Modafinil and Alcohol: Can You Mix Them?

Can you mix modafinil and alcohol?

Believe it or not, but this is one of the questions –if not the question – that I receive most often when discussing modafinil.

If you’ve searched through the forums and sites dedicated to nootropics, you’ve probably read about the different effects that modafinil has on alcohol tolerance. Some people say it makes them extremely drunk while others say it builds up their tolerance.

But what does the actual science say about mixing the two? In this article, I explain the scientific interaction between alcohol and modafinil.

Medical Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and don’t play one online. You should consult a relevant healtcare provider before trying any supplement or drug for the first time. *See full Medical Disclaimer below.*

The Science Behind Mixing Modafinil and Alcohol

The link between modafinil and alcohol boils down two neurotransmitters: GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) and glutamate.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It has a whole range of functions, such as controlling fear and anxiety. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter. It plays an important role in learning and memory.

Modafinil is considered a GABA antagonist. This means it prevents the action of GABA. However, modafinil is also a glutamate agonist, which means that it binds to glutamate receptors, which produces a biological response that increases glutamate levels in the brain.

In other words, modafinil inhibits the production of GABA while increasing the production of glutamate. By contrast, alcohol does the exact opposite: it is a GABA agonist and a glutamate antagonist.

How Do Modafinil and Alcohol Interact?

Here’s the thing. GABA is the brain’s primary depressive neurotransmitter. It is important in producing sedative and calming effects and helps to balance against excitatory neurotransmitters.

However, increasing GABA to out-of-control proportions while not increasing the corresponding excitatory neurotransmitters (e.g., epineprhine, norephinephrine, acetylcholine, glutamate, etc) will have adverse mood effects. That’s why you see people become emotional wrecks when they’re drunk.

But as you know, it is possible to build up a tolerance to alcohol. Over time, you become more accustomed to alcohol and so your body needs more of it in order to produce the same effect.  This is the result of an increased expression of GABA neurons, leaving you less sensitive to GABA, and a decreased expression of glutamate neurons making you more sensitive to glutamate.

So when modafinil enters the system, it reverses the built-up tolerance to alcohol by creating an opposite reaction of what alcohol is supposed to do. Thus, modafinil diminishes your tolerance to alcohol, bringing it back to baseline levels (i.e. to when you first started drinking). So, you will get drunk more quickly by mixing the two. It’s a scientific fact.

My Experience with Alcohol and Modafinil

Now the question is: how do we reconcile this scientific fact with actual experience? Why is it that some users report exactly the opposite effect? Is it possible that modafinil could decrease alcohol tolerance for some people while increasing it for others?

To answer that question, let me tell you about my experience drinking alcohol while using modafinil.

Drinking Alcohol Only a Few Hours after Taking Modafinil

When I first started taking modafinil (before I knew about its effects on alcohol tolerance), I made the horrible mistake of having a glass of wine only a few hours after taking 100 mg of modafinil.  My face immediately turned bright red and I felt kind of buzzed after the first drink—which never happens. After my second drink, I didn’t feel safe driving.

Drinking Alcohol 10 Hours after Taking Modafinil

The second time trying alcohol with modafinil, I had a glass of wine about 10 hours of taking modafinil. This time, I fared better. I was pretty close to my baseline level in terms of alcohol tolerance. I had a second glass without any trouble walking or driving. My face did not turn red either.

Drinking Alcohol 15 Hours after Taking Modafinil

This time, I took modafinil around 5:30 a.m. and did not drink until after dinner, around 7:30 p.m. I felt completely fine drinking about 15 hours after taking modafinil. The half-life of modafinil is about 14-15 hours so by the time I was drinking alcohol, half of the modafinil was out of my system.

I still felt super focused because the modafinil was still in my system, but I also did not experience any kind of trouble drinking 2-3 glasses of wine.

Concluding Thoughts on Mixing Alcohol and Modafinil

So here is my conclusion, based on anecdotal evidence and scientific findings, on the interaction between the two substances: the longer you wait after taking modafinil, the higher your alcohol tolerance will be.

If you know you will be drinking later on in the day but still want to focus and get sh*t done, I recommend either taking modafinil very, very early in the morning or taking another nootropic, such as phenylpiracetam or noopept, instead.

Although the effects of these smart drugs are short-lived compared to modafinil, you can always take multiple doses. And the shorter half-life of phenylpiracetam and noopept means that any interactions with alcohol will be minimal.

Medical Disclaimer

This article is intended for educational purposes only. Research has shown that modafinil is highly effective at enhancing cognition with few to no serious side effects. Nevertheless, doctors will only prescribe it as treatment for specific conditions: namely, narcolepsy or other sleep disorders. For this reason, many students and professionals choose to purchase modafinil online. As with any supplement or drug, of course, you should consult your doctor or other health care provider before taking modafinil.