When prescription stimulants come to mind, most people will likely think of Adderall as the most well-known prescription stimulant but it is not the only one. Modafinil is also an extremely common prescription drug that also has stimulant effects.
To understand the differences between Adderall and Modafinil we should carefully consider all of the drug’s effects. This article is meant to address the differences of Modafinil vs Adderall in an extremely technical manner.
If you are looking for something more straightforward on specific vendors then we might suggest other reading found here.
Modafinil and Adderall are both available as nootropic and are extremely popular for their off-label use because of their cognitive enhancements. Some benefits include, work performance, excessive daytime sleepiness, and enhanced cognition. They are both used treat narcolepsy and combat shift work sleep disorder, but there are other things such as working mechanism, chemistry, adverse effects, clinical indications, and efficacy that need clarification before use for workers, students, employees, and anyone interested in either Modafinil or Adderall or both.
Table of Contents
Modafinil vs Adderall Composition
The main difference between Modafinil and Adderall is the compositional chemistry. Modafinil contains a single chemical component, 2-(diphenylmethyl) sulfinyl acetamide, while Adderall is composed of 4 active amphetamine salts. These salts are amphetamine aspartate, amphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine saccharate, and dextroamphetamine sulfate.
History of Modafinil and Adderall
Adderall is a reformulation of an old anti-obesity weight loss pill, Obetrol by Rexar pharmaceutical. In the 1970s, Obetrol was withdrawn from the US market due to inefficacy. However in the late 1990s, Richwood pharmaceuticals bought the Rexar Company and reformulated the Obetrol into Adderall to be used as a prescription stimulant used to treat ADHD.
Modafinil is a new prescription drug that has been used as a central nervous system stimulant to treat excessive daytime sleepiness and has been available in the market since 1994 under various brand names, including Movigil, Provigil, Modasomil, Resotyl, Modvigil, Modiwake, Stavigile, Modiodal, etc.
The FDA approval was first granted in 1998 for sleep disorders to the pioneer brands; Provigil and Modiodal.
FDA Status and Approved Uses
Another significant difference is the potential of abuse, dependence, addiction, withdrawal symptoms of Modafinil and Adderall.
Modafinil is a Schedule IV controlled substance based on its efficiency for drug abuse, addiction, and dependence. The FDA-approved indications of the Modafinil include the treatment of narcolepsy, sleepiness (obstructive sleep apnea), and shift work disorder.
Adderall is a schedule 2 controlled substance. Adderall is more addictive, has more withdrawal symptoms, will boost blood pressure, and possesses a high abuse potential compared to Modafinil.
The uses of Adderall approved by the FDA are the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (unwanted sleep attacks). It shows that Adderall is more dangerous than Modafinil in abuse, addiction, and physical dependence.
Working Mechanisms of Modafinil and Adderall
The benefits of modafinil are attributed to the up-regulation of dopamine via inhibiting the reuptake in the synapsis, modulating the hypothalamic orexin and histamine neurotransmitter pathways, and may also increase the serotonin (5HT) or norepinephrine concentration in the brain.
In comparison, Adderall increases the concentration of both norepinephrine and dopamine neurotransmitters in the synaptic spaces. Plus, unlike Modafinil, Adderall also stimulates the release of histamine, serotonin, and epinephrine.
Both are serotonergic prescription medication and both should be avoided in combination with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (antidepressants) because of the drug interactions. The two drugs stimulate the central nervous system and are used for sleep apnea to promote wakefulness.
Weight loss effect of Modafinil and Adderall
People often misunderstand Modafinil as a weight loss drug. However, the weight loss effects of Modafinil are a side effect instead of approved applications in medical research studies. It aids weight loss by suppressing the appetite, increasing fullness feeling, and decreasing the calorie intake per day. As a result, users experience loss of appetite and reduction in weight, and claim Modafinil as a weight loss pill.
In the same way, Adderall can also help weight loss as it causes euphoria, loss of appetite, and increased energy consumption, helping extra weight reduction. Modafinil and Adderall do not directly work on the weight and their potential might help weight loss goals are more of a side effect.
Modafinil vs. Adderall for ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a severe medical issue characterized by impaired attention, less focus, and inability to perform tasks that require attention and focus. Both Modafinil and Adderall are prescription stimulants used for treating ADHD. Medical research studies on Modafinil for ADHD reported positive outcomes such as increasing and maintaining a sharp focus and concentration for maximum work productivity. Unlike Adderall, modafinil does not cause jitters or lagging. Adderall is an FDA-approved medication for ADHD and can produce an intense focus among patients.
Adderall vs. Modafinil for Cognitive Performance
Investigating the impact of both Modafinil and Adderall on cognitive ability, the researcher found similar effects. Adderall was shone to provide longer cognition than Modafinil but with more side effects. Modafinil provides similar cognition for enough periods without disturbing the sleep pattern compared to Adderall. Interestingly, some trials found no impact of Adderall on cognitive performance during research on Adderall only. In comparison, Modafinil can positively modulate reaction time, decision-making ability, help with mood disorders, and strategic and spatial planning. Importantly, one must remember that both Adderall and modafinil are not approved options for cognitive performance.
Unlike Adderall, modafinil is most popular for its off-label use and is popular among college students, entrepreneurs, athletes and more. In the world of smart drugs, modafinil is king. Claimed to drastically enhance cognition, many claim modafinil as a wonder drug.
Adderall vs. Modafinil for Anxiety
Based on medical research studies, both Modafinil and Adderall show mixed outcomes in anxiety management. They both help depression and mood but may elevate the level of anxiety. Other studies reported no evidence about the anxiety caused by these smart drugs. Additionally, Modafinil up-regulates the dopamine neurotransmitter, responsible for happiness and optimal mood and in general is a much milder stimulant.
In comparison, Adderall slightly impacts mood but may also produce awkward behaviors in the users, such as crying, insomnia, unhappiness, sadness, and nightmares. Thus, Modafinil is a better off-label choice for mood improvement than Adderall.
Modafinil vs. Adderall for Fatigue and Motivation
In case of fatigue, Modafinil when used in prescribed dosage significantly increases energy level and the desire to finish the task or job. As a central nervous stimulant, Adderall relieves fatigue for a more extended period than Modafinil. However, the safety profile of Modafinil favors the off-label use for relieving fatigue and also improving energy and motivation levels. Notably, elite students and hustlers also enjoyed completing a task with great motivation, major cognitive enhancing effects and without significant withdrawal symptoms, upon modafinil use.
Modafinil vs. Adderall for Wakefulness
Although the wakefulness capability of Modafinil is mild compared to Adderall, Adderall can produce jittering, agitation, anxiety, increased blood pressure, and irritability combined with wakefulness. Thus, users recommend Modafinil as a good and safe option for lethargy and sleepiness to promote wakefulness while still getting the benefit to cognitive function.
The above potential adverse effects of Adderall limit its use as the best choice for wakefulness and sleepiness. Adderall is also a schedule ii controlled substance and carries much harsher penalties if caught using this prescription drug.
Modafinil vs. Adderall Safety Profile
There is no drug on the planet without side effects and the same is true for Modafinil and Adderall. However, Modafinil shows minimal side effects and is considered safer than Adderall. The minimal side effects, reported by a very small number of users, include headache, nausea, loss of appetite, hypertension, and sleepiness.
In contrast, the potential adverse events of Adderall are stomach pain, dizziness, dry mouth, appetite loss, headache, higher heart and blood pressure, and insomnia. Also, the less common but severe side effects of Adderall include confusion, blurred vision, diarrhea, hallucinations, anxiety, agitation, fainting, and may cause an allergic reaction.
There is an extreme tolerance build up that happens with Adderall use which can lead to Adderall abuse and potentially addiction treatment. This happens when users will drastically increase their dose in order to get the desired high that is no longer attainable because of their tolerance. Substance abuse can result which could potentially lead to the need for professional medical advice and intervention.
There is no known case of someone overdosing on modafinil. With Adderall you can get high blood pressure and if taking in too high of dosage can cause heart problems that can be fatal. It is best to avoid highly physical activities that would cause more heart stress in order to avoid an Adderall overdose.
Modafinil and Adderall Dosages
The doses of Modafinil and Adderall are intended for different medical conditions, not for off-label use. A modafinil dose of 200mg orally once per day every morning is recommended for the treatment of narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea, while for shift work disorder, take 200mg of modafinil 1 hr before the shift. However, in case of hepatic damage, reduce the dose to 100mg daily.
The recommended dose of Adderall is 5-60 mg orally per day; it may increase by 10 mg/day every week for narcolepsy. While for ADHD, the dose of Adderall is 5 mg once or twice daily, and a dose increment will be 5 mg each week for both adults and children above 6 years. Always ask your doctor before you start taking modafinil and Adderall for recommended medical conditions.
Modafinil vs Adderall Reddit
Reddit is increasingly becoming a hub for users to talk about off-label use of Modafinil and Adderall. A simple search will reveal thousands of comments where users explain what their subjective opinion of these two substances are for and most of the time users will use a more common language to describe their experiences. These users are rarely doctors and are mostly just describing what it feels like to them.
One user described the difference as modafinil being something to combat excessive sleepiness but will not give you the same euphoria that something like Adderall is capable of. Other users say that Adderall will raise the ceiling and increase concentration levels, while Modafinil will raise the floor and keep you from getting tired. Most will warn of the potential negative side effects of Adderall but claim that Modafinil does not have the same potential to raise your mind to what it could be on something like Adderall.
Reddit remains an interesting place for anyone looking for information that can not be found in the public square.
Based on medical research studies and users’ experience, the nootropic agents; Adderall and modafinil show similar mechanisms of action but differ in composition, health impact, and obvious potential of side effects. Modafinil takes over Adderall in terms of; safety profile, weight loss benefit, wakefulness promotion, mood improvement, anxiety management, fatigue prevention, and work motivation. The serious adverse effects of Adderall limit its off-label and recommended uses for ADHD and narcolepsy.
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