There are so many reasons why people are now flocking to this “smart drug” – and students using it to study for their exams is one of the main ones.
But before we get in to how Modafinil may be able to help you “ace your next test”, let’s first discuss some of its background info.
It was in the early 1990s when we first heard about modafinil. It came from the testimonies of American soldiers in the Persian Gulf War. In the battalions, it was very popular. The theoretical benefits for combat and the supposed absence of side effects made it a routine among the Yankee fighters.
It was popular then because of a whole variety of reasons.
Modafinil was not coming to them from the black market.
By then, it was already being marketed as a drug indicated for people suffering from narcolepsy, the pathology that provokes in its sufferers an irrepressible desire to sleep. To prevent this, it was prescribed in pill form.
A decade after the above-mentioned armed conflict took place, the consumption of Provigil – a drug containing the substance in question – was already widespread among the best and most prestigious universities in the United States. Shortly thereafter, it landed in the pockets of aggressive private company executives. It did so with the three labels that have made it more fashionable than ever these days: “cognitive enhancer”, “safe smart drug” and narcotic drug “without adverse side effects”.
Obviously, side effects are a big deal to most people.
This last point is the most controversial of all: what side effects could the regular consumption of a drug indicated for narcoleptics have on people who do not suffer from this pathology that are not detectable in the short term? After analyzing the results of more than twenty studies, researchers from Oxford and Harvard universities concluded that there is only “low risk”.
What Experts Say About Modafinil
According to this report, it is certified that the consumption of modafinil increases attention and enhances fluid intelligence, i.e. the speed of processing and the ability to adapt to new situations. Hence, both students and executives have decided to give a chance to a principle that promises, under normal conditions and subject to no contraindications, to help in the decision and resolution of eventualities quickly.
Be aware that not everyone agrees that this medicine is great for test-taking.
Business Insider recently published an article about the downsides of Modafinil for studying(see the article here: ‘Study Drug’ Modafinil Actually Makes Students Worse At Answering Questions).
The European College of Neuropsychopharmacology believes that we are faced with “the first real example of a smart drug, which generates a real ethical debate that must be faced”, focusing on the new scenario that was opening up after its massive consumption: “With any method used to improve cognition, moral considerations must always be taken into account”.
More recently, the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom wanted to analyze the consequences of its consumption through a cognitive study in which several students from this center took part.
Things that they compared both before and after the people had consumed modafinil were visual attention, spatial memory, executive functions and episodic memory.
Benjamin Zand, one of these volunteers, confirmed after the first dose that he felt “more awake and less tired” than usual and also “less disposed to frustration”. However, after a second dose he felt “more distracted” and paid “inordinate attention to the wrong things” that distracted him from his study. Things went further and Zand claimed to have felt a headache, lack of appetite or wakefulness. After the third and last dose, these passages were repeated after a day in which, on the positive side, he said, he did not stop working without feeling tired.
The attending physician discovered that his liver had reacted by trying to eliminate the modafinil from his body, causing the physical reactions indicated in his report. Each body, the doctors concluded, reacts differently to the same impact.
Mixed Experiences With Modafinil
The experience of another student, Damián Enrico, who studied Systems Engineering at the National Technological University of Argentina, was quite different. Finding it difficult to concentrate for the time needed to successfully pass university exams, he resorted, among other substances, to what he calls the intelligence pill: “I took modafinil, Piracetam, Aniracetam and Colina, all together. That allowed me to study a lot without getting tired”. In her case, there were no side effects.
Another Argentinean student, in this case a medical student, Virginia, went through several episodes like those described by Benjamin Zand until a classmate advised her on how to administer the use of this drug. Suddenly, all the side effects disappeared. He has done well, but he knows that, as with anything, abuse has its risks.
In contrast to the first studies cited in this article, the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology published that the benefits of modafinil are not too consistent to officially label it as a mental enhancer. The Catholic University of Chile also joined in, arguing “insufficient evidence of its efficacy”.
Finally, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has been much more ominous, drawing up a list of possible side effects which include breathing problems; inflammation of the face, mouth and throat; rashes; fever; dizziness; headache; stomach problems and loss of appetite. In addition, it can lead to other psychological problems such as mood swings, feelings of uneasiness, aggressiveness, confusion and even the development of suicidal ideas.
The counterpoint to these two versions regarding the efficacy of modafinil is provided by John Harris, director of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Ethics at the University of Manchester, who, without denying its capacity as a cognitive enhancer, does not see anything in this substance that coffee or physical exercise cannot provide: “If you were not a genius before, you are not going to be one after taking a pill. The drug is not capable of turning anyone into Einstein overnight”.
Why Students Are Studying For Exams With Modafinil
Before you run out and start using Modafinil yourself, keep in mind that students have had mixed experiences with smart drugs in general.
There are many exams that are hard to pass, whether it be a legal bar exam, a dietician certification, or any other type of vocational certification.
But beyond that – many students simply want a “study aid” that boost their brain when taking everyday tests in school.
The common college exams that occur at the end of each semester are just an example of something that Modafinil is commonly used for by students.
The increased focus and mental clarity that some people feel gives them the mental endurance they need to power through their workload.
This is true not only when “preparing” for the exam – but also when they are actually taking the test itself.