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Modafinil Vs Adderall | Benefits, Side Effects, and Comparison

adderall-vs-modafinil

Most people tend to drink coffee when they need to be focused but sometimes a bit of caffeine just isn’t enough. 

If you have a tough time focusing and you need a brain booster to help you out, then a nootropic like Adderall or Modafinil is the perfect solution. Both of these drugs are currently two of the most popular nootropics on the market. 

This is mainly due to the fact that both of these drugs give consistent powerful results. 

Adderall is many people’s first nootropic experience. This ADHD medication was not created to be a nootropic but it has become well-known as a popular nootropic. On the other hand, Modafinil is a nootropic that was specifically designed to be the ideal nootropic. 

So how do you pick which one is best for you?

Choosing between these supplements can be quite tricky because both of them have similar effects. Both of these nootropics boost cognitive functions and allow you to work for long periods of time.

That’s where this article can help you out. We’re going to give you a comprehensive rundown of all the pros and cons of these drugs. By the end of this article, you’ll have all the information you need to make the right choice. 

However before we jump into the comparison, let’s start with an introduction to Modafinil. 

What is Modafinil?


Modafinil is one of those nootropics that is extremely well-known and for good reason. This drug has been shown to have clear cognitive benefits that have been tested  It is a top competitor in the field of nootropics and has been shown to have positive cognitive effects on individuals[1]. 

This product has been around since approximately 1998 and it is many people’s go-to drug when they need to pull an all-nighter. There has been quite a lot of research done on this drug which shows that it is extremely effective as a nootropic. However, Modafinil is quite potent and should be used with caution.

When you need a workhorse drug, Modafinil is your best bet.

Pharmacology

Unlike Adderall which is made up of mixed methamphetamine salts, Modafinil has its own unique structure. The chemical name of Modafinil is Diphenylmethyl Sulfinyl Acetamide and it is a Central Nervous System stimulant. You can say that Modafinil is one of the best alternative of adderall if not the best.

The way that it works is it increases the dopamine in the hypothalamus of the brain. More dopamine increases the activity level of your brain which gives you more energy to work[2]. Modafinil has also been shown to boost serotonin levels which is why it can improve your mood and make you feel better[3]. By regulating neurotransmitters, Modafinil can It is able to give you around 12 hours of productivity. 

So we know how the drug works but is it safe to use?

The answer to this question is yes, Modafinil is a safe nootropic. It is a Schedule IV controlled substance which means that there is a low chance of gaining an addiction to this substance. This also means that it is safer than Adderall. 

Although more testing needs to be done on Modafinil, side effects are quite rare. If you use this drug in its recommended dosage, then you will not experience any harmful effects. 

Now that we have an overview of Modafinil, let’s move on to Adderall. 

What is Adderall?


Although Adderall was never made to be used as a nootropic, it has gained a ton of popularity amongst college students as a cognitive booster. It was originally created as a therapeutic drug to alleviate symptoms of ADHD. There are a large number of tests that show that Adderall boosts cognition and focus in individuals with ADHD[4][5].

However, a lot of people like college students use it primarily as a nootropic. 

We’ve all been in a position where we have an important project or exam the next day and we need to work overnight to get it done. Adderall can give you the energy you need to get through hours of work, without losing focus. 

The majority of the benefits that Adderall provides are similar to Modafinil with one notable difference, Adderall gives you intense focus. To figure out how, we’ll need to dive into the heart of any nootropic, the ingredients. 

Pharmacology

Adderall is a drug that is made up of a substance known as amphetamine. If we want to get a bit more technical, this drug is made up of a combination of four different amphetamine salts namely, dextroamphetamine sulfate, amphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine saccharate, and amphetamine aspartate monohydrate[6].

Like Modafinil, amphetamine is a CNS stimulant that works by increasing the activity in the nervous system. And that effect is exactly why this drug is used as a medication for ADHD. Adderall is also used to treat narcolepsy. 

This medication has been around for a long time and countless tests have been conducted to figure out the exact mechanism. 

The way Adderall works is it interacts with the central nervous system of the body. Over here it will regulate the dopamine and noradrenaline levels in the brain. This boosts mental focus and increases attention span. It also increases the amount of several hormones and neurotransmitters like serotonin and histamine. This boosts energy and allows you to stay focused for long periods of time. 

However, one thing that you need to keep in mind while using Adderall is that a little bit goes a long way. 

This nootropic is quite potent and should be used with caution. Misuse of this drug can cause major side effects. Adderall is also a Schedule II controlled substance and can become addictive if it is used regularly. 

To sum it up, although Adderall is a very effective nootropic, it should only be used when necessary. 

So now that we’ve brushed up on the basics, let’s move into the direct comparisons. 

Differences in Structure and Uses, Similarities in Effects – 


So how do these two drugs compare to one another?

Both Modafinil and Adderall have similar effects, but their chemical structure is completely different. This is because they are composed of different chemical groups. 

Modafinil is a compound that is named Diphenylmethyl Sulfinyl Acetamide. On the other hand, Adderall is made up of four different amphetamine salts that are bound together to form this drug. 

Even though the structures of these drugs are different, they have quite a similar effect on the brain. Both of them boost cognition, focus and brain energy. 

However, there are a few subtle differences that make a world of difference. Read on to find out exactly what they are. 

Modafinil vs. Adderall | Comparison


To properly give you a rundown of these nootropics, let’s start at how they differ in benefits. 

Modafinil Benefits

When it comes to nootropics, Modafinil is definitely one of the most powerful brain boosters on the market. 

Just a single tablet can give you more than 12 hours of productivity. Studies have shown that taking Modafinil can improve cognitive function, increase focus and boost memory retention. This will help you to focus on long boring tasks without getting distracted or frustrated. 

Modafinil is a much better all-round nootropic than Adderall because it gives you all of these benefits together. This is likely due to the mechanism of action. On the other hand, Adderall is mainly known for the intense focus that it provides. 


The potency of this medication also makes it very easy to use. If you’re ever in need of a bit of extra energy then all you need to do is take a pill and you’ll be set for the next 12 hours. 

The upside to this is that Modafinil is perfect for pulling all-nighters and finishing off a last-minute project. However, the downside is that if you don’t plan your schedule well then you’re probably not going to be able to sleep for a while. 

All in all, Modafinil is the ideal overnight study drug. 

Adderall Benefits

Adderall is perhaps the only other nootropic drug that is as powerful as Modafinil. It can give you around 12 hours of non-stop productivity and all you need is a single tablet. 

As we’ve mentioned before, Adderall provides many of the same benefits as Modafinil but there is one major difference that defines this drug, the upregulation of noradrenaline production

One of the main issues that most people have is that they aren’t able to concentrate and focus on a particular task for long periods of time. 

The nootropic compounds in the supplement are able to boost the production of noradrenaline which in turn, improves concentration and increases focus. This helps the brain to memorize and retain tasks more efficiently. 

This is the main difference between Adderall and Modafinil. The nootropic effects of Adderall can keep you hyperfocused on the task that you want to complete. 

Keep in mind that Adderall was a drug that was created to lessen some symptoms of ADHD. This is likely why it’s able to give you extremely intense focus. 

When you look at all the benefits that Adderall provides, it’s easy to see why this drug is used by students. The intense focus and boost in cognition that it provides make Adderall the perfect study drug. 

But which synthetic nootropic comes out on top? 

Direct Comparisons Studies


Even though the pharmacological makeup of both these drugs is extremely different, they still have similar nootropic benefits on the body. Adderall and Modafinil both improve your cognitive abilities and allow you to work faster. This is because both of them increase the release of dopamine and serotonin in your brain. 

However, there is a difference in the way that Adderall works. This drug boosts noradrenaline which increases energy and focus immensely. Too much focus can be a bad thing which is why Adderall can only be used in a few selective situations.

These drugs also have various side effects that are associated with them.This might be the deciding factor for you. 

Which has the Most Side Effects?


Side effects are a part of every drug, however, some side effects are much more dangerous than others. When you’re looking at potent drugs like Modafinil and Adderall, you can never be too cautious. That’s why we’ve given you a rundown of all the side effects that you might experience while using these nootropics: 

Modafinil Side Effects

Like Adderall, Modafinil is a prescription drug. This means that you require a prescription from a doctor if you want to get one of these drugs. Both Modafinil and Adderall are synthetic nootropics. They are a lot more potent than other natural nootropics on the market like Mind Lab Pro. 

However, Modafinil is quite a safe drug when it is used properly. 

A vast majority of Modafinil users claim that they experienced no adverse side effects.  

That being said, it is not recommended that you use this on a daily basis because of the strength. 

Some of the side effects are insomnia, headaches, nausea and stomach ache. Additionally, if you suffer from high blood pressure, an anxiety disorder or from other similar conditions then consult a medical professional before taking Modafinil.

Adderall Side Effects

This medication might be effective but the side effects make it a product that you don’t want to use unless necessary. Adderall can cause a variety of side effects. Some are milder but still quite dangerous like loss of appetite, dry mouth, insomnia, and so on. 

Because Adderall boosts the levels of noradrenaline in the body, this means that it also increases the blood pressure in the body. This is one of the many reasons why taking extra Adderall can have a harmful effect on your body. High blood pressure can lead to heart palpitations, nausea and a variety of other similar symptoms. 

If an individual has taken too much of this drug then they can experience severe psychosis and even rapid muscle breakdown.  The harmful side effects that might be caused by this drug could cause severe harm. 

The bottom line is this, if you don’t have ADHD or another similar condition and are taking this drug then you need to be extremely careful.

Apart from these side effects, both Modafinil and Adderall are stimulants, like caffeine. Stimulants are great for a boost of energy but it also has a massive downside.

Because of the way that stimulants work, you’re going to feel a crash after using them. 

Therefore, after the effects of the stimulant wear off, you’ll feel extremely fatigued for a short period of time. Modafinil and Adderall are excellent for an overnight study session or an extra-long work day, but they should not be used on a daily basis. 

Neither Should Be Taken With Alcohol

Alcohol should never be taken with medication because it can affect the mechanism and cause harmful side effects. This is especially true when it comes to nootropics. 

Our Experience – Do they really make you smart?


Now for the tricky part, how smart can these ‘smart drugs’ make you? 

Nootropics are chemicals that can alter your brain chemistry. They do this by upregulating or boosting the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. This mechanism is what gives you all the nootropic benefits. 

Nootropics like Modafinil and Adderall increase your brain energy and concentration which in turn helps you to work faster. These drugs help you to process information more smoothly and that’s how they boost your cognition.

Modafinil

Modafinil is a drug that is meant for people that are looking to pull 12+ hour work sessions. It gives you the ability to work continuously for a long period of time. The cognitive benefits that Modafinil gives have been proven time and time again. 

One study that was conducted to test the effectiveness of Modafinil in healthy volunteers showed that there was a clear increase in the rate of verbal learning after consuming Modafinil[7].

Adderall

Although Adderall has been used for ages as the go-to study drug, the main draw of this nootropic is the intense focus it gives. Studies have shown that in individuals without ADHD, the cognitive benefits that Adderall provides are not that significant[8].

If we compare the risks associated with Adderall to the benefits that it gives then it becomes clear that Adderall is not a very useful nootropic. When you compare this to the cognitive benefits that you can get from Modafinil, it is apparent that Modafinil is the better nootropic. 

Common Uses


Both Adderall and Modafinil are workhorse drugs. They are used by a variety of professionals and individuals that need to work for long hours without losing focus. Professionals like writers, coders have to stay focused for hours on end. 

Main Differences


Clinical Uses

Both Adderall and Modafinil are medications that are used to treat symptoms of certain disorders. Adderall is used as a therapeutic agent for ADHD and Modafinil is used to remedy narcolepsy. Because of the amphetamine salts that it contains, Adderall is much more effective as a medication. 

Side Effects

Generally, both of these products are safe to consume but need to be used with caution. Overall, Adderall has worse side effects than Modafinil. If you experience any discomfort while consuming either one of these products then contact a medical professional immediately. 

Legality

These drugs are completely legal with a prescription. But the question is, how difficult is it to get a prescription for them?

Adderall is categorized as a Schedule II drug and is therefore much harder to acquire. However Modafinil is a Schedule IV drug so medical professionals are more lax about giving out prescriptions. 

To sum it up, Modafinil is much easier drug to take legally. 

Alternatives

If you’re looking for an over-the-counter nootropic that does not require a prescription then there are a ton of natural nootropic options like Mind Lab Pro, Alpha Brain, Qualia Mind, and so on. We recommend looking up a few testimonials and reviews online to see which one fits with your lifestyle. 

Can Modafinil and Adderall Be Taken Together


Generally, people tend to believe that taking more nootropics will increase the benefits that they provide. However, there is no evidence to show that taking Modafinil and Adderall together will double the benefits. 

On the contrary, this might actually harm you

Both of these drugs are potent medications that might cause harmful side effects in large quantities. By overlapping them you could be putting yourself at risk. 


Additionally taking two drugs at once is a great way to drive your resistance up. When you have a high resistance, you’ll need to take a larger quantity to feel the effect of the drug. It will cause you to consume a lot more than you normally would, which can be quite harmful. 

That’s why we recommend that you stick to one nootropic for the time being. There are simply no benefits to taking both of these drugs at the same time. 

What’s Best For You?


At the end of the day, you will need to figure out what the deciding factor is for you. If you’re looking for the best drug for focus then Adderall takes the cake. However, Modafinil is overall a much better nootropic. 

So what’s the final verdict?

Adderall vs. Modafinil | Verdict


After going through all the nitty gritty details of these nootropics we can say that Modafinil comes out on top. 

Although both Adderall and Modafinil serve as good workhorse drugs, Modafinil is a bit better than Adderall. This is mainly due to the risks that Adderall has. Taking large amounts of this drug can adversely affect your health. 

If we look at the benefits then it is clear that Modafinil is better at boosting productivity. The hyperfocus that Adderall gives you might hinder your work. Additionally, Adderall does not work extremely well on healthy individuals but Modafinil has shown clear positive results.

Modafinil is simply one of the top synthetic drugs currently on the market.  

References

  1. Gerrard, P., & Malcolm, R. (2007). Mechanisms of modafinil: A review of current research. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 3(3), 349–364.
  2. Ishizuka, T., Murakami, M., & Yamatodani, A. (2008). Involvement of central histaminergic systems in modafinil-induced but not methylphenidate-induced increases in locomotor activity in rats. European journal of pharmacology, 578(2-3), 209–215. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejphar.2007.09.009
  3. Ferraro, L., Fuxe, K., Tanganelli, S., Tomasini, M. C., Rambert, F. A., & Antonelli, T. (2002). Differential enhancement of dialysate serotonin levels in distinct brain regions of the awake rat by modafinil: possible relevance for wakefulness and depression. Journal of neuroscience research, 68(1), 107–112. https://doi.org/10.1002/jnr.10196
  4. Swanson, J. M., Wigal, S., Greenhill, L. L., Browne, R., Waslik, B., Lerner, M., Williams, L., Flynn, D., Agler, D., Crowley, K., Fineberg, E., Baren, M., & Cantwell, D. P. (1998). Analog classroom assessment of Adderall in children with ADHD. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 37(5), 519–526.
  5. Pelham, W. E., Aronoff, H. R., Midlam, J. K., Shapiro, C. J., Gnagy, E. M., Chronis, A. M., Onyango, A. N., Forehand, G., Nguyen, A., & Waxmonsky, J. (1999). A comparison of ritalin and adderall: efficacy and time-course in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics, 103(4), e43. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.103.4.e43
  6. FDA (n.d.). Adderall XR prescribing information. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2013/021303s026lbl.pdf
  7. Gilleen, J., Michalopoulou, P. G., Reichenberg, A., Drake, R., Wykes, T., Lewis, S. W., & Kapur, S. (2014). Modafinil combined with cognitive training is associated with improved learning in healthy volunteers–a randomised controlled trial. European
  8. Lakhan, S. E., & Kirchgessner, A. (2012). Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects. Brain and behavior, 2(5), 661–677. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.78
Erica Bail

Having specialized as a Neurologist for 8+ years treating patients with diseases like Parkinson's disease, Sclerosis, Dementia and Brain Injury. Dr Erica has the passion and experience to detect, diagnose and manage any type of brain disorder.

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