Is There a Real Smart Drug Like in the Movie Limitless?

NZT-48 is considered a robust nootropic that is able to provide a sensational augmentation of brain function & mental ability, radically improving memory and intelligence. It’s believed that people use only 10% of the brain. But the brain on this miracle medicine just uses a complete 100% of its capacity. Consequently, this cognitive augmenter magnifies an individual’s intelligence to superhuman levels and superbly boosts total recall. 

But what exactly is NZT-48? Does this incredible performance-augmenting med exist? Is modafinil a real-world substitute for it? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions.

What Is NZT-48 from Movie Limitless?

With this miracle drug, you’ll assemble two Rubik’s cubes in seconds, specifically one with each hand. Besides, at the same time, you’ll bargain for a great deal on Wall Street over the phone. And you’ll accomplish it all while solving a complicated math task for your Silicon Valley buddies.

With NZT-48, you’ll definitely become a walking supercomputer. But you’ll likewise be an impressive, charismatic individual with irresistible powers of persuasion. Undoubtedly, nobody can tell you “no.”

But what exactly is NZT-48? In a nutshell, the so-called NZT-48 is simply a fictional med from the movie Limitless.

The protagonist played by Bradley Cooper is a struggling writer who finds NZT-48 via his friend. After testing the medicine, he maximizes his brain’s potential: He becomes super observant, is capable to recall incidents in great depth, and comprehends complicated ideas in a very short time. He doesn’t feel exhausted, he’s incredibly productive, his attention to detail is impressively out of this world, and he becomes suave & charismatic. Besides, when he obtains more of the med, his potential becomes … limitless.

Remarkably, with his new capabilities, his triumph and wealth skyrocket. The main character goes on to make millions of dollars on the stock market and then paves the way to the top of a giant corporation.

However, the pill comes with some negative effects, and as he discovers, several other individuals who tried the pill before him have since died after suffering a series of horrendous headaches.

The effects of the pill usually last for about 12 hours. Thereafter, you’ll presumably desire more. But that’s not advisable. NZT-48 has extremely dangerous mental and physical side effects, which may increase with long-term use and may even lead to death. But remember, that’s just a fictional drug!

Are the Effects of This Drug Possible?

In the movie, the drug’s ingredients are demonstrated to work by augmenting the brain’s capacity from 10% to 100%. Indeed, this claim makes sense in the movie but requires you to acknowledge that the brain isn’t using 90% of its power — which merely isn’t the case.

The claim that only 10% of the human brain is normally used is one of the typical myths. People just use 10% of the brain’s latent mental energy. And this doesn’t imply that 90% of the human brain isn’t accomplishing anything.

The mechanism of action of NZT-48 isn’t disclosed in the movie. Nonetheless, a pill that can boost IQ levels to 4-digit numbers, as was shown in Limitless, doesn’t exist in real life.

Is Modafinil the Real NZT-48 Pill From Limitless?

You may ask, Is there anything like NZT or “smart drug” Limitless? Can I order it online? Well, of all the nootropics you can buy on the market today, modafinil, by Cephalon company based in Frazer, Pennsylvania, USA, is certainly the closest real-world NZT-48 pill. It’s nearly similar, and you can order it easily, as the maker supplies it globally.

Individuals from all walks of life use this drug to feel alert and awake and boost their cognitive functions. This leads to advancements in learning, decision-making, planning, memory, motivation, mental acuity, and concentration.

Although the “smart drug” won’t offer you superintelligence, it can superbly make you a lot more efficient. This can be seen in Limitless when Bradley Cooper pops the pill NZT-48 and spends hours writing his book or even playing the stock market without fatigue.

Main Features and Side Effects of Modafinil

As a wakefulness-promoting agent, modafinil is used to treat sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, and obstructive sleep apnea. Physicians use it off-label to treat depression, memory decline in elderly people, jet lag, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and several other health conditions.

As for its mode of action, it inhibits dopamine reuptake, thus augmenting the concentrations of this chemical. Similarly, it augments the levels of other neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, histamine, orexin, & norepinephrine. The increased levels of the mentioned chemicals in the brain reward users with the following cognitive benefits: ameliorated attention and memory, boosted mental acuity, heightened vigilance and executive function, better mood, increased motivation, augmented concentration and energy, etc. [1].

Modafinil is safe & well-tolerated, and it has a low potential for abuse [2]. However, like every other medication, it’s linked with side effects. Some common negative effects include dizziness, headaches, diarrhea, nausea, difficulty sleeping, stomach upset, and a stuffy or runny nose. These adverse reactions are typically mild and usually fade away without any form of treatment. Rare yet severe negative effects associated with the use of modafinil are skin rash, suicidal thoughts, hives, abnormal heartbeat, hyperactive behavior, mental problems, anxiety, and trouble breathing [3]. Most of the serious symptoms are triggered by incorrect use, e.g., an overdose. If left unattended, these side effects may be life-threatening. Inform your doctor immediately if you experience any discomfort.


Although the NZT-48 drug is intriguing and provides insanely great benefits, it isn’t real. However, the closest thing to this fictional pill is certainly modafinil. Rather than giving you superintelligence, the “smart drug” effectively improves your cognitive functions and ultimately boosts performance. It’s advantageous for individuals who need extra focus and concentration while completing mentally demanding tasks.


  1. The Off-Prescription Use of Modafinil: An Online Survey of Perceived Risks and Benefits. By Rachel D. Teodorini, Nicola Rycroft, and James H. Smith-Spark. Published: February 5, 2020.
  2. Is Provigil Addictive? By Daniel J. DeNoon. Medically reviewed by Louise Chang, MD, on March 17, 2009.
  3. Modafinil Side Effects by Likelihood and Severity. Retrieved: September 13, 2022.