How Many Silicon Valley Startup Executives Are Hopped Up On Provigil?

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Is someone you work with taking Provigil to give them an extra competitive edge? I’ve spoken with one executive who says he uses it regularly to work twenty hour days, and the buzz lately is that it’s the “entrepreneur’s drug of choice” around Silicon Valley. Over the last week two separate entrepreneurs have mentioned it casually in conversation, and one said he tried it once and loved it.

Provigil (aka Modafinil) is marketed by Cephalon in the United States and is available by prescription only. It’s only approved use in the U.S. is to treat narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder. But since the main effect of Provigil is to keep you awake and able to concentrate, a lot of people who get their hands on it use it to be able to work longer hours, even though it has not been deemed safe for that kind of use.

Recreational Provigil user testimonials are all over the web. Not only are people able to work with little or no sleep, the drug has the advantage of spurring weight loss and some users report a general mood enhancing side effect. The U.S. military has also reportedly tested it on helicopter and F117 pilots to see if they remain effective for up to 88 hours without sleep.

There are few side effects to Provigil compared to stimulants and it is supposedly not habit forming. That, of course, doesn’t mean it’s safe to take it just to be able to stay awake for 20 hours a day.

What’s so funny is that entrepreneurs apparently aren’t interested in typical drugs – instead they find the one that gives them a mental and stamina advantage. Perhaps some enterprising venture capitalist will start requiring founders of their companies to get a prescription in order to close on an investment.

Update: Cephalon sent me an email this morning:

I am writing on behalf of Cephalon, the manufacturer of PROVIGIL. I just read your TechCrunch blog, “How Many Silicon Valley Startup Executives Are Hopped Up On Provigil?” in which you talk about the use PROVIGIL to gain a competitive edge, and wanted to clarify the proper indication of PROVIGIL.

In the article, you note that PROVIGIL’s “only approved use in the U.S. is to treat narcolepsy.” In fact, PROVIGIL is approved to improve wakefulness in adults who experience excessive sleepiness (ES) due to one of the following diagnosed sleep problems: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), shift work sleep disorder (SWSD), or narcolepsy. PROVIGIL is not a replacement for sleep and is not intended to treat sleep deprivation.

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