Biohacking is the practice of “hacking” your body using nutritional, physical, mental, or even medical techniques. Taking nootropics, the most popular ones being Modafinil and Piracetam fall under this practice.

Modafinil and Piracetam have become the most popular drugs to take among business executives and founders, as they are known to significantly increase mental capacity and focus. The effects are instantaneous as well. For people who are under extreme stress and pressure, this is a godsent solution.

But while taking these drugs have been effective for many, there are arguments about the side effects they can do to an individual. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Modafinil and Piracetam and possible alternatives that one can take to boost cognitive function and focus.


It must be stressed that taking Piracetam and Modafinil in normal doses produce minimal side effects. However, since nootropics are unscheduled and unregulated drugs, they are prone to misuse. It must be understood that these drugs alters cognitive performance, and may pose serious damage to the brain. This is especially true for individuals with a history of mental disorders and substance abuse.

This case study highlights 4 individuals who have suffered psychiatric side effects from taking nootropics. A 28-year old female graduate student was admitted to the psychiatry clinic after an onset of insomnia, anxiety, and panic attacks. It was later revealed that she was taking Modafinil twice daily to cope with her academic studies. One week after taking the drug regularly, she started experiencing the symptoms mentioned. She was then advised to stop taking Modafinil and take Clonazepam until her symptoms resolved.

Another case was a 17-year old male with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and learning disabilities who was rushed into the emergency room after suffering with akathesia, paranoia, along with worsening OCD. After investigation, it was found out that he bought Piracetam online. His parents didn’t object to the purchase, thinking it was a “safe and natural remedy.” He was soon discharged after his condition went stable. He was advised to discontinue taking Piracetam.

The Side Effects of Piracetam & Modafinil

Apart from the two case studies mentioned, these two drugs have a lengthy list of side effects.

Common side effects of Piracetam include:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Rashes
  • Weight Gain
  • Drowsiness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue

Common side effects of Modafinil include:

  • Headaches
  • Nervousness
  • Feeling agitated
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth

And serious side effects are:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting
  • Severe blistering
  • Severe tingling
  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Mouth sores
  • Hallucination
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Chest pain

Apart from these side effects, taking nootropics consistently for long periods of time exposes the user to tolerance. This means that the body has adjusted to the effects of the drugs, making it less effective than before.

Alternatives to Modafinil & Piracetam

It’s easy to rely on nootropics because they are a quick and easy way to improve cognitive function. This translates to an increased performance at work.

However, biohacking comes with risk and is not a sustainable approach to manage low focus and stress.

Instead, we should look at how stress and pressure affects an individual. When someone is under stress for long periods of time, he/she begins to suffer from high levels of cortisol, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, belly fat, and accelerated atherosclerosis.

The condition, more commonly known as adrenal fatigue, happens when that person can no longer respond to stress as a result of overstimulation. When the adrenal health of a working person declines, productivity suffers and emotional outbreaks become more frequent and/or harder to control.

Your adrenals are also responsible for controlling the secretions of important hormones such as glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, sex hormones, and adrenaline. All of which contribute to balancing your body’s energy, metabolism, hydration, and stress response.

Recovering from Adrenal Fatigue

Combating adrenal fatigue requires a combination of diet modification, supplementation, and stress reduction.

In terms of diet, you should limit food sources that stress the adrenals. These include salty and sugary snacks, carbohydrates, caffeine, and processed food. Instead, your diet should consist of nutrient-dense food such as healthy fat such as avocado, wild-caught fish, foods rich in probiotics, and nuts.

While nutrition is important to improve adrenal health, getting all the nutrients your body needs every day can be difficult. That’s why it’s recommended to take supplements in addition to your diet.

Recommended supplements that improve adrenal health include:

Adaptogenic Herbs - Adaptogens promote homeostasis, reduce cortisol levels, and increase resistance to stress. The most effective adaptogens include Rhodiola, Siberian Ginseng, Indian Ginseng, and Panax Ginseng. One study showed that taking adaptogenics such as Panax Ginseng can help increase work output and focus even when taken on short periods of time. Rhodiola, on the other hand, is known to have positive effects in combating fatigue and reducing generalized anxiety.

Vitamin B Complex - Studies suggest that people who suffer from chronic fatigue can benefit from vitamins B1, B2, B6, and B5. B vitamins also contribute to maintaining a healthy level of metabolism and reducing stress.

Antioxidants - Vitamins A and C are known to carry powerful antioxidant properties that protect the body against damaging free radicals and repairing cellular damage caused by stress. High concentrations of vitamin C are found in the adrenal glands as well.

Magnesium - Magnesium deficiency can worsen stress and sleep deprivation or lack of deep sleep. Newer studies also suggest that Magnesium can help regulate the body’s stress response system, which can help reduce the prevalence of anxiety states. Apart from this, Magnesium is also known to help reduce frequency and intensity of headaches.

L-Tyrosine - L-tyrosine is an amino acid involved in the formation of serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood balance. A lack of L-tyrosine can lead to low serotonin levels, which then contributes to depression and anxiety.

And while diet and supplementation is important to treat adrenal fatigue, one of the best things you can do is to listen to your body and take a rest. While meeting expectations in work is crucial, ask yourself, “Is it really worth sacrificing your health for your career?”

Here’s what you can do to promote rest in your routine:

  • Sleep at least 8 - 10 hours every night. Eliminate working late whenever possible.

  • Take a break whenever you feel tired

  • Set a schedule of meditation and self-reflection. Turn off your phone and computer when you’re doing this.

  • Exercise. You don’t have to go for intense workouts. Going for walks and even Yoga can help decrease stress and improve your quality of life.

  • Take time to do something that’s not work related i.e., taking a new hobby

Biohacks such as extended fasting may have been effective for some, but the lack of established studies and potential dangers can put your health at risk. Before taking nootropics such as Modafinil and Piracetam, talk to your doctor and know the effects it will have on your body.

Focusing on your adrenal health is a much more sustainable and safer way of taking care of your health, and making sure you have the energy to be productive at work. To get started, take a look at supplements that will help you combat adrenal fatigue.

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