We have measured the nonlinear optical absorption of arsenic and oxygen implanted epitaxial GaAs for a range of ion doses and annealing temperatures. The response time, τA, and a parameter, Mmax, which characterizes the performance of the structures as modulators, are both reduced by implantation, and correspondingly the nonbleachable losses are increased. We show that similar combinations of (τA, Mmax) can be achieved using either ion species and various combinations of dose and annealing temperatures. Furthermore, the data were all located on a well-defined curve in the (τA, Mmax) plane, provided amorphization, which occurs at high implant doses, was avoided. We deduce that there exists a limit to the modulation if a specific response time is required. © 1999 American Institute of Physics.