Meet the Drug That's Powering Wall Street

Prescriptions for Modafinil up 10-fold in decade

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 7, 2013 5:21 AM CDT

(Newser) – Cocaine may no longer be the drug that fuels Wall Street. Instead, traders and start-up entrepreneurs looking to work hard rather than party hard are increasingly turning to a Modafinil—a "smart drug" said to have inspired the film Limitless, in which a writer pops a pill that allows him to tap into 100% of his brain capacity. The drug is intended to treat narcolepsy, but time-poor traders use it to stay awake and hyper-alert for long periods of work, reports New York. "I would describe it as being very much like Adderall, but without the speediness,” says Peter Borden, a former user.

Prescriptions for Modafinil in the US have increased almost tenfold over the past decade, mostly for off-label use, according to a study published in Internal Medicine. It was originally believed to be non-addictive, but a 2009 study found that may not be the case. Borden says that for him, withdrawals were so bad he had to quit the drug: "It was sort of like being thrust into dirty, messy reality, as opposed to a clean, neatly organized place. It was like crashing."

Bradley Cooper in "Limitless."   (MovieWeb)
Traders gather on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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