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Modafinil Alternatives

This entry was posted in Antidepressant on by .
Medically Reviewed

Last Updated on July 20, 2021 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

How wonderful if medical professionals had the expertise and time to provide modafinil alternatives to avoid side effects or other undesirable liabilities of prescription medications.

A physician may have prescribed modafinil ( brand name Provigil ) without discussing natural solutions besides drugs to address narcolepsy or other concerns. Alternative to Meds Center specializes in effective solutions that promote daytime wakefulness without potentially toxic side effects.

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Alternatives to Modafinil — Weighing the Benefit to Risk Ratios

modafinil alternativesModafinil is a stimulant-type drug used to promote wakefulness especially when a person has been unable to get sufficient sleep. For instance, airline pilots might take it to stay alert while flying. For occasional use, such professionals might consider this a relatively safe and inconsequential solution.

Some people use modafinil as a so-called “smart drug” that has been popularized for college kids pulling an all-nighter before tests. Short term, like any stimulant, the drug can result in heightened mental clarity. But like any dopaminergic (stimulating) drug, the effects wear off until the next dose. Long-term or regular use causes some concern. Students interviewed after taking it regularly reported the drug eventually left them feeling as if they were living in a sort of twilight zone, neither fully awake nor fully asleep. The drug had altered their sleep patterns significantly. These lingering effects had counterproductive outcomes overall. As a long-term solution for getting better grades on little to no sleep, this drug ranks a solid F.1

Alternatives to Modafinil include:

  • holistic modafinil alternativesStudents:  Find and practice good study habits, so exam preparation is part of the daily routine, rather than something unexpected requiring artificial wakefulness for an all-night cramming session. Be prepared with routine attentiveness to studies. Tutoring or improved note-taking.
  • Insomnia:  Practice good sleep habits. When possible, keep to a regular sleep/wake schedule. Black-out curtains, removing electronics from the bedroom, eye mask, earplugs, white noise, or soft music are some examples.
  • Supplements that can induce restfulness such as melatonin, the B vitamins ( taken early in the day, not before bed ), herbal teas such as chamomile or peppermint, 5HTP, valerian extract.*
  • Avoid stimulants, alcohol, caffeine drinks, especially right before retiring.
  • CBT or other personal counseling to address sources of stress and rumination.

*Leathwood et al’s 1982 study showed the efficacy of valerian extract for sleep induction.

Looking for modafinil alternatives does not have to mean searching for some other type of drug. In general, the better alternative to wakefulness drugs would look more like practicing better sleep hygiene, improved sleeping conditions, correcting diet, and other non-drug-based ways to improve the quality of one’s sleep. These relatively simple alternatives to modafinil may help the majority of those using this drug as a stop-gap for missed sleep, or in unusual circumstances such as wanting to stay awake all night to study before an important exam.

Modafinil and Narcolepsy

Those who suffer from narcolepsy or other medical conditions would require a full medical assessment in order to set about discovering and correcting the underlying cause(s) of the condition. But the goal would remain the same, to vanquish symptoms but without harsh drugs if at all possible. The lack of a certain brain chemical called hypocretin is thought to be what causes some cases of narcolepsy.5

Someone suffering from narcolepsy is in dire need of actually correcting the problem as falling asleep at unexpected times during normal waking hours can be a risk to self and others, and can be a source of anxiety due to the unpredictable nature of the condition.

Modafinil Tolerance — Dependence

Any type of drug carries the risk of developing tolerance to the drug. Tolerance to a drug means it doesn’t create the desired effects as it once did, and so the tendency is to use more or more often to get the desired effects.4

Drug dependence means that when you stop using a drug, withdrawals occur and you feel like you need to take more of it to feel normal.4 Dependence and tolerance often occur after repeated regular use of a drug. When the body and brain become accustomed to the drug in the system, the body/brain will adjust its chemistry to compensate. Developed dependence dilutes the effects of the drug so that one has to either increase the frequency or increase the dose to get the same effects. Also, because the drug is a stimulant, trying to sleep a normal 8 hours may become a bit of a logistics nightmare after long-term or regular use. The drug, as any stimulant can, disrupts normal sleep patterns.

It can take some serious strategizing and changing many things to return to normal. But if “normal” was feeling sleepy all the time, or at sporadic times, that is really the crux of the problem. One would benefit from resolving the underlying causes of that unwanted symptom if possible. That is our focus at Alternative to Meds Center.

Modafinil Side Effects

modafinil side effectsBesides developing tolerance, another common modafinil side effect is tachycardia, or racing heartbeat when the body is at rest. Consider the anxiety of trying to have a normal conversation with someone when your heart (out of the blue, not if you are falling in love) begins to nearly audibly pound like it’s going to explode out of your chest. Even worse, think of that happening when you are trying to fall asleep! Stimulant drugs and their after-effects can feel quite similar to the dreaded panic attack, and they can happen at the least opportune time.

There are other (thankfully) rare side effects that can also throw a complete wrench into things. For example, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a drug-induced severe rash/fever/skin reaction that can be life-threatening and may require treatment in an ICU at the hospital.2 Modafinil can cause other rare reactions as well, such as peeling skin, sores, hives, eruptions that cover the whole body, including genitals, etc. Rather than risk developing dependence and taking a chance on other potentially harmful or off-putting side effects, one may decide to seek out natural solutions to sleepiness, lack of energy, lack of focus, etc., that don’t carry such potential liabilities.

More Modafinil Alternatives Information at Alternative to Meds Center

natural modafinil solutions sedona azAlternative to Meds Center specializes in helping people to get to the root of their symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety, etc., and resolving them at the source. The fundamental nature of the programs we deliver is that they are non-drug-based, ( apart from tapering protocols when needed ) and center on testing to discover what can be improved using orthomolecular or other holistic ways of treating the problem.

We would like to speak more with you about the details of the programs we offer. Inpatient style, in our pristine facility, our clients are serviced by over 40 caring and expertly trained staff for your comfort and safety. Contact us today for information on the many modafinil alternatives we offer at the Center.

1. Cox, D, Is Modafinil safe in the long-term? The Guardian Online 2013 May 31 [cited 2020 Dec 16]

2. NHS, UK, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. National Health Services, UK publication online 2018 Oct 4 [cited 2020 Dec 16]

3. Thorne T, “Modafinil Tolerance | 7 Quick Tips to Avoid It” online from [cited 2020 Dec 16]

4. NIH authors “Tolerance, Dependence, Addiction: What’s the Difference?” Jan 12, 2017 [cited 2020 Dec 16]

5. NIH authors, “Narcolepsy Fact Sheet.” NIH Publication No. 17 -1637 [cited 2020 Dec 16]

Originally Published Mar 25, 2020 by Diane Ridaeus

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Modafinil Alternatives
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Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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