What is your opinion on Provigil/modafinil?


I'm sure many of you are familiar with sacrificing health for your start-up, but I'm curious as to your opinion on on using stimulants, specifically Provigil (modafinil), to enhance your performance during the days?

Provigil has been in the media for quite a few years and, aside from very rare but very deadly allergic reaction potential, there are no real side-effects to the drug. However, the long term safety has not been determined (only on market for ~10 years).

Now, Provigil makes a big difference in the day-to-day: not only will it help those late nite w/ early meeting problems, but it will take those ordinary days and turn them into extraordinary days by quashing any notion of sleepiness. Obviously, it's no replacement for sleep (you feel tired on it... just not sleepy), but it can come in handy once or twice a week.

Have you considered Provigil? How far are you willing to go?

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asked Oct 10 '09 at 15:10
Alex Papadimoulis
5,901 points

7 Answers


I'd be really worried about the long-term safety. Sleep is important for a bunch of reasons formation of memories; sleep loss might contribute to Alzheimers ; nobody really knows what else).

Also, my understanding is that these drugs might help you to think for longer, but they won't help (might even hinder) you from thinking better. The latter is probably more important.

answered Oct 10 '09 at 17:38
Neil Davidson
1,839 points


To keep it on the topic of startups -- running a startup is more like a marathon than a sprint. If you (a) think you need extraordinary measures such as stimulants, or (b) that you're looking for short-term ways to get you through things, you're doing it all wrong. Don't look for drugs, look for serious flaws in your organization, your partners, your resources, or the scope of your initial startup work, something is really wrong. Do you really need money or partners who complement your skill set?

answered Oct 23 '09 at 07:27
361 points


I have some provigil in the drawer next to me but have yet to take any: for me, naturally hacking brain chemistry with endorphins and sleep have proven to be much more important to creative productivity than raw horsepower.

My ideal day: 3 - 4 hours of concentrated effort in the morning, followed by short, intense interval training (e.g. crossfit.com), followed by another 5 - 6 hours of concentrated effort with a couple of hours of down time in the evening and a good night's sleep.

Invariably, I find that both in the morning after waking up and in the afternoon after the workout, there are unexpected realizations, connections, conclusions, insights.

I highly recommend a) endorphins and b) being more attuned to your own body (energy levels, concentration, attention span) over pharmaceuticals.

Exercise generates new neurons (1), generates anti-depressant hormones, and produces endorphins, which alleviate pain, induce euphoria, decrease appetite, improve cognitive functioning, and attach to the same receptors as opiates.

What's not to like about that? :-)

(1) http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro05/web2/mmcgovern.html

answered Oct 22 '09 at 07:34
Patrick Smith
111 points


You're better off with a cup of walnuts and a good night sleep. As with @Neil Davidson's answer, Think about the Quality of your thinking time versus the pure Quantity.

We are not just talking about a cup of coffee to start your day or get you through a slow afternoon. The pharmaceuticals you are describing can be habit forming like coffee, but they're in a different ball game all together.

answered Oct 22 '09 at 04:23
Rob Allen
631 points
  • Wallnuts? Can you please give more information? What is the benefit of wallnuts for mental stamina? Thanks. – Gabriel 12 years ago


I think drugs like Provigil are the easy way out. And that always involves sacrificing something else, usually your health. I'm always extra suspicious when somebody is offering a drug to "fix" or "improve" me.

Right now I am working on improving my performance through changing my lifestyle. I switched to a healthy diet (went vegan, and I'm even considering raw foodism). I also started doing some exercise in the mornings. Physical activity has given me tremendous boosts in energy during the entire day. Note that I don't even do coffee anymore -- 20 push-ups do a much better job.

answered Oct 22 '09 at 17:47
Hristo Deshev
141 points


I was perscribe Provigil about five years ago. I am resistant to anti-depressants and have major depressionl.The only thing left for me to do is have ECT, but four years ago at age 56 I had a stroke, respiratory failure, and went into a coma. My husband and my daughter watched as a priest gave me last rites. But, I got a miracle. I am all right.

But then the depression started again and was worse. I had to stop working as a teacher, a job I loved.

Finally, my psych. perscribe Provigil. It has made a tremendous change in my life. When I have a really bad spell, nothing works. But "normal" day are so hard and Provigil helps. Maybe it is risky, but I have a choice of never getting out of bed, having ECT which is risky because of my medical condition, or taking Provigil and only being sick one week a month.

People without Major Depression cannot understand how it feels. There is a website where people desribe their depression if anyone is interested: http//www.wingsofmadness.com/what-does depression-feel-like-446/comment446/
I think you could find it.

I have tried all or many of the remedies suggested over the years. Exercise makes me feel better until I am struke down again.

I am not yet willing to go to ECT, but even that may come.

answered Mar 5 '12 at 02:51
1 point
  • Not quite on point. – Karlson 11 years ago


Funny you should ask, as just today I was reading a pretty interesting article on modafinil and related meds. Fascinating.

Whatever you do: consult your physician first. (Yes, you need a prescription, but I mean: consult a physican who knows you.) Some things aren't worth sacrificing, even for your dream.

answered Oct 11 '09 at 09:34
784 points

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