caffeine has proven to increase focus and alertness in small trials significantly, but there’s limited information about its safety and effectiveness when used in the long term.
L-theanine-based supplements are generally safe, but they are not without side effects. The substance affects blood pressure and may negatively interact with high blood pressure medications. It is advisable to consult a doctor before using any supplements.
Noopept is a popular “smart drug” known to offer immense benefits when taken correctly. It is the brand name for N-phenylacetyl-L-prolylglycine ethyl ester, a synthetic nootropic known to provide a mild cognitive boost after supplementation like piracetam. Although there are limited studies of the drug, it has proven time and time again to be safe, well-tolerated, and highly effective. Interestingly, it is inexpensive and relatively easy to obtain. Noopept is a fast-acting nootropic (perhaps one of the fastest), and it’s a great alternative to modafinil.
The Verdict: Modafinil vs. Alternatives
Modafinil is simply a great drug. And based on its safety profile and low potential for abuse, it can easily pass as one of the best nootropics for increasing alertness, focus, memory, and boosting creativity. But alternatives are a thing, especially because modafinil might not work the same way for everyone.
The modafinil alternatives we’ve listed here are actually the 10 best that there are, in terms of safety and effectiveness. Note that the products we have on the list are divided into dietary supplements and prescription medications.
Although the cognitive enhancers in the dietary supplements category have a lot to offer, we generally prefer and recommend prescription alternatives like armodafinil. This is because they undergo scrutiny by the FDA – a nice guarantee that the ingredients listed on the product packaging are exactly what’s contained in them. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for the dietary supplements but have to take their manufacturers’ word for it.
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- Mind Lab Pro® Ingredients. Retrieved: February 18, 2021. Eu.mindlabpro.com.
- Safety and Efficacy Study of Qualia Mind on Cognition in a Healthy Population. By Neurohacker Collective. Retrieved: February 19, 2021. Clinicaltrials.gov.
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- What Do We Know About Adrafinil? Potential Uses and Side-Effects. Written by Matt Lehrer, Ph.D. Medically reviewed by Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, Ph.D. (Pharmacology), Matt Carland, Ph.D. (Neuroscience), and Puya Yazdi, MD. Retrieved: February 19, 2021. Selfhacked.com.
- CRL-40,940. Retrieved: February 19, 2021. Wikipedia.org.