Is Modafinil the Real NZT-48 Pill From Limitless?

Is the recently outed “smart pill” Modafinil the real life NZT-48, the pill from the movie Limitless? While it may not be the same pill used by Bradley Cooper in the movie Limitless, experts like Dave Asprey, Tim Ferris and Dr. Rhonda Patrick have opinions and I’ll share with you my experiences as well.


This post is not designed to celebrate or recommend modafinil use. It’s also not going to be the same “FLUFF” piece being published by news sites all over the internet.

As someone who has experimented with modafinil, I will share with you the mechanisms of action, the science, and my experience. 

But if we’re going to talk about it (meaning the internet in general, but also you and me right here) we should be completely transparent and put it all out there. That said, here’s the disclaimer: this is not intended to be medical advice. I am not a doctor. Before following any advice, suggestions or statements in this post you should consult a medical professional. Agreed? Good, let’s go!


The bad news first. No the drug NZT-48 from the movie Limitless is not real.

While it is a fictional pill, there is something REAL that seems to be exactly the same thing…it’s called modafinil, or “moda” on the streets. (A part my soul just died for saying “on the streets” – especially since WALL STREET is the most common street to find “moda” users.)

As it always happens, CNN, NPR, VICE news and the mainstream media are catching on to the latest trends – a few years after the party has begun!

This time, it’s the prescription pill Modafinil and it has been the go-to secret supplement for Wall Street, test-taking students, CEOs and entrepreneurs everywhere over the last 3-5 years. In fact 1 in 5 students at UK universities in a recent study have taken modafinil!

“My Brain is on NINJA LEVEL” – “Moda” user in study

Here’s what you need to know:


Modafinil is a prescription drug here in the US. Technically it’s classified as a Schedule IV substance. For context, prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are Schedule II drugs – with Schedule 1 being the harshest and most controlled or restricted in this classification system.

While it is a prescription drug in the US – most commonly prescribed for narcolepsy, or shift workers, military or those who need to stay awake and alert at times or for durations not considered “normal” – it’s mechanism of action isn’t fully understood. Until recently, we didn’t even have guesses. NOW, however, scientists are discovering that it DOES NOT work via the dopamine and/or norepinephrine pathways like Adderall or Ritalin. Although modafinil DOES provide a stimulatory effect, it doesn’t excite these neurotranmitters. Instead it appears to act as an inhibitor to glutamate and the GABA pathway. GABA is tasked with being a neural inhibitor and sort of “applies the brakes” to keep the whole system in check.


Essentially taking modafinil is akin to removing the governor on a golf cart and driving in hyperspeed – it downregulates and suppresses our brain’s own system for controlling usage. It’s certainly a “bio-hack” that allows users to do more, be more focused, and operate at higher levels than are physiological possible without pharmaceutical intervention. Many people describe the experience as seeing the world in color as opposed to black & white. I say it’s just like being Bradley Cooper in the movie Limitless. It’s not exactly like that, but you get the picture!


As with anything that alter brain chemistry, modafinil should be used with caution. And while it can be purchased on the internet, those sources are likely suspect. So it’s best to follow US laws and regulations for this prescription drug and only use with a Dr.’s supervision – especially since we now know it can inhibit and possibly deplete GABA. At the very least, modafinil users should supplement with GABA or GABA booster to maintain brain chemical balance.

Since we’re just beginning to understand true mechanisms of actions, LONG TERM EFFECTS are also still unknown. So users are advised to proceed with caution!


Perhaps the biggest advocate of modafinil is famous bio-hacker Dave Asprey of Bulletproof Coffee fame. Dave is completely open about his quest to improve his health, his IQ, and his experimental use with anything that might help accomplish those goals – including modafinil.

Here he is on CNN discussing it:

Another famous “bio-hacker” in search of the optimal life and maximum human performance is Tim Ferris – NY Times best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef.

^^The migraines experienced are caused by a depletion of the neurotransmitter ACETYLCHOLINE. These headaches can be mitigated by simply taking choline when taking modafinil. Choline bitartrate or even Alpha-GPC are great solutions. (But I do agree with Tim Ferris – his point on effect/side effect is spot on. Modafinil is POWERFUL and should be treated with extreme respect and caution.)

I recently spoke to Dr. Rhonda Patrick and asked her about modafinil. What she said will air soon on an upcoming Optimal Performance Podcast. Once it does, we’ll add the link HERE.

Dr RhondaPatrickJoeRoganPodcast


As I mentioned at the top, I first experimented with modafinil in early 2014. When I took it, I used 1/2 of a 200mg tab (100mg). I’ve never taken a higher dose and I always took 300-500mg choline on days I took modafinil and I never took it after 8-9am. It’s hard enough to go to sleep taking it at those times – I can’t imagine trying to sleep if taking it later. i never used it to pull all-nighters, so I can’t comment on it’s effective there. Rather I used it for high output work days – days where I wanted to knock out about a week’s worth of work – and it worked like a charm. Truth is, the stuff is POWERFUL. (And it should be treated with great respect.)

The drawback was that every day I used modafinil, I either needed it again the next day just to function at normal levels, or I needed a “down day” to recover and get back to baseline. It just like lifting – you can’t go full throttle all day every day. You MUST RECOVER!

Late in the summer or early in the early fall of 2014, I met Roy Krebs – a co-founder of Natural Stacks who introduced me to the Braverman test. The Braverman test was developed by Dr. Eric Braverman – author of “The Edge Effect: Achieve Total Health and Longevity with the Balanced Brain Advantage” – as a diagnostic tool for the brain’s chemicals.

When I first took the test I had A SEVERE GABA deficiency. (I supplemented with Bulletproof’s GABAwave to bring it back to normal levels). Interestingly, this GABA defiencincy followed the period of my most common use of modafinil (1-2 times per week). I can’t say the causation was modafinil for certain, but the correlation cannot be ignored – especially now that new research shows modafinil may achieve it’s effects by suppressing GABA. Since then, with lighter, more conservative use of modafinil, I have maintained more normal levels of GABA – even without GABA supplementation. (When i say lighter, I can’t recall the last time I actually used it.)

Here’s the rub – the moral of the story if you will – as with anything in life, business, medicine, etc, we need to seek to understand the mechanisms of action, understand all potential risks involved, protect against the downside, and seek to use the minimal effective dose.