You’re sitting at your desk. It’s been about two hours since you took the little white tablet, with the goal of finally clearing that to do list you’ve been too busy to finish for the past two weeks.
Everything should be ready to go, but you can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety as you stare at the screen in front of you.
You get up and take a lap around the office, and you even make yourself a soothing cup of peppermint tea… but it just won’t go away.
This is a feeling common experience of those taking modafinil.
The benefits of the drug can’t be denied, but every now and then the anxiety it produces becomes too much to handle.
Why does modafinil make me feel so anxious? How can I prevent it?
We get into the details between this connection and offer some solutions so that you can get back to crossing tasks off your to-do list.
What is Modafinil Used For?
Modafinil is used in medicine as a treatment for sleep disorders like narcolepsy, sleep apnoea, or sleep disturbances associated with shift work.
It’s used outside of this in the treatment of ADHD, to provide a boost in workflow productivity.
Students, business executives, and creative freelancers often use the drug to boost their productivity at work or school. They do this to get more work done in a shorter amount of time by delaying the onset of fatigue for several hours at a time.
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Where to Buy Modafinil
Modafinil is listed as a prescription-only medication in most countries. This means that in order to buy it from your local pharmacy you need to obtain a prescription from a doctor first.
Some countries, like India, don’t have these same regulations, placing it in a legal grey area.
These restrictions don’t always apply when purchasing the drug, however, which allows vendors located in places like India to sell the medication online to people around the world.
Due to the “grey area” involved with the sale of modafinil, many of these online vendors are untrustworthy and either won’t ship your modafinil after you’ve purchased it or will ship poor quality modafinil.
This means it’s extra important to buy it from a trustworthy vendor.
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Modafinil & The Nervous System
Modafinil’s beneficial effects are the result of its ability to interact with our central nervous system.
It’s classified as a eugeroic and stimulant, forcing us into a state of vigilance and wakefulness.
A eugeroic is a substance that promotes wakefulness. This can be done by stimulating the brain directly, such as the case with Modafinil, or by inhibiting the sleep-inducing side of the nervous system instead.
Modafinil achieves this by increasing the activity of 3 main neurotransmitters:
All three of these compounds play an essential role in the brain to make us feel awake.
The stimulating effects of modafinil on these neurotransmitters is also the primary cause for anxiety while taking the medication.
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety is a common condition. It’s something virtually everybody on earth has experienced at some point in time.
It’s characterized by a sensation of worry and stress, often presenting with other side effects like jitteriness, shallow breathing, fast heart rate, and dizziness.
Causes of Anxiety May Include:
- Side effects of medications
- Caffeine, alcohol, or cannabis use
- History of child abuse
- Sleep deprivation
- Illicit drug use
- Heart disease
- Inability to cope with stressful environments
Stimulants & Anxiety
All stimulants come with the risk of producing anxiety, including things like caffeine from coffee and theobromine from chocolate.
Other stimulants like THC in cannabis, amphetamines, and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse) all increase the chances of having anxiety attacks.
This is because anxiety in itself involves overstimulation of the central nervous system. Anytime these stimulating compounds cause an over-activation of neuro-stimulating molecules like glutamate, serotonin, and dopamine — we can develop symptoms of anxiety.
This is especially common in people who already suffer from symptoms of anxiety.
The medications can sometimes push them over the edge and into an anxious state.
Measuring Brain Activity During Anxiety Attacks
The study of psychology and neurology have advanced a lot, especially within the last 50 years.
Scientists have developed an array of useful tools that can measure different areas of brain activity to understand the processes behind conditions like anxiety better.
Delta, Theta, Alpha, & Beta Brain Wave Activity
One of the best methods of measuring anxious mental states is using something called an EEG (electroencephalogram). This is a special device that measures the electrical signals propagating in the brain.
Delta waves are measured at a frequency of 0.5–4.0 Hz. This is the frequency our brains measure when we’re in a deep sleep.
Theta waves are measured at a frequency of 4.0–7.0 Hz. They are associated with a meditative or focused state. They’re also present during active REM sleep
Alpha waves are measured at a frequency of 7.5–12.5 Hz. They’re associated with heightened activity in the occipital lobe and arise during states of relaxed, but wakeful mental states. This is the ideal state for work performance, especially creative in nature.
Beta waves are measured at a frequency of 12.5–40.0 Hz. They’re associated with ordinary waking consciousness. High Beta waves (21–40 Hz) are associated with severe anxiety, arousal, paranoia, or stressful states of mind .
This is also the frequency often induced by modafinil.
|Wavelength||Frequency||State of Mind|
|Delta||0.5–4.0 Hz||Deep Sleep|
|Alpha||7.5–12.5 Hz||Focused, relaxed|
|Beta||12.5–40.0 Hz||Alert, anxious|
What All of This Means
Understanding the changes in brain frequencies when taking modafinil, and during anxious states gives researchers a way to quantify anxiety, as well as compounds that cause it.
It also gives us a way to measure medications and supplements that prevent or treat anxiety.
How to Reduce or Prevent the Onset of Modafinil-Induced Anxiety
Now that we know what causes anxiety, we can start to discuss some ways to prevent or cure it when taking modafinil for work or study.
L-theanine is likely to be the best supplement to take with modafinil.
It’s an amino-acid isomer found in high-quality tea.
L-Theanine is produced in the leaves of the plant but is broken down in the presence of ultraviolet light. Farmers growing high-grade green and black tea will cover the tea plants during the last few weeks before harvest to prevent the breakdown of L-theanine.
These farmers aren’t necessarily doing it because of the benefits of L-theanine, they’re doing it to improve the taste of the tea. L-Theanine lends an “umami” flavor to the brew, giving it a more delicious flavor.
More recently, people have started to supplement pure L-Theanine extract for its ability to relax the mind and increase focus.
These two effects may sound conflicting, but it makes sense when you consider the way the compound effects brainwave activity.
L-theanine has been shown to increase alpha-wave activity in the brain , which is associated with an alert but concentrated state of focus.
It’s also used to reduce the side effects of another common stimulant, caffeine, which is notorious for its anxiety-inducing activity.
How to Take L-Theanine for Modafinil-Induced Anxiety
L-theanine is recommended at a dose of either 200mg or 400mg per day.
The effects of L-Theanine don’t last as long as the effects of modafinil. Therefore it’s recommended that you either split it into two doses or take it only while modafinil is at its strongest (the 2-hour mark) to avoid anxious side effects.
2. Meditation/Breathing Exercises
Modafinil increases the activity of our sympathetic nervous system.
What’s the sympathetic nervous system you ask?
It’s the part of our nervous system involved with the fight or flight response.
When we see something that poses a threat to us, our body activates the sympathetic nervous system to give us a boost. We become more alert; our blood sugar levels rise, heart rate increases, and our blood pressure spikes.
Activation of this part of the nervous system is useful for studying or working because it makes us feel alert and focused. Unfortunately, it can also make us anxious and paranoid.
Getting the most out of modafinil involves balancing the stimulating effects of the sympathetic nervous system, without going overboard to produce anxiety.
By far the best way to dial the sympathetic nervous system down is through controlled, rhythmic breathing or meditation.
The opposing force to the sympathetic nervous system is something called the parasympathetic nervous system. They work together like yin and yang, when one increases, the other decreases.
Although these systems normally function automatically, out of our control, there is a way to manually override it to get it to do what we want.
With controlled rhythmic breathing, we can manually override these systems to turn up the relaxing parasympathetic nervous system and subsequently turn down the anxiety-inducing sympathetic nervous system.
This is why things, like breathing into a paper bag or practicing deep breathing, can have such profound effects on reducing anxiety symptoms.
How To Lower Anxiety With The Breath
The lungs are one of the only organs in the body that are both automatic and manually controlled. When you don’t think about breathing it happens normally, and when you do think about it, you can change the breath rate.
This is the secret sauce behind controlling our nervous system.
All you need to do if you’re feeling anxious after taking modafinil (or anytime really) is spend a few minutes breathing deeply, and slowly.
Breath in as you count to 5— and out as you count to 10— repeat.
After about 60 seconds of doing this, you’ll notice your anxiety start to disappear.
This means that you’ve taken control over your nervous system! You’re starting to turn the dial down.
This practice doesn’t take any training to do effectively.
You don’t need to clear your mind (though this is a bonus of meditation). The only thing that’s required for this to work is that you maintain slow, rhythmic breathing.
The nervous system will then respond accordingly.
Repeat this whenever you start to feel anxious for 2 or 3 minutes and you should be able to avoid any issues with modafinil-induced anxiety effectively.
3. GABA & GABAergics
GABA is a neurotransmitter associated with the “rest and digest” part of the nervous system (parasympathetic nervous system).
It counteracts the main neuro-stimulating neurotransmitter, glutamate.
GABA becomes more active in the evenings as we wind down and get ready for bed. It’s also the target for sedative drugs like benzodiazepines.
When GABA increases, either due to natural GABA spikes or after taking supplemental GABA or GABA-boosting compounds, alpha brainwaves naturally start to increase .
This gives us a useful means of alleviating the effects of anxiety induced by modafinil.
Supplements With GABAergic Activity
There are some supplements that can increase GABA (including GABA itself) and are useful for reducing the effects of anxiety when taking modafinil.
- Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
- Magnolia (Magnolia officinalis)
- Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
- Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
4. Lower Your Dose of Modafinil
The final way of reducing anxiety after taking modafinil is to simply reduce the dose of modafinil the next time you take it.
Although this does nothing to fix current anxiety levels on modafinil, it can be used to prevent it from happening the next time.
Like any other drug, modafinil affects everyone differently. Some people respond to it very strongly, and can quickly become overstimulated.
Others are less sensitive to the drug and may find that higher doses are needed to produce the same effects.
Therefore, it’s important to listen to your own body and adjust the dose accordingly to get the best results out of it.
If you find that everytime you take modafinil you become easily agitated, anxious, and paranoid, you’re likely taking too much. Lower the dose the next time by half and see how you feel.
modafinil usually comes with a crease down the middle to split the dose in half easily. Pill splitters are also available to make this even easier.
Modafinil can be an excellent tool to boost your productivity and work performance.
Students use it to cram for exams or finish tough projects.
Business executives use it to manage heavy workloads.
Creatives use it to boost creativity.
Unfortunately, the stimulating nature of modafinil means that it can produce anxiety more easily than other medications.
Although the symptoms of anxiety can actually hurt your productivity, it doesn’t need to be this way. Supplements like L-Theanine, GABA, and GABAergic supplements can help counteract anxiety and make your modafinil more effective.
On top of this, the number one method of lowering anxiety when taking modafinil is to spend a few minutes performing slowed, rhythmic breathing whenever you start to feel anxiety coming on.
This usually only takes about 2 or 3 minutes of breathing to completely inhibit these anxious thoughts, at which point you can go back to churning out work at breakneck speeds.
If all else fails, try reducing the dose of modafinil you take.
With all this in mind, you can avoid the adverse effects of anxiety while taking modafinil.
- Michael, A. J., Krishnaswamy, S., & Mohamed, J. (2005). An open-label study of the use of EEG biofeedback using beta training to reduce anxiety for patients with cardiac events. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 1(4), 357.
- Juneja, L. R., Chu, D. C., Okubo, T., Nagato, Y., & Yokogoshi, H. (1999). L-theanine—a unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 10(6-7), 199-204.
- Abdou, A. M., Higashiguchi, S., Horie, K., Kim, M., Hatta, H., & Yokogoshi, H. (2006). Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of γ‐Aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans. Biofactors, 26(3), 201-208.