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MODAFINIL – Dave Asprey on Adderall, Ritalin, and Provigil


Yeah. Let’s talk about your early
biohacking days and your relationship with modafinil. People ask you about
that all the time. You recently posted a great tweet about it where you just asked a bunch of blog questions. I just loved to hear your evolution
with it and now, the way you talked to people about it and the way you
explained, “Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don’t, and this is the choice that we have.” Can you talk to us a little bit “Well, yeah.” about, what it is, your relationship with it, I know, uh, on your LinkedIn profile you used to stick “Provigil” on there. It was almost an inside joke to the
people who knew about it. Well, in Silicon Valley, people have known about this for a while. Modafinil is, is the smart drug, the one, if you’ve seen Limitless, the movie, with Bradley Cooper, it, it was sort of patterned roughly off, off
modafinil and it, clearly that was a much bigger drug. But this is something where you take it and, you’re like, “Wow, I feel more like myself than I have in a long time.
And my ability to focus,” you feel limitless. And when I started taking this stuff, I was working at a startup that sold for about six hundred million dollars in value, and I was getting my MBA at Wharton, and, doing that, an
executive program that was the same number of hours as a full-time MBA
program. I was full on, balls to the wall. I wasn’t
succeeding in the classes and there’s something weird going on, because I’m quantitative and I pay attention. I’m like, “Hm.” I sit down to take a test, and the first
question on the test, I get a hundred. Second question I get-it’s a hundred percent. Second question, seventy percent. Third question, thirty percent. After that, zero. And, something’s happening here and it’s predictable linear decline in performance and it, and I feel helpless and I’m, I’m actually scared. “Am I going to graduate?” Because something is trashing my brain – I don’t know what the deal is here. So, I started – in fact, that was when I got my first brain scan with, with Daniel Amen. And… it wasn’t with Amen, it was with one of the people who trained with him for fifteen years. This guy was a psychiatrist,
and he took one look at me, “Oh, getting your MBA, working full-time, yeah, I know your type. You want Adderall.” Like, there are people who want Adderall for performance enhancement. Adderall’s prescription methamphetamine. So, he kind of dismissively looks at me and he said “Well, we’ll order the brain scan for you but, you know, I think, you know, that’s probably not right for you.” So, I come back, and he
looks at the report, and it’s two pages of bad results and all these red
splotches on my brain and he goes, direct quote, “Inside your brain is total chaos. I don’t know how you’re standing here in front of me. You have the best camouflage of anyone I’ve ever seen.” Okay, so my brain was not functioning very well. I was succeeding enough to graduate at Wharton, and I was at a startup that we sold for a lot of money, okay? It’s not like I wasn’t performing. I
was struggling greatly, and this is a really important point. Everyone listening to this, if we injected you with radioactive sugar and scanned your brains, there are areas for improvement. Everyone has them, almost without, without a doubt. There’s probably a few people with
perfect blood flow and perfect metabolic activity everywhere, and they’re probably the happiest, most successful people you know. But they’re very, very rare. So, we can all improve that way. I had a lot of room for improvement. So, one of the things, when he saw that, was like, “Good God. What, you know, what drugs do you want?” And we started out on Adderall. I took it for about a month and hated it. I, “What was it like? What’d it make you feel like?” Adderall made, it made me focus a little bit better. It made me angry, and it made it so I didn’t want anyone to touch me. Like, I just, I would take it and
I just want to go, like, sit in a room in the dark and just chill. It was really unpleasant for me. “And you call it prescription methamphetamine. Do people hate it when you say that? Do they disagree when you say that?” I don’t think you can disagree. On the label it said, “D methamphetamine salts,” like, it actually says it on the label. I, it is prescription methamphetamine. I
wasn’t saying that as a slam. That’s just the generic name provided for little blue pills that are also sold as Adderall. And, um, there’s Ritalin, which is not prescription meth, but what I had was actually prescription
meth. “Okay. Right. And this, yeah.” It wasn’t the Heisenberg level. It’s blue, though. Right. So you started with that,
and then? “And I said, you know, ‘There is research on this new drug called modafinil. I
really want to try modafinil. And he said, ‘All right. It’s off-label, but
we’ll give it a try.’ And I tried it, I’m like, ‘Holy crap.’ Things are effortless. Like, I can pay
attention again, like, I got my brain back. This is amazing. And I was already taking a handful of other smart drugs that are less effective but still very valuable,
stuff I still take today. This had brought my brain back online
from where I had been before, where I probably wouldn’t even be able to get into work. Like, I was zombified for a while. So I’m like alright, um, this stuff rocks. And I
took it just about every day, maybe I’d skip
weekends here and there, but the vast majority of the time, for eight years. And it helped my career, it helped me graduate from business
school… um, I actually felt a little bit guilty about it and there’s probably
people in my class who would remember, before a few of the tests, I would actually put the smart drugs I was taking on the desk in front of me and I’m like, “Guys, I’m not doping. If you know what I’m doing, and you have the ability to do it too, then it’s not doping. It’s not cheating.” And I still don’t believe it’s cheating any more than wearing a sweater on a cold day is cheating. It’s just technology that helps you do what you’re doing. So, I took the stuff, and it really, really helped my performance. It was amazing. Then I came out with Bulletproof
Coffee and the Bulletproof Diet principles, I put them online for a couple years
before I wrote the Bulletproof Diet book and there were a few critics who are
saying, “Everything you do comes from modafinil, because there’s a study that says it helps you lose weight.” I’m like, “You know what? This is highly unlikely.” And there were a few people who said I was hiding it from them, even though I’d been on national
news talking about it, which I always thought was one of the more bizarre criticisms
of Bulletproof. But – “It was in your profile for a long time.” Exactly. I was like, everyone else in the
Nightline piece was wearing paper bags over their heads because they wouldn’t show their face, and I’m like, “Yes. Yes. I actually take modafinil. I’m okay with
it. Like, it might help you too.” So I consider it to be a profoundly
effective drug for occasional use or for regular use if you need it. And it’s
changed many people’s lives and it’s much safer than Adderall and much safer than Tylenol but it does have some potential risks. They’re small, though, compared to many of the drugs we take. So, I looked at the criticism. I’m like, “Okay. Maybe this is
valid criticism. Let’s do the experiment.” So I went off of modafinil. And I did it
while I was drinking Bulletproof Coffee, while I was eating the Bulletproof Diet,
while I was avoiding the things that make me weak, and when I did that, I measured,
using a university grade cognitive executive function kind of testing, and
what I found was that when I was off of modafinil, my decision-making time was more variable. It, in other words, you couldn’t predict how long it would take me. Sometimes, I was very fast, sometimes, I was longer. But my
average decision-making time, was, was somewhere. When I was on modafinil, my average decision-making window was smaller, it was more predictable, but my average speed was the same. Other than that, I felt good all the time, which – I
didn’t have that before, when I started taking modafinil. I had the energy to
make it through the day, to feel good, to play with my kids at the end of the day. This energy was not something that I naturally had before. I’m like, “Alright. Modafinil isn’t doing
very much for me.” Is there modafinil in my bag right now? Yeah, there is. I just flew to London, or Scotland and
then London, it’s been a relatively intense trip. I actually just use Bulletproof Coffee
and the normal stack of relatively lightweight smart drugs that I do every
day, and the things I know about hacking light and temperature and all for
jet lag, and, you know what? I didn’t need modafinil. But it was there if I
wanted it, or if I was going to crash, like, “Man I’m just too tired.” Like, my brain isn’t focusing. I really
want to be present for the audience or for this interview. I would’ve happily taken modafinil. But I didn’t need to. So, that’s where I am in my relationship with it today. I’m grateful that people said, “Hey, everything you do, you scammer, it’s because of modafinil,” they caused
me to experiment with something that I knew very well worked great, but, when your,
when your brain is dialed in, when your nutrition is where it should be, when you’re doing other things right, and probably some of the meditation and neurofeedback and things I’ve done. I’m better-performing now than I was, and, so, I use modafinil less. “Talk to me
about how people can get really sensitive about what they call ‘a drug’
and ‘not a drug.’ Like you said, this is technology.” To watch the rest of this fascinating
interview, click on the link below and go to LondonRealAcademy.com. There, you can sign in with your social media login and watch the rest of the episode for
free, along with all of our episodes on London Real, my webinars, and all of our premium content, all located over at LondonRealAcademy.com. So, click on the link below, you’ll be directed there, you can watch
the rest of this fascinating interview, and I’ll see you there.

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