The off-prescription use of modafinil: An online survey of perceived risks and benefits

PLoS One. 2020 Feb 5;15(2):e0227818. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0227818. eCollection 2020.

Abstract

Cognitive enhancing drugs are claimed to improve cognitive functions such as learning and attention. However, little is known presently about the characteristics of off-prescription cognitive enhancing drug users or their perceived everyday experience with these drugs. As modafinil is the most commonly used off-prescription cognitive enhancing drug, the current study aimed to provide a detailed profile of modafinil users and their experiences and perceptions of this drug. To this end, an online survey, targeting cognitive enhancing drug users and students, was advertised on forum sites. Information was obtained regarding demographic data, illicit drug use, psychiatric diagnosis and experience of modafinil. Of the 404 respondents, 219 reported taking modafinil. Of these the majority were male, American or British, university-educated and currently employed, with a mean age of 27. Overall, modafinil was perceived by users as being safe. Modafinil users reported higher levels of illicit drug use and psychiatric diagnosis than would be expected from population-based data. More frequent reported modafinil use was associated with higher numbers of perceived benefits whilst reported frequency of use was not associated with the number of perceived risks. There was also a tentative link between the reported use of modafinil and the reported presence of psychiatric disorders, largely depression and anxiety. Respondents who had reported a psychiatric diagnosis declared higher subjective benefits of modafinil. This may suggest further beneficial effects of modafinil or it may reflect insufficient medical treatment for psychiatric disorders in some people. Overall, the findings of the current study should be beneficial in informing clinicians and legislative bodies about the modafinil user profile and how modafinil is perceived.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Modafinil / adverse effects*
  • Motivation
  • Prescription Drug Misuse / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Modafinil

Grant support

R.D. Teodorini received a fee-waiver studentship for her doctoral studies from the Centre for Addictive Behaviours Research, London South Bank University. No other funding was received. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of this manuscript.