Jun 6, 2019
Modafinil is one of the most popular productivity-enhancing medications in the world.
It’s used by students and business professionals alike to enhance their work efforts by delaying fatigue to get more working hours out of their day.
Alcohol, on the other hand, is far from a productivity enhancer.
In fact, alcohol has a negative effect on both productivity and cognitive function — making modafinil and alcohol an unlikely combination.
There are, however, a few examples of times when it may be beneficial to mix the two. In other cases the two drugs may be taken for different reasons on the same day — resulting in a mixing of the two within the body.
This has many people wondering about the safety of this combination, and how to mix them safely.
Why Mix Modafinil & Alcohol?
Despite having virtually the opposite effects to each other, modafinil and alcohol are sometimes mixed.
Here are a few of the main scenarios where alcohol and modafinil might mix in the body.
1. To Boost Energy Before an Event
Have you ever gotten off a particularly long day of work, feeling tired and ready for bed but had previous plans to go to a wedding or party? Most of us have, and it takes some serious motivation to get cleaned up to head out for the night.
Modafinil offers a unique benefit in these situations.
As a eugeroic, modafinil promotes wakefulness in the brain. Although it’s not a substitute for sleep, it can delay it for several hours. This allows people to stay up and attend events they either don’t want to miss, or simply can’t due to social expectations with friends and family.
In many cases, alcohol is served during these events, which would mean that the alcohol and Modafinil will end up mixing inside the body.
2. To Stay Up All Night
Some people even take modafinil while they’re already out at a party to make them feel more awake during the night.
This is something that is becoming increasingly popular at club venues and music festivals where music is played all night long until the early morning.
This is likely to cause an interaction with alcohol and modafinil, and in some cases may lead to mixing modafinil with other compounds or illicit substances.
3. Unintentionally By Having Drinks After a Day on Modafinil
Modafinil and alcohol are also sometimes mixed unintentionally.
Many people take modafinil to get through a tough project, or on a daily basis to treat conditions like narcolepsy or ADHD. Others consider it to boost overall productivity and wakefulness.
Once the day is done, you may choose to go out for a few drinks afterward with some colleagues or friends.
Modafinil’s long half-life means it will remain in your system for most of the day, and into the early hours of the night. This makes it very likely that alcohol and modafinil will combine in the body, even though you may not have meant to mix them.
How Modafinil Works
Modafinil exerts its benefits by increasing the concentration of neurotransmitters associated with the waking portion of the central nervous system.
Our brains naturally follow a cycle of wakefulness, followed by a period of sleepiness.
By stimulating the waking side of this process, we can remain alert and focused for long periods of time.
Modafinil increases the concentration of a compound called orexin, which is tasked with stimulating the brain to produce a waking state.
It also increases dopamine and norepinephrine, which are two essential neurotransmitters in the brain.
And finally, it increases the concentration of histamine in the brain which is also involved in the process of stimulating the nervous system.
Modafinil & Alcohol Are on Opposite Sides of the Spectrum
Compounds with psychological effects usually fall somewhere on a spectrum between stimulant and depressant.
Modafinil can be located far on the stimulant side of the spectrum, while alcohol is on the depressant side. They offer nearly opposite effects to one another.
While modafinil increases stimulating neurotransmitters that make us feel more alert— alcohol stimulates relaxing neurotransmitters that make us feel tired.
This makes effects of mixing the two unpredictable. It also depends a lot on the individual dose of each.
The Dangers of Mixing Modafinil & Alcohol
1. It Causes Dehydration
Both alcohol and modafinil promote water loss in the body. This is because the body has to use water to metabolize and break them down, and also because it increases water loss from the kidneys in the hopes of eliminating these compounds from the body faster.
Mixing the two compounds can significantly increase the chances of becoming dehydrated.
2. It Can Negatively Affect Liver Function
Virtually all compounds that enter the body are metabolized by the liver at some point. The liver is tasked with converting active compounds to inactive metabolites and preparing them for excretion through the digestive tract or kidneys.
Both alcohol and modafinil need to go through the liver to be neutralized and prepared for elimination.
The liver has a set of specialized enzymes tasked with accomplishing this called the CYP450 isoenzymes. Each compound is usually metabolized by one or more of these enzymes.
Alcohol is broken down by some of the CYP450 isoenzymes like CYP2E1 .
Modafinil, on the other hand, is metabolized by another one of these enzymes, known as CYP3A4 .
It requires a lot of energy to break down these compounds in the liver.
When alcohol & modafinil are getting metabolized at the same time, it places a burden on the liver to break them down.
The liver is responsible for many other processes in the human body, including fat metabolism, sugar metabolism, hormone activation and clearance, and the manufacture of important transport proteins in the bloodstream. It’s also a primary source of gastric enzymes responsible for breaking down the food we eat into molecules small enough for us to absorb.
If the liver is forced to slow down for too long, or too often to clear both modafinil and alcohol from the body, other issues can start to arise, including low energy, hormone imbalances, inflammation, and poor digestion.
How to Reduce Side Effects of Modafinil & Alcohol
If it hasn’t been clear enough by now we DON’T recommend mixing modafinil and alcohol, however, if the two were to combine, there are a few things you can do to lower the chances of side effects.
1. Lower the Dose of Each
The dose taken of each of these drugs are going to be the most significant determining factor on whether there’s going to be a negative reaction or not.
If you plan on mixing these drugs, make sure you take a smaller dose than usual to avoid complications. This will give the liver a chance to stay on top of what it needs to do, and reduces the chances of becoming dehydrated.
Additionally, many users report that when these compounds are mixed, they become intoxicated much more easily. This is likely due to the liver’s inability to process them safely.
2. Take With Food
Many of the bad experiences reported with mixing modafinil with alcohol on forums like Reddit suggest that they had an empty stomach when they took one or both substances.
This is very common with modafinil users since one of the most common side effects is low appetite.
If you go all day without any food, and then start drinking alcohol on an empty stomach, you’re more than likely going to become inebriated very quickly, and are likely to have a bad experience due to nausea and vomiting as well.
Having some food in the stomach slows the absorption of both compounds, and gives the body the nutrients needed to manage the load placed on the liver and brain in response to these substances.
3. Drink Plenty Of Water
As mentioned, both alcohol and modafinil promote dehydration in the body. This can be a severe condition if left unchecked for too long.
The best way to avoid this is to drink plenty of water while taking modafinil and alcohol.
Many people avoid water while consuming either modafinil or alcohol because it makes them have to urinate often. This is very unwise because the body is forcing water through the kidneys in more substantial amounts for a reason. If water isn’t consumed, the kidneys will be unable to eliminate the compounds from the body, which can build up to cause much more serious consequences.
In many cases, the body will shift from eliminating compounds through the kidneys to pushing it out the sweat glands in the skin. This can cause a variety of undesirable skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
Bottom line—drink enough water.
4. Don’t Mix Them Often, And Take Recovery Days
Occasionally mixing small amounts of modafinil with alcohol may not pose a serious risk on the body; however, long-term use certainly will.
It’s important that if you choose to mix modafinil & alcohol, you should avoid doing it every day, or even every few days.
Over long periods of time, too much burden on the liver can cause conditions like high cholesterol, hyperlipidemia, heart disease, and diabetes.
Mixing modafinil and alcohol is not recommended, however, in some cases, this can be appropriate with careful consideration and understanding of how these drugs affect the body.
When the two are mixed, the chances for side effects from either are increased.
Blackouts, significant intoxication, nausea/vomiting, and vision disturbances are all commonly reported when mixing the two.
You can avoid these side effects by taking smaller doses of both alcohol and modafinil, allowing for recovery days throughout the week, drinking plenty of water, and ensuring that both the alcohol and modafinil are taken with food.
- Cowpland, C., Su, G. M., Murray, M., Puddey, I. B., & Croft, K. D. (2006). Effect of alcohol on cytochrome p450 arachidonic acid metabolism and blood pressure in rats and its modulation by red wine polyphenolics — clinical and experimental pharmacology and physiology, 33(3), 183-188.
- Robertson, P., Decory, H. H., Madan, A., & Parkinson, A. (2000). In vitro inhibition and induction of human hepatic cytochrome P450 enzymes by modafinil. Drug Metabolism and Disposition, 28(6), 664-671.