Using a smart drug called modafinil, which is comparable to drinking 20 cups of coffee, British troops were able to keep awake for 40 hours straight.
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The Ministry of Defence has purchased thousands of dosages of a “smart drug” that can keep soldiers awake for up to 40 hours in warfare.
Answering to a MailOnline Freedom of Information probe, the Ministry of Defence acknowledged to purchasing more than 12,500 modafinil pills between 2013 and 2021, at a cost of up to £800,000 based on NICE drug prices.
According to one doctor, modafinil, a stimulant used to keep narcoleptics awake during the day, has the same effect as ‘drinking 20 cups of coffee.’
Unlike caffeine, which can produce jitteriness in coffee drinkers, modafinil has few short-term side effects, while long-term usage can lead to arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and immune system impairment.
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Over the previous two decades, the controversial psychostimulant has grown in popularity, with an increasing number of students and high-flying professionals looking to buy modafinil illegally to enhance their productivity.
The fictional wonder medication used by Bradley Cooper’s character in the 2011 film Limitless, which allowed him to utilise 100 percent of his brain and tap into superhuman skills, is said to be based on modafinil.
Modafinil was banned from being sold without a prescription in the United Kingdom in 2016, and the tablets are now only available with a prescription for people who have been diagnosed with narcolepsy or other persistent sleep problems.
According to a 2019 study by student publication The Tab, 29 percent of students admitted to having tried smart drugs of some form or another, indicating that university campuses are awash in such mind-altering substances.
Modafinil is nevertheless available online from foreign-based distributors to pill addicts searching for a productivity boost, despite the fact that it is illegal.
Peter Borden, a Wall Street analyst and trader, vividly recounted the ‘freaky sensation’ he felt after using modafinil to boost his work performance in a piece for New York Magazine.
He said: “I sensed it was blood actually moving to the optic nerve.
“Your eyes start to feel very sort of engorged, and your awareness comes to the front of your face.
“My senses sort of shifted to the visual, and my auditory sense went down.
“Sounds didn’t even register.
“It was like walking around on a winter day when it just snowed.
“It was very easy to stay visually focused.
“I didn’t take as many breaks; I didn’t get as frustrated; the stuff came out with fewer errors”, Mr Borden said.
The US military has long been interested in using medications to prevent drowsy soldiers from making mistakes on the battlefield, with a 1995 experiment on helicopter pilots using Dexedrine, an ADHD medication.
Military pilots could complete complex manoeuvres in a simulator with ‘no deleterious behavioural or physiological effects’ after 34 hours without sleep, according to results published in the journal Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine.
A 2012 study in the United States offered Black Hawk helicopter pilots modafinil as they performed a series of flights and other evaluations without sleep for 40 hours, concluding that the drugs helped them ‘maintain alertness’ and ‘cognitive function’ throughout the ordeal.
“It’s just one of these misuses, in my view, of a medical application,” said Dr. Judith Leech of the West Ottawa Sleep Center in Canada.
The doctor said, speaking to The Ottawa Citizen on the military’s usage of modafinil, “You could probably get the same thing with 20 cups of coffee, but you wouldn’t like it.”
‘Stay-awake’ pills ordered by the MoD since 2013
|Year||Modafinil tablets bought by the MoD|
“…What I use in somebody whose life is totally impaired by a brain chemistry disorder is different from what I think you should use in an army person or other healthy people.
“It’s bad to use drugs for bad reasons. There’s a reason why we get sleepy.
“Sleep helps the brain store memories and recuperate from work, and helps the body build its immune system.
“And you deprive yourself of those things if you use a stimulant to overcome it.”
Purchases of Provigil, a brand name for modafinil, began in 1998 and peaked at 5,000 tablets delivered in 2001, the year coalition forces entered Afghanistan, according to a Guardian investigation published in 2004.
When troops entered Iraq in 2002, the second highest order, for more than 4,000 tablets, was placed.