When most people hear the phrase “performance enhancing drugs” or PEDs, a few words come to their mind...
I have been "called out" on every one of those accusations by morally superior crybabies in real life who couldn't get the nice things they wanted and by anonymous trolls on the Internet who feel that I am robbing them of their equality by choosing to enhance myself.
But every so often, I run into a good natured, well intentioned, but misinformed individual who is concerned that what I do or the whole concept of "performance enhancing drugs" is a negative thing that will ultimately bring a person to ruin.
After using modafinil for roughly ~2 years now, coming into regular contact with a lot of people that use various other performance enhancers, and experimenting with quite a few different compounds myself, I've come to learn that a lot of the "information" that I thought I knew before I really got into this was false.
Even though I felt that what I was doing was alright, there was a part of me that was very much unsure of myself and vulnerable to the misinformation and stigma of friends and family, and what I would see and hear in the media.
All of what I'm going to share with you is common sense to me now because I've seen it and lived it, but there was once a time when it wasn't so damn cut and dry!
I wish I had someone there to tell me
Joel, you're being responsible and doing things right. Don't listen to people who have no experience and just parrot off each other.
If I could go back in time, this is what I would tell the younger me...
Myth #1: Supplements and unregulated products are a safer alternative to Performance Enhancing Drugs
What are Performance Enhancing Drugs and why do the get a bad rep?
The unofficial definition of a performance enhancing drug is.... a drug that enhances your performance (either mental or physical) in some way.
They work either by speeding up or "enhancing" your physiological processes (such as fat burners or muscle-recovery agents) or by changing the way your brain works.
Drugs are neither good nor bad... they're just compounds.
They have pro's and con's, and short term effects that build up to long term effects over time.
When deciding whether or not something is worth taking, we weigh out the pro/con ratio to determine if its worth it.
The majority of the compounds in the nootropic market are neither good nor bad.
A lot of the supplements that you can find over the counter pose bigger long term health risks than you may believe.
Just because you can pick it off the shelf without a prescription doesn't mean it is safer.
Myth #2. Performance Enhancing Drugs allow you to bypass hard work (in the form of man hours)
Before I started using Modafinil consistently, I would get excited over the latest trends in "biohacking". There would always be some new formula, some new combination to "optimize your life" and "hack your way to success".
A constant circle of guys arguing over which stack would best "unlock their potential". While the desire to be the best a person can be is fantastic, their approach to it is overly complicated and removes the human element from the equation.
Do I take l-theanine, fish oil, piracetam, aniracetam 3 times a day? Or can I squeeze out another 17.63% of productivity by throwing in some adrafinil into the mix?
I've seen this kind of attitude across the board with a lot of frustrated people.
Girls who take stimulants, and eat like shit on a daily basis, with 3 days a week of "light jogging" wondering why they can't lose weight.
Gym friends who worked out for a couple of years, started using a large amount of steroids, ate whatever they want, spent less time in the gym, and cut out cardio in favor or more compounds, wondering why they still look like shit.
Friends of mine who were prescribed various ADHD medication, who would procrastinate till the last minute on projects, take their medication, and complain that it "didn't help that much"
Anyone who reads a book on working 4 hours a week and "thinking positively" and wonders why their business has yet to take off.
In all of these cases, the products that these people were using were legitimate, but the way they used them in combination with their simple minded attitudes that whatever they were taking could do the work for them left them spinning their wheels.
When I was taking a full course load as a computer engineering major, working part time, and partying often, I used Modafinil to help me keep going at full speed.
It didn't read through countless complicated hardware texts for me.
It didn't turn off the TV and put away the video game controller for me.
It didn't write hundreds of programs for me.
I took the initiative in the form of
Myth #3: You can make up for Performance Enhancing Drugs by just "working harder"
I would absolutely love if I could experience all the benefits of a powerful PED like modafinil without having to actually take it.
Imagine waking up in the morning, drinking your morning coffee, and spending a few minutes "calibrating your mind" to think positively so you can perform at your best for the entire day.
I do that every single day.
But that doesn't mean I wouldn't do a whole lot better if I was enhanced.
It's like people who watch world class athletes compete and think to themselves "He didn't get there because he had access to the best doctors who could prescribe the latest drugs to get around loopholes in the system. He's the best in the world solely because of his hard work!"
There's no denying that world class athletes work hard. But you know what? Everyone else at that level also works hard.
To be #1 you need an edge over the rest of your competition.
Growing up, I always heard the saying "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
Almost everyone has heard this saying, but few directly address the elephant in the room.
My follow up question would always be
Well what if talent does work hard?
People don't want to think about that because they already know the answer.
When talent works hard, you're fucked!
Talent = having an edge over your competition
It comes in many forms
favorable genetics for a particular skill
having exclusive access to certain people or information
performance enhancing drugs
It is what is. The laws of the universe will not bend to accommodate you.
You can whine and complain and cry about how hard you have it till the day you die, but the rest of the world will keep going and you will be left behind.
When you leave the advantages that life hands you on the table because "someone has it worse", you will inevitably be surpassed by someone who had the balls to use whatever they could find to further their goal.
I guarantee you that there are young kids throughout the world who are born with more natural talent than Lionel Messi.
Some of them may have even had the good fortune of being born into a soccer culture and were lucky enough to have early access to prestigious travel teams. To even stand a chance at competing with the best they would need access to the best coaches, be financially secure, put in a considerable amount of man hours, and have a certain amount of luck (such as avoiding any career ending injuries)
If they hope to even stand a glimmer of a chance, they have to use every talent, advantage, and edge they can find.
In the media, the NFL has grown in notoriety lately over more and more talk over PED's. Every once in a while, when an athlete gets temporarily suspended for confirmed use of a banned substance, there is an uproar in the local news. Then you see the owner of the team step up to the mic and say some BS like
We are appalled that this has happened. We had no idea that this was going on, and we will launch a full investigation by people on our payroll to investigate ourselves and make sure this never happens again!
Did you know that professional football teams have invested millions of dollars into providing dedicated oxygen chambers for their athletes to sleep in? The increased concentration of oxygen in the blood over prolonged exposure in these chambers allows them to recover and perform better than ever.
Professional athletes do whatever it takes to win.
"We don't believe in our athletes using PED's. We don't do this because we love money or because we love winning at any cost... We do this because we love a fair game and the spirit of the sport!" - said no NFL owner ever
In the Silicon Valley, a region known for its abundance of young entrepreneurs starting technology companies, Modafinil is known as the drug of choice among the executive crowd because of the advantage it gives them.
Are they all fools for using performance enhancers when they could've done it "all natural"?
Or are they doing whatever it takes to beat their competition?
Myth #4: Socialist equality exists and it is something to strive for
The story of Bill Gates:
Bill Gates is widely recognized as being the genius who brought Microsoft to life. Why did he succeed when many others failed?
Surely, it must have been because of his hard work and unbreakable determination right?
The reason he dominated was mostly because his positive thinking and IQ were so much higher than all of his competitors, right?
You have to be quite naive to believe that.
Before computers had even come out onto the market, the private school Gates attended had a dedicated lab that the students and faculty had exclusive access to. Before he had ever stepped foot in college, Gates had already racked up thousands of hours of programming experience!
Even for the rich, this resource was very hard to come by, and he was lucky enough to have it at such a young age. He also went to Harvard for a couple years, and came from an upper class family with money and connections.
All of these factors served as his "edge" and without them, his success would not have been possible.
Had he been a moron and left them on the table "because socialist equality says its unfair", our world as we know it would be very different.
There is no such thing as true equality in this world.
The version of equality that people often refer to in which nobody has any inherent advantages in life is nothing more than a modern day socialist fantasy. No matter what you or anyone else does, the people of the world will never be "equal" in terms of advantages and opportunity.
I'm grateful of every advantage I have had the good fortune of inheriting. I've done nothing special to have these things, yet I possess a tremendous advantage over the majority of the 7 billion people in this world.
For being born in the 21st century in the age of the Internet.
For being in a first world country, never having to worry about starving to death, or becoming destitute.
For having all of my body parts intact and being disease free.
For having access to unlimited information in the form of the Internet and being able to learn just about anything I want.
For having access to modern day drugs and medicine.
Most of you reading this have everything I listed above. It would be a waste if you left any of them on the table when so many people across the world would kill for what you have.
Don't throw an advantage away because most people don't know about it or don't have access to it. If they could step into your shoes, they would take it in a heartbeat, and leave you behind.
Use every advantage and semi-advantage you have to get what you want.
Myth #5: Performance Enhancing Drugs are detrimental to your health in the long term
There can be some legitimacy to this one - it all depends on what compound we're talking about.
Any time I make the decision to try a drug or supplement, or use it regularly, I check to make sure there aren't any side effects that I will be facing down the road. I care about my long term health and would never jeopardize it for short term gain.
This was absolutely the reason I stopped using Adderall and Ritalin.
It's also the reason I had no problems taking Modafinil for the past 2 years.
It's the reason I made a post and a video warning people that they should know what they're getting into when they use Adrafinil, which they often believe is the "natural, safer choice"
If there was any chance of long term health risks, I would not have done that, and I sure as hell wouldn't be recommending it on my site.
The pros of Modafinil:
Laser like focus that allows you to stay on task for hours and hours at a time, without any mental of physical fatigue
Eliminates the compulsive need to check social media and procrastinate (I used to struggle with this, not a problem anymore)
Appetite suppressant (the only fat burning supplement I currently use. Doesn't make me feel burnt out or hyperactive)
Steady, calm energy that lasts the entire day
A much milder, safer alternative to Adderall (This was huge for me!!)
Slight Mood enhancement and pro-social behavior; you straight up feel better!
Physical performance enhance for muscular endurance (doesn't make me "stronger", but I can do more reps and concentrate on contractions to get better pumps in the gym)
The cons of Modafinil:
If you are a woman, and you take any form of hormonal birth control, Modafinil can potentially cancel out the effects of your birth control
If you're part of the unfortunate .001% of the population, you may develop a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction. In which case, stop using using it, and go see your doctor.
It can cause sleep problems if you consistently take it too late in the day or abuse it (solution: take it early in the morning, or cut back the dosage)
If you don't keep yourself hydrated, you can get migraines (solution: drink 1 - 2 gallons a day)
The truth about Long Term side effects
(and the interesting tale of MDMA)
Once upon a time, people used to believe that MDMA (aka ecstasy) had no health risks. As a result, a lot of ravers and recreational drug users would abuse the shit out of it. Many years later, physicians were "discovering" that people who abused MDMA had wilted serotonin receptors. In some cases, it was reversible, and in other cases, it was permanent damage. This is a documented long term side effect of MDMA.
But here's the thing...
Every one of those people who suffered from permanent neurotransmitter damage from long term use also had a plethora of short term warning signs along the way.
They didn't just wake up one morning with fried serotonin receptors.
The negative side effects would manifest themselves, and it took years for it to develop into a chronic condition.
It's just like anabolic steroids. Nobody just "drops dead" at the age of 50 after years of heavy heavy abuse with no short term side effects. It is a result of decades of abuse, ignoring blood tests that warn them to back off, and refusing to take a break ever.
The middle aged guys who develop severe organ problems due to anabolic steroid abuse chose to ignore all the blatantly obvious short term effects that their body was telling them over the years.
Given how malleable the mind is, it shouldn't be a stretch to speculate that if you abuse your brain through a heavy overload of psychoactive compounds in a small time frame, you can cause serious damage. It makes me think of people who have been taking Adderall their entire lives, constantly upping their dose, without ever taking a break. If the damage is bad enough, they may have to pop pills for the rest of their life.
Nobody goes to McDonald's one night to wake up 160 pounds obese the morning after.
Long term permanent damage is a result of years of accumulated damage with short term indicators throughout. It doesn't just "suddenly happen"
One concern I used to have about using something like Modafinil regularly was the possibility that I would develop some terrible disorder or illness years down the road. I had to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that my actions wouldn't have terrible consequences down the road.
I already knew it worked extremely well, like nothing else I had ever tried before. So before I began using it regularly, I researched it from every possible angle to see whether or not regular use was a good choice for the long run.
I didn't want to be hasty or gamble with my health. After all, I only get one mind and body, and it has to last me my entire life.
I took an inventory of what was currently known about the compound. I relied on up to date clinical trials, reading everything I could to understand what was going on biochemically.
I made a risk assessment table. What is the best possible outcome of choosing to use Modafinil semi-regularly? Whats the likelihood that that would happen? What's the worst possible outcome that could manifest itself? How likely was that to happen?
Decided that this was an intelligent risk and proceeded to follow through with it
The Known Research behind Modafinil:
Is relatively new, has been in use on the market for 16 years
There are no documented reports of anyone dying from a "modafinil overdose"
There have been documented reports of an extremely small minority of people (like .001%) who developed a rash as an allergic reaction to the medication. Unless they continued to use it for a long time, and didn't seek treatment, it could be easily remedied.
In the 16 years that it has been out, there have been no observable short term side effects (such as brain damage, or organ damage) among the various soldiers, executives, and powerful people using it
Although the long term side effects (40 years down the road) are unknown, the lack of any short term side effects through modern science and technology lead me to believe that it is a fairly safe drug.
There was already a mountain of clinical research on it with plenty of human trials, which were overwhelmingly positive
Here are some of the most common problems that people reported:
Problem: People who kept increasing their dosage and taking it every single day felt like they needed to rely on it to function normally.
Solution: I never took more than 200mg/day, I never take it on days you don't need to, I learned to cycle on and off, and threw in a washout period every once in a while. Two years into this, I have absolutely no problems with tolerance or dependency. Most months out of the year, I'm 100% off.
Problem: Some people reported taking that it screwed with their sleep cycle because they would take it late in the day, and it would mess up their circadian rhythm.
Solution: Don't take it early in the day. (I'd break this rule during exam time. Did it hurt my sleep? Of course, but it was only a temporary measure.)
Problem: It has been documented to interfere with women's hormonal birth control
Solution: Be aware of this going in. Either don't use it if you're a woman and you don't want kids, or stick to condoms (sucks, I know). It's not an issue of the man takes it and has sex. It only becomes an issue when a woman takes it and the drug reacts with the birth control, canceling it out.
As with any drug or supplement, if you have pre-existing health conditions to begin with, CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR to see if it could cause a problem.
My Best/Worst Possible Outcome Analysis:
Best Possible Outcomes:
I could use this to attain a seemingly impossible goal at the time; Ace my engineering courses and live the party life I wanted. Chances of success - 70%
I will at the very least be able to spend a considerable amount of extra hours on a daily basis studying both productively and efficiently. Chances of success - 100%
Since the gym was no longer my #1 priority, I could use it to curb my appetite and maintain a respectable physique without wanting to eat all day - chances of success - 50%
Worst Possible Outcomes:
I could be one of those rare people that developed a rash from an allergic reaction. I hadn't noticed anything yet, but if it somehow happened to me, the next step would be obvious. Stop using it and get it treated. Probability - (<.001%)
It could lead to some unknown life threatening medical condition years down the line.
I knew that Dave Asprey, former VP of a billion dollar company, had been taking it for 8 years straight and he was fine. In the past 15 years, all clinical trials had failed to come up with anything unusual in short term and long term users.
There is not a single piece of clinical evidence supporting any kind of neurological or organ damage to individuals who have been using it for years
Since long term side effects are a culmination of short term side effects, I'm not going to wake up one morning with some terrible debilitating illness that "just happened"
What are we to make of all this?
Modafinil (and various other compounds) are called performance enhancers, because their sole purpose is to enhance your performance and make you better.
They are not free tickets to work less, and somehow magically enjoy the fruits of superior results.
There is a misconception that there exists a drug or supplement in the world that can chauffeur you to success in a competitive environment, while allowing you to put in less effort than your peers and somehow get better results than them.
Remember that saying "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
It's absolutely true in this case. If you don't work hard, it doesn't matter what you take.
Bill Gates had a golden edge in his generation during his youth. If he didn't take work hard, his edge wouldn't have gotten him anywhere near where he is now. At the same time, if his edge was missing altogether, he wouldn't have been able to build his empire as quickly as he did (or at all for that matter).
What separates me from most people who use performance enhancers
My friend Russell had started using modafinil regularly around the same time that I did because we both felt like we had stumbled across something amazing. We took most of the same classes and even worked together for a private defense contractor.
After a year had passed, I had made big strides while he was still barely scraping by.
My grades were impeccable and I was living out my party boy dream to the fullest while Russell was struggling to even keep up.
Why did I thrive after I started taking modafinil, while my friend stayed more or less the same?
It all comes back to man hours. I developed a work ethic and used modafinil to take me to the next level, and it worked!!
Even by my own standards, Russell was a lot brighter than I was, especially when it came to circuits and programming. But he was all over the place. If we went out and partied the night before, I would still wake up by 7 AM, because that's what it took. He would often sleep till noon.
When presented with a new project that I wasn't familiar with, my approach was to pour as many hours as I could possibly put into it until it worked perfect.
Some classmates would say "well maybe you should have worked smarter".
What they somehow missed was that after you throw enough hours at something, your mind learns to recognize patterns and you're quicker to find the mistakes you made before.
When a new project would come up, I didn't have to "work smarter". Efficiency would just come naturally as a result of my countless repetition.
Without consistency and repetition, my edge (Modafinil) would not have taken me as far as it did.
This goes beyond PED's and it applies to every single facet of your life.
If you want to be good, you need a lot of man hours.
If you want to be great, you need an edge over your competition.
I've come realize that playing the whole "equality game" is for losers.
I shamelessly use every avenue I can possibly think of to go after my heart's desires, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same.
Have you guys think there's still a lot of stigma surrounding using PED's for academic and professional purposes? Let me know your thoughts in the comments and on Twitter.