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Modafinil: Why 'smart drugs' are not the brightest option

22 December 2020

What is Modafinil?

Modafinil has been marketed online as a 'smart drug' that keeps you alert and focused for long periods of time with little to no side effects. However, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is warning consumers that off-label use of these so-called smart drugs is not a wise choice.

Overseas online vendors promote drugs such as Modafinil, one of a growing category of drugs labelled nootropics, by using professional-looking and consumer friendly websites.

While Modafinil is available in Australia, online vendors are brushing over the fact that these types of products are illegal to buy and import to Australia without a prescription.

Consumers may be unaware that when you buy medicines online without the right health advice you are potentially putting your health at risk, could lose money in the purchase, and also break the law.

Modafinil is listed in Australia as a Schedule 4 prescription-only medicine, which means you should only access this medicine under the instruction of a medical practitioner.

While the medicine is predominantly prescribed to those living with narcolepsy or sleep apnea, some reports say drugs like Modafinil are becoming popular among students, shift-workers and people working in high-stress jobs.

Others are reported to take it for its properties to "modestly increase memory and learning" functions and also as a "cognitive enhancer".

As a first step, you should always seek the advice of your preferred health professional about how to treat poor sleeping habits or ways to properly focus.

Why is buying Modafinil online a problem?

Online vendors operating outside of Australia are known to target Australian consumers and encourage them to purchase Modafinil from their websites.

Anyone buying these products online runs the risk of getting into legal trouble. Under Australian law, it is illegal to buy or import prescription-only medicines without a valid doctor's prescription.

Many online vendors have lengthy videos and guides on how to buy these products from places such as India and encourage people to pay via cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin - a known payment method for buying illicit drugs on the dark web.

What are the side effects?

Modafinil has been reported to have a number of potential side-effects and it is important for consumers to consult their medical practitioner to fully understand how this medicine may affect them.

Imported therapeutic goods may be unsafe or may be of poorer quality than those available in Australia. We do not recommend that you buy therapeutic goods online from overseas websites as they can be harmful to your health.

Bottom line: beware online vendors who are facilitating unlawful importation

The TGA is urging Australians to be vigilant when buying medicines online, particularly when vendors ask to purchase their products through unorthodox methods, such as Bitcoin.

Many of these online guides quote TGA guidelines and misreport or confuse buyers on the legality of buying Modafinil. The fact remains the overseas importing of these medicines without a prescription from an Australian healthcare professional is illegal.

These medicines are regularly detected by Australian Border Force and intercepted, then held until buyers provide a valid prescription. If no prescription is provided, the items are declared as prohibited imports and destroyed. Many online vendors have a delivery guarantee, so any subsequent imports detected increases the seriousness of your actions.

If you attempt to import therapeutic goods unlawfully you may be subject to criminal prosecution with penalties including jail time and significant financial penalties.

Learn more about importing medicines through our buying medicines and medical devices online guide.

Can I legally import therapeutic goods, including prescription medicines?

You can legally import up to a three-month supply of therapeutic goods for personal use under the Personal Importation Scheme.

Before importing therapeutic goods under the Personal Importation Scheme, you must ensure that all of the following apply:

  • the goods are to be used by yourself or a member of your immediate family and you will not supply (sell or give) the goods to any other person
  • if the goods are a prescription medicine, you have a valid written authority from an Australian registered medical practitioner (usually a prescription)
  • where possible, you keep the medicines or medical devices in their original packaging with any dispensing labels intact
  • the goods are not restricted under Australian Border Force controls or quarantine rules and the goods do not contain a controlled substance
  • the goods are not injections that contain material of human or animal origin (except insulin).

You can find out more at Personal Importation Scheme or by calling the TGA on 1800 020 653.