The real “NZT” that inspired Limitless blockbuster movie


Modafinil is the name of the molecule that inspired the blockbuster movie Limitless, with Bradley Cooper playing the role of a young aspiring Italian-American writer in deep crisis: he failed to write even a word of the book he is planning and was abandoned by his girlfriend, a woman he was with after his divorce. However, the chance meeting with his ex brother-in-law Vernon Gant is destined to change his life. Grant offers him to try an experimental nootropic drug called NZT-48, which can maximize cognitive abilities. After initial skepticism, Eddie decides to take a pill. The effect is startling: Eddie discovers that he knows things he never remembered learning, he instantly absorbs and puts into practice everything he hears, he is successful with women, he regains energy and inspiration, he transforms the her landlord in a stimulating discussion of her law thesis, giving her advice and helping her finish it in just 45 minutes, while having sex in the remaining time they spend together. He then manages to write half of his book in a few hours, after cleaning and tidying the house from top to bottom.

Bradley Cooper playing Eddie Morra in “Limitless”

The next morning, however, the miraculous effect wears off, so Eddie is prompted to turn to Vernon for more pills. In a short time, however, the protagonist understands that NZT is more an addictive drug than an experimental drug and that Vernon is in danger because other people also want to get hold of it. Eddie agrees to run errands for Vernon so that he pays him back in pills. When Eddie returns to Vernon to deliver his breakfast, he discovers the house ransacked and finds Vernon’s body, shot dead. After calling the police, he realizes that maybe there are still some pills in the apartment and, before leaving, he looks for them, finds them and hides them on himself. In the following days he continues to take them and quickly puts his life back on track: completes the book in four days, learns to play the piano in three days, masters several languages perfectly just by listening to people speak them, beats half a dozen men with his bare hands who wanted to attack him by recalling moves seen in films and television programs, he wins his girlfriend back and launches himself into finance, a world in which he sees the possibility of large earnings, going from 12,000 dollars to 2 million in 10 days. Since Vernon’s supply of pills is running out, Eddie decides to finance the production of the drug himself through a laboratory. Not having enough money, he borrows it from a Russian mobster who happens to take a pill Eddie dropped.

After a bout that stunned Wall Street No. 1 Carl Van Loon, for Eddie begins the journey to keep the secret of his success and to keep safe his life also.


Through science fiction movies, film makers and writers are given the opportunity to unleash their imaginations to the audience. In turn, the movie world is filled with things that are generally unbelievable in the real world. It is true that movie technology can easily be dismissed as mere fantasies.

Although most of these “movie technologies” that seem impossible in the real world, are now not so improbable as it could be considered.

The idea of a certain technology or drug that allows humans to achieve peak performance levels is present in a number of movies. Most of the time, real world science is nowhere near to developing the same kind of technology as featured in these movies; this is why these films are classified as science fiction.

In the movie “Limitless”, the drug called NZT-48 is an experimental drug that supposedly unlocks 100% of the brainpower of anyone who takes it. The drug improved the brain functions of Eddie to borderline superhuman, granting him laser-sharp focus, a learning ability increased a hundred-fold, heightened alertness and reflexes, and the ability to recall everything and anything he’s ever heard or read in his lifetime.

“A drug like that sounds too good to be true, but what if it isn’t?”

Stimulants are drugs that temporarily improve physical or cognitive functions; sometimes both. There are a lot of legal forms of stimulants that help with conditions such as narcolepsy, lethargy, obesity, and headaches stimulating the nervous system, but none of them works anywhere close to the NZT-48, except of course, the Modafinil.

The Modafinil is an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved eugeroic, or a wakefulness-promoting drug. It is originally intended to treat narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, and excessive daytime sleepiness. However, its effects do not focus on neurotransmitter stimulation like other stimulants, which is why addiction/dependency is safely avoided.

The drug was originally formulated by a French professor named Michel Jouvet and Lafon Laboratories. It was offered as treatment for narcolepsy in 1986. It became available in France as “Modiodal” and in United States under the name Provigil, during nineties. In UK the same pharmac was distributed by Cephalon in 2002 as Modafinil.


To further compare Modafinil with the fictional NZT-48, here are some of the comparable effects from both drugs as heightened focus – In the movie, the writer instantly noticed the NZT-48’s effect on his focus, that became crystal clear, making him able to achieve 100% awareness of his surroundings in full detail.

The Modafinil also grants a person a clearer visual focus, which is noticeable around 3 minutes upon taking the drug. Better thought and comprehension ability stimulants are known to promote mental clarity and better comprehension, which is why it is beneficial for working people. In the movie, the NZT-48 allowed the writer to learn different languages and the ability to predict stock market movement in such a short time. Although Modafinil may not work as well as the NZT-48, it is proven to improve mental focus and thinking abilities significantly.

Although the NZT-48 didn’t specifically state that it increases physical strength, it was shown that the drug improved the physical abilities of the person. However, it is not uncommon for stimulants to give your body a little boost. The physical improvement effect of Modafinil is more noticeable at the gym, allowing a person to perform more repetitions.


Modafinil does not exactly increase your energy, but it delays tiredness. This means you can perform more physical work before feeling tired, allowing you to push your limits.


The NZT-48 allowed the writer to stay focused on his work and eventually moved on to doing a lot of other things. It also helped the person become 100% aware of everything that was going on in his environment. The Modafinil also imitates this effect. Although the amount of increase in alertness is not as great as the NZT-48, it is the closest you can get from an FDA-approved drug.


The NZT-48 didn’t only allow the writer to learn dialects, it also skyrocketed his conversational skills. The Modafinil also increases your so-cial skills by becoming more attentive and engaged in different topics, as well as giving your confidence a significant boost. Side effects – In the movie, the NZT-48 did have severe adverse effects and a after a period of withdrawal from the drug, the writer experienced nausea, vomiting, paranoia, and a lot more. On the other hand, it’s impossible to develop any the NZT-48 side effects or addiction from the use of Modafinil, that could bring just very light and managable side effects and can’t give addiction.


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