A face paced environment has overloaded students and professionals with work that can't be kept on top of by regular means, but are pills the answer to the problem? Matthew Colfer investigates...
Wonder drugs that promise to promote concentration and cognitive performance have been tempting students and workers for some time now. But the new kid on the block, Modafinil, has yet to take hold in Irish universities in the same way that it has in the UK.
 
Modafinil is a eugeroic drug which promotes wakefulness and is used to treat narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness which can be caused by sleep apnea.
 
Better known by its brand names Modavigil, Provigil and Alertec, the drug is hard to obtain from a GP in Ireland as it is only used to treat narcolepsy here. However, Modafinil is often sourced online by people who use the drug to aide them in their academic studies or in work.
 
Campus.ie reached out to some Irish users of the drug to see why they use the so-called smart drug.
 
Sean is in his early-forties and works as a newsagent, uses it to overcome the problems associated with shift-work.
 
“When I have insomnia after a late shift and am doing an early shift next day and get little sleep, I'll take some Modafinil when I get up next morning.  It allows me to feel wide awake and perform my duties with the clarity and focus I would have after a full night’s sleep, even though I might have only had two or three hours of sleep,” said Sean. 
 
“It also means I won't feel desperate for a nap that day which before Modafinil meant a two or three hour nap after work would mean the knock on effect of more insomnia that night too.  Modafinil lets me break that cycle.  I am not a fan of caffeine and large doses of it give me the jitters and exacerbate my mild anxiety issues.”
 
Similarly, James, an IT professional in his mid-twenties uses Armodafinil to keep him alert at work. Armodafinil is very similar to Modafinil in how it works and its uses, but has a slightly different molecular makeup.  
 
“The main reason I take Armodafinil is to make working less tiring and more enjoyable, but I also use it to reduce certain neurological symptoms and to ease the management of personal problems,” he said.
 
“Not taking Armodafinil for more than a week slowly makes these problems less manageable."
 
According to James, “It makes me think more clearly and makes my personality stronger.  It gives me the ability to look at things in a different way, but doesn't make me do anything I normally wouldn't do.  It also improves my memory, all new memories I create are sharper and more intense. In other words I can get the best out of myself on Armodafinil.
 
“The first two or three times I took Armodafinil were quite intense, my body always strongly reacts to new medication causing the side effects to be worst at first. I take at least three tablets a week in order to enjoy its positive effects.  Not taking it for a while (for example two to six weeks) doesn't make the first dose afterwards more intense for me,” he added.
 
Both Sean and James revealed that they ordered the drugs online.
 
“I bought it on a website that has many positive reviews online, they sell very good quality Armodafinil and provide refunds in case of shipment issues,” James said and added that a Dark Web browser such as Tor is not necessary to access the site.
 
Sean said he buys 40 200mg Sun Pharma Modalert for €80 on the Indian based website Modafinilcat then pays an additional €40 to ship the tablets from the UK to Ireland.  On the website James purchases Armodafinil from he said he gets 200 150mg tablets for $300 (€270) because it is cheaper than buying smaller quantities more frequently.  James added the tablets arrive through his letterbox in an envelope.
 
When it comes to taking the drug the two men vary hugely in the dosage and frequency with which they take their respective tablets.
 
“I usually take at least 150mg (one tablet) two or three times a week.  The maximum I take is 300mg (second tablet after 5 hours) a day for [six days or a] week,” said James. 
 
“I found that 50mg (1/4 of a Tablet) was an effective dose for me for the purpose I generally use it for so those 40 tablets are effectively 160 doses for me and I only take it one or two times a week if even that, so the 40 tablets I ordered are effectively a year or two supply,” Sean said.
 
The names of the individuals in this article have been changed to protect their identities.  If you have been affected by any issues in this article please contact the HSE Drugs and Alcohol Helpline on 1800 459 459 or visit their website at http://www.drugs.ie/ or visit http://www.aware.ie/.