Buying modafinil (Provigil) online? What's the deal?
September 28, 2014 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Is it totally crazy to buy modafinil (Provigil) over the internet without a prescription, and how would I even do it? Please educate me about the legal, practical, and financial considerations of doing this. I'm in the USA.

I've heard that it is possible to purchase modafinil online from an overseas pharmacy (I am in the US) without being required to show a prescription. Has anyone here done this? Is this even doable, and if so, how complicated is it? Is it legal, and if not would I be likely to get into trouble if I attempted to do this? Would the medication even arrive (and be the right medication) or would I probably get ripped off in some way? How expensive is it?

I'm mostly asking this out of curiosity; I've always thought that modafinil was sort of an interesting drug and wondered what it was actually like, but if I ever decide that I might want to take it I'll talk to my doctor first. I have no immediate plans to actually go out an acquire some, I've just been wondering how the whole online-ordering process works and what its legal status is, since it's not something I'd heard much about before.

If you have first-hand experiences with this (or if you have any solid information on the subject) please share. Very grateful for your input.
posted by Cashmere Sock Handjob to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about the safety or ease of this doing this, but it is unquestionably, unambiguously illegal. You could definitely get in trouble for it, especially if it turns out to be not what it is labeled and you need medical attention because of it.
posted by brainmouse at 1:45 PM on September 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

List of recommended suppliers. Sunmodalert is particularly popular; they sell Modafinil under their Modalert brand. If you add something to your cart there and check out, you'll see that they simply do not ask about your prescription. All you have to do is give your shipping address and pay. The sites look very sketchy but a lot of people in the US use them.

You're unlikely to get into trouble. You can see the prices on the vendors' sites.

Note: I do not do this myself.
posted by michaelh at 1:54 PM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Wikipedia says Adrafinil is not regulated in the US, which means it's not illegal to buy. It's related to modafinil and should act similarly.

(I'm not an expert so do your own research, but maybe worth looking into?)
posted by BungaDunga at 1:57 PM on September 28, 2014

I believe this is illegal.

And / but, Gwern has done a tremendous amount of research on this.
posted by grobstein at 2:28 PM on September 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

It looks like in the United States, modafinil is a schedule IV drug (second lowest category - prescription required, mild potential for abuse). I'm slightly surprised, as there doesn't appear to be any addictive potential. However, schedule IV seems to be where most of the other psychiatric drugs end up, so perhaps it was just habit for the FDA.

I struggle to remember where my own knowledge on nootropics comes from, I'm fairly confident it was one of those things I read about online that wasn't covered at any point in my medical education. Lifestyle / performance enhancing drugs without much in the way of debilitating side effects (unlike say steroids, amphetamines, testosterone, etc.) seems like they would sell like hotcakes for knowledge workers in the Neu Economy but for some reason nootropics don't seem to get much use.

Buying modafinil online doesn't seem smart for a variety of reasons, but aside from the possibility of racking up a few felony charges, using your insurance would likely take a big cut out of the cost. Modafinil can be quite expensive. I had one patient that bought theirs from a Costco in Mexico for a much more reasonable amount of money, but that was quite a while ago.

I think that most physicians are unfamiliar with the drug, and moreover I'm not sure it would be easy to locate a pharmacy that carries it. However, once you obtain a prescription you can mail order it easily enough.

But it doesn't look like there's much potential for adverse/side effects unless you're currently taking other prescriptions (birth control, warfarin). I remember that the extremely rare, but documented risk of DRESS / Steven Johnson Syndrome was what kept me from investigating it further, but plenty of fighter pilots in the armed forces take it every day without any adverse effects.

And here's to grobstein, that link is an absolutely fascinating resource. I wish my pharmacy textbooks had been a quarter as exhaustive.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 3:15 PM on September 28, 2014

I have been prescribed Provigil in the past for narcolepsy caused by my sever sleep apnea. To me it has the same effect on me and feels exactly like dexedrine. I never felt the I got any of the cognitive enhancement effects that some people do, I just felt like my eyelids were propped open with toothpicks. It was hyper expensive a couple of years ago when I took it ($3000 for a month's supply) and my doctor had to jump through lots of hoops to get it for me. My doctor told me that there is now a generic available in the US but it's still expensive.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 4:03 PM on September 28, 2014

Wikipedia says Adrafinil is not regulated in the US, which means it's not illegal to buy. It's related to modafinil and should act similarly.

I am not an expert on drug law by any stretch of the imagination. That said, I don't think a judge would consider "But, but . . . Wikipedia said it was OK!" a valid argument for dismissing charges. (That is, should your actions be illegal.)

Given the possible legal consequences involved, shoot for a more reliable source than Wikipedia or well-meaning internet strangers. Like a lawyer maybe. Hell, even a pharmacist would be in a better position to tell you what's kosher than we would.
posted by the hot hot side of randy at 4:12 PM on September 28, 2014

One thing to be aware of is that, in many U.S. states, possession of even a single pill of a schedule IV controlled substance without a prescription is a felony, not a misdemeanor.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 5:01 PM on September 28, 2014

As others have said, it is a Schedule IV controlled substance. You could go to prison. It is, presumably, unlikely that you'd be caught and prosecuted, but it's a very real risk.

Adrafinil is apparently not regulated as a controlled substance, but my understanding is that it has been known to cause liver failure. Various people on the internet have discussed the research on this, which you should take with appropriate grains of salt.

If you're truly in the just curious stage, you could potentially go overseas (to a country with lax controls on such things), buy some, and take it during your trip.
posted by zachlipton at 5:10 PM on September 28, 2014

You could definitely get in trouble for it, especially if it turns out to be not what it is labeled and you need medical attention because of it.
Um, medical professionals generally push back pretty hard on also being deputized into law enforcement, precisely because someone might die because they took something they shouldn't have and didn't get medical help because they are afraid of being busted. So, please, don't undo their good work with unsupported rumors.
posted by Good Brain at 5:16 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

You could definitely get in trouble for it, especially if it turns out to be not what it is labeled and you need medical attention because of it.

AFAIK, no one in the United States has been prosecuted in recent history for buying less than a 3 month supply of prescription drugs for personal use. I'm totally open to be proven wrong on this.
posted by the jam at 5:31 PM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Back when I was a journalist I did a piece on Internet pharmacies. Had lots of fun buying Viagra online, etc., for the story. At the time, which was years ago, a federal agent in Texas warned against buying drugs online because counterfeit drugs were a huge problem. Ordering X did not mean you would get X, you know?

I know zero about the drug in question and less about any sources that sell it. Merely pointing out that counterfeit drugs exist and sometimes contain toxic ingredients.
posted by Bella Donna at 6:01 PM on September 28, 2014

I can share!

As far as I'm aware, it's legal to order it online here in the UK, although you can't get it over the counter without a prescription. I use it situationally to help with symptoms of delayed-phase sleep, ADD and depression. I order a cheap generic, about 50-60 at a time, which is a few month's supply; I've found the service and product reliable and I've never had any issues with postage/customs. I think the price is a bit over £1/pill, so maybe $2. However, none of the shops I know of will send modafinil to the US.

I typically take 100mg on waking (first alarm), which usually has me pretty awake by the time the second (third, fourth..) alarms do their thing. Then I take 100mg (second half of a 200mg pill) around 12. This ensures the effects ramp up through the afternoon and early evening but subside by around 11pm.

So what's it like? The short answer is that it's like a really strong, long-lasting cup of coffee without (to me) the jitters or addiction. If I'm sleep-deprived, (which is often) then it makes me feel not sleep-deprived, dispelling the 'brain fog', lethargy and fuzzy thinking that's otherwise pretty pervasive to me, especially at work. It's a simple, but I find very reliable and useful effect.

It also works pretty well against low mood and depression. If I take it, I'm more likely to fall into a cheerful, bright, open sort of mood. However, it's by no means a magic pill that will make that happen automatically - it just makes it easier for me to achieve a good mood than usual.

With productivity, it's sort of a mixed bag. Once I start something, modafinil makes it easy to really lean into it and raise your head a few hours later with a lot of it done. However, that's only useful if I keep myself on-track with a To-Do list and/or daily schedule, and a generally productive mindset. If I'm being avoidant or just fall prey to my bad habits, and start to procrastinate, especially with something 'seemingly productive' like wikidiving or creative reverie, then that can capture me just as easily. But as long as I keep a handle on my goals for the day then it is useful.

I haven't found it addictive, and I usually just drift on and off it for a week or two at a time. I've never noticed any ill-effects or cravings, other than a more keen dislike for the brainfog when it rolls back in. But most of the time, even when I have plenty on-hand, I don't feel especially compelled to take it.

I do find a few mild side-effects. If I take it any time after about 1-2pm, then it makes it hard to sleep until it wears off. When under the effect, I do feel a slightly 'wired' or taut feeling, somewhat like coffee, but milder and less 'jittery'. Sometimes, especially around the late afternoon, I find my anxiety is slightly higher, but not in any particularly distressing way. Finally, I sometimes experience a slight feeling of 'tightness' in my lower abdomen, not pain exactly but more like a very mild stitch. Hard to say if this is caused by the modafinil or just makes me more likely to notice it -- FWIW I've heard this is quite common.

So yeah... that's about my experience with it!
posted by Drexen at 6:16 PM on September 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

Be careful with this. I stopped buying modafinil online after I received counterfeit pills from a pharmacy that had sent real ones previously. The packaging was indistinguishable and the pills themselves were extremely similar to the real ones. I believe the pills themselves were some sort of generic amphetamine.

I think the core problem is that there's a lot of money in counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and the sorts of pharmacies that will sell illegally into the US aren't using the most reliable suppliers.
posted by grudgebgon at 6:36 PM on September 28, 2014

Unfortunately, the online pharmacy I bought mine from a couple years ago has since gone out of business.

IIRC, India is supposed to have pretty good pharmaceutical quality control compared to many other countries supplying online pharmacy drugs.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:07 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, the shop I use is based in Hong Kong, and it seems like most of the generics are from Indian companies. As I mentioned, these have always been reliable (so far!).
posted by Drexen at 2:03 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

First, what Drexen said about effects, though I have never had any abdominal discomfort.

Beyond that, while I haven't ordered any myself, I have obviously known a number of people who have, and I have the impression that it's really unlikely that you'd get in any kind of trouble. I did read up on it, because I was considering it before I went really insanely broke, and no one ever reported any kind of problem. I remember there being a subreddit about it which was pretty informative.

It's a wakefulness-enhancer, and, yes, can also enhance concentration if you don't allow yourself to be too distracted. It's better than caffeine or Ritalin for me, because it's less jittery and more, well, wakefulness-enhancing. It's good stuff, and if I could get a prescription I definitely would. But I've always been low-energy and yet anxious, and narcolepsy medicine has always been my Happy Place, and I do fall asleep at rather improbable times occasionally, so ymm, of course, v.
posted by Because at 8:27 PM on September 29, 2014

Oh, one more thing: my ex ordered some Modafinil and some Adrafinil, and they affected the two of us very differently. Adrafinil did nothing at all for me, whereas Modafinil was too much for him and made him feel jittery and uncreative, but he liked the Adrafinil. So despite the latter being a metabolite of the former, and the two therefore seeming entirely analogous, they're not.
posted by Because at 8:29 PM on September 29, 2014

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