Increasingly over the past years, students across the United States have abused Adderall as a study drug, and as a party drug; it's taken during finals week, and snorted during parties. News outlets, doctors, and parents have commented on its prevalence, proposed measures to eradicate its misuse, and warned of its side effects. Yet, it's well known that students continue to sell it, buy it, and take it when they aren't prescribed it.
Less talked about is the growing popularity of its relatives: Vyvanse, Concerta, Ritalin, and Modafinil. Though not all chemically related, each can produce similar desired effects: periods of increased attention and wakefulness. As a college student, what has struck me is not the availability of Vyvanse, the Concerta, nor the Ritalin (though their presence is notable) but rather, the availability of Modafinil. Better known in the United States as its brand name -- Provigil.
Though most commonly prescribed for cases of sleep disorder, or Narcolepsy, it has also been used by armed forces across the world as an alternative means of staying awake during long missions. Many people may have seen the 2011 film, Limitless -- starring Bradley Cooper in which his character takes a new drug that allows him to learn faster, recall everything he's ever read or seen, and solve complex equations. It's said that the movie was based on the effects of taking Provigil.
Watch the trailer for Limitless below.
Although exaggerated for Hollywood, it's clear why students might be tempted to take a pill that might lend mental clarity and energized focus. I wondered, though ... how are people getting their hands on it? Being that most Adderall and Ritalin dealers have prescriptions from doctors that they either sell part of (while taking the rest) or sell all of (while not taking any at all), it might follow that there were a new crop of students on campus prescribed Provigil. But I suspected otherwise, and soon heard that Provigil was easy to get without a prescription -- just order it off the Internet!
And, in fact, upon googling Modafinil the first article that came up was entitled "How to buy Modafinil (Provigil)." It was posted on Dave Asprey's blog The Bulletproof Executive in which he offers "biohacks" -- or tips on how to improve your diet, health, and life. While Dave recommends a prescription for Provigil and discourages high school and college students from using it, he does offer links to websites on which you can purchase it without a doctors note.
So, after clicking just three links, I was looking at a webpage offering to sell me thirty 100mg tabs of Provigil for $129.99. Both students on campus, and some online purveyors say its part of the "grey market" -- not the black market. Students say that it's a generic version of the drug that, if shipped in a small quantity, is legal to have sent into the United States, usually, from India. Some think of it more as a supplement, than a prescription drug. Many, have still only heard of it in passing, or not at all.
Speculation and claims aside, it's a growing trend on my campus, and on at least a few on the East Coast -- even among Wall Street executives. It's easy to get your hands on, and unclear what the consequences for doing so, are. I'll be interested to see whether Provigil the subject of debate and regulation in the coming years.
Follow Eliza Sankar-Gorton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lizacsg