Smart Drugs Made Me Dumber

August 7, 2016

Why can’t an overworked, overstimulated, pharmaceutically-obsessed society just come up with the perfect chemical supplement to make us smarter, faster, and more engaged in today’s accelerated world? One without the self-destructive trade-offs like crashing hard, addiction, or eating your neighbor’s face?

Well, according to such cognitive boost energy junkies as stock marketeers, Silicon Valley wizards, and that CEO dude who advocates putting butter in your coffee to amplify caffeine’s effects, we have.

Modafinil, a well-documented object of lust for the life hacking set, is a nootropic (smart drug) regularly prescribed for narcolepsy or “shift work disorder” that has been hailed as delivering intense focus, enhancing memory, and even seeming to actually increasing intelligence. Much like, say, Adderall, but without the drag of being pharmaceutical grade meth. Never mind that both have been shown to exacerbate sociopathic tendencies—a small price to pay for (temporarily) being your best self, right? Besides, it’s supposed to be lonely at the top.

A few years ago Modafinil became available in a generic form, meaning that suddenly Cephalon, the pharmaceutical juggernaut behind it, was about to lose their corner on the market. So what did they do? They introduced Armodafinil, AKA the ironically brand named Nuvigil. Newer, better, faster, stronger, and longer lasting, just like you will be when you take it.

But is it really better? Do any of these things really work? Would choking down an oblong white horse pill really thrust me across the DMZ of normal people and smack into genius territory? There’s only one way to find out—obviously I was gonna have to take some.

I just turned 41, and, honestly, it hurts a little. 30 was fine, 40 just slipped by, but 41… You’re forced to acknowledge you’ve somehow slipped over to the backside of life. Stereotypes about getting older—losing your keys, forgetting things, assorted aches and pains, a disconnect with what the kids are into these days—stop being stereotypes and start revealing themselves as small, bitter truths.

Working, as I do, in an industry dominated by hyper-intelligent workaholic twenty-somethings makes these aging effects even more stark; there are times I’ll think the day’s winding down and be looking for a cozy place to nap while co-workers are just getting fired up. Luckily we live in an age where there’re all manner of handy supplementals to jump-start the increasingly shrinking gelatinous bag of neurons sloshing around inside our skulls, and I’m not shy about doubling down on recommended dosages if that’s what I need to get ‘er done.

But I also hate the inevitable spiral of despair and exhaustion that comes with mega-doses of external energy, and, as I get older, the consequences have become harder and harder to bear. Lately there are days when even the inside of my bones are tired, weighing me down as though filled with lead weights soaked in mononucleosis and apathy. Have you ever been so lethargic, texting is the physical equivalent of summiting Everest without oxygen? Welcome to my Wednesday.

Also, before we continue, it should be noted that neither The Daily Beast nor the author recommend dosing yourself with quasi-legal substances in the pursuit of performance or pleasure. I’m only doing so because A) journalism and B) how can these hipster smart drugs really be any worse than a few dozen Chicken McNuggets or gulping down enough THC to turn Maureen Dowd into the Mad Hatter? I’m a professional, after all.

Turns out that in today’s world it’s beyond easy to get your sweaty paws on a sample blister pack of Armodafinil pills. I didn’t even have to order them quasi-legally from a Canadian pill mill. Thus it was with a shrug, a smile, and a glass of cold-brew coffee to get it all going I tossed back 250 milligrams—the maximum recommended dosage—and set out to start a regular, but soon to be extraordinary, day.

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