Modafinil vs Adderall

Modafinil vs Adderall, which of the two is the smarter drug? To settle the debate on which of the two is a better cognitive/memory enhancer, let’s take a closer look at each of them in terms of basic features, physical and cognitive effects, user productivity, consumption, side effects and also their addiction levels.

Basics of Modafinil

Modafinil vs Adderall
Modafinil vs Adderall

Modafinil is a popular and commonly used eugeroic, aka wakefulness-promoting drug. It is used to treat various sleep disorders ranging from narcolepsy, sleep apnea, excessive daytime sleepiness, and others. However, in recent times it has gotten increasingly popular among people looking for an extra edge at work or while studying through enhanced cognition. Due to valid concerns around addiction, this drug has been categorized as a controlled substance in the United States with restrictions on its availability and use. In other countries, modafinil has been classified as a prescription drug with no legal restrictions.

How Modafinil Improves Memory?

Scientifically speaking, modafinil is known to:

  • Increase glutamate (the main excitatory neurotransmitter) in the thalamus (structure inside the brain).
  • Prevent toxicity of glutamate.
  • Increase dopamine, norepinephrine (i.e. inhibit dopamine/norepinephrine transporter) and serotonin. Dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin are neurotransmitters.
  • Increase histamine (a neurotransmitter) in various parts of the brain.

Proven Benefits of Modafinil

  • Adult patients with ADD/ADHD conditions have shown significant improvement in visual memory, short-term memory, and spatial planning on being administered (200 mg/day) of modafinil.
  • Modafinil has aided working memory in individuals who were dependent on methamphetamine and displayed baseline impairment.
  • Modafinil has shown results in individuals that went into a more attentive state that showed enhanced and coordinated brain activity and also massive attention control when they were given this drug.

Basics of Adrafinil – “legal modafinil”

Modafinil vs Adderall - Adderall Pills
Adderall is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, aimed initially at treating narcolepsy and ADHD. However, these days it is also being used by healthy people due to its stimulating properties. Ironically adrafinil is the legal version of modafinil. Simply because adrafinil too has the same structure as modafinil, barring one slight difference which is the reason for the difference in their status as drugs. Adrafinil’s structure becomes bio-active only when the body metabolizes it into modafinil. This is when adrafinil pretty much delivers the same bio-effects as modafinil which is considered illegal. Adrafinil is an over-the-counter drug which is a lot more freely available than modafinil and delivers almost the same benefits but with a clear advantage — ease of access.

Modafinil vs Adderall

Time for the two smart drugs to go head-to-head in a discussion to determine which is better. They are being compared based on specific parameters from the user’s perspective. Let the games begin!

Physical Effects

Considering their structure and mechanism is similar, they also have similar physical effects on usage.

  • Modafinil: This drug boosts physical activities such as sports, running, exercising. It also helps in physical movement.
    • Side Effects of Modafinil: Users have experienced and reported teeth grinding and jaw clenching.
  • Adderall: The intake of Adderall causes stronger stimulation but it is slightly forced.
    • Side Effects of Adderall: Adderall causes side effects which range from increased heart rate, body tension to involuntary movements such as legs shaking. It also manages to suppress appetite (people use it for weight loss) and cause dehydration.

Please note both these drugs have been banned and athletes are prohibited from using them.

Cognitive Effects

cognitive-effects-adderall-vs-modafinil
Modafinil and Adderall both lead to wakefulness, better memory retention, and information recall. They also cause attention spans to last a lot longer and better motivation to achieve daily or long-term objectives and goals.

  • Modafinil: The effects of this drug last long and its after-effects can be felt even nine hours later. You won’t crash with modafinil. In fact, it can be reactivated with caffeine but do note that might lead to lack of sleep at night.
  • Adderall: This drug fails to deliver if used in high doses and also proves inefficient in completing tasks related to studying and overall productivity. In smaller doses, Adderall may leave you feeling drained once the effects have worn off.

User Productivity

Modafinil-vs-Adderall-user-productivity
Users have reported on the productivity experienced in consuming these drugs. Some observations indicate:

  • Modafinil: On taking modafinil users experienced a significant drop in brain fog that tends to last longer than just a few days. They also reported increased energy, motivation and focus in the days that followed. This drug is known to make you feel like you are glued to the chair because it helps you stay focused on what you are doing at that very moment. This drug is known for its very unique neuroprotective properties because it has the effect of reducing oxidative levels in the brain.
  • Adderall: This is a very potent stimulant that forces stimulation onto its users leading to the need to perform physical activities, increase in learning and productivity. Adderall has amphetamine-like side effects which discourage many users from choosing it as an aid to better learning.

Study Aids

What sets these two drugs apart as study aids are mainly the comedowns. Modafinil lasts a lot longer because it acts on the chemicals in the brain in a different manner. There isn’t much of a difference between a low and high dose of modafinil and you won’t crash. A high dose of modafinil tends to increase focus without making you feel high because it is a eugeroic and so higher doses will make you feel a lot more awake as opposed to stimulated. However, if you consume a high dose of Adderall, it could trigger jitters and euphoria, making studying/learning a challenge.
Modafinil-vs-Adderall-study-aids
This being said both the drugs aid effective studying. Please note Adderall is very addictive and people have actually checked into rehab in order to quit this drug. Modafinil, on the other hand, has milder side effects and is not too addictive.

Consumption

The intake of modafinil and Adderall varies a great deal. Let’s see to what extent.

Dose

The standard dose of modafinil for medical use is 200 mg/once a day. However, for studying/motivational purposes a lower dose is recommended because observations show that there is no difference between the effects of modafinil between 100 mg and 200 mg doses administration.

The recommended doses for Adderall differ based on the purpose for which it is being used. If it is being used to treat narcolepsy, then the dose may vary from 5 mg to 60 mg/per day, with the doses being divided. For the purpose of increasing productivity, 10 mg/per day has been suggested for new users who haven’t developed a tolerance to it.

Potentiators

The effects of both modafinil and Adderall can be enhanced by using certain foods or drugs. Modafinil can be boosted using dopamine-boosting foods such as cocoa, caffeine, bananas, green tea, almonds etc. Carbamazepine (a neuroleptic drug) can potentiate the effects of both modafinil and Adderall.

Side Effects and Addictive Levels

Both the drugs cause side effects and also exhibit varying levels of toxicity. Even though both are likely to cause side effects such as dizziness, anxiety, nervousness headaches, and nausea there is a vast difference in their long-term side effects and their addictive levels.

  • Modafinil: This drug is considered safe if used in low-to-moderate doses.

Addictive Level of Modafinil: This drug is not addictive but if used frequently the body does build a tolerance to it and the desired effects will not be seen.

  • Adderall: In addition to the aforementioned side effects, medical results show that Adderall can damage the liver, kidneys, and bladder.

Addictive Level/Withdrawal Symptoms of Adderall: This is a serious issue because many users who stopped taking Adderall experienced withdrawal symptoms like nervousness, weight loss, insomnia or excessive sleeping, irritability, fatigue, depression and also brain zaps. Being an amphetamine, Adderall can potentially cause or worsen psychological disorders and mental ailments. Please note overdosing on Adderall can lead to nausea, headache, vomiting, tachycardia (a heart rate in excess of the normal rate) and in some cases can also lead to death.

Summary

Based on the information mentioned above, let’s take stock and summarise the details that stand out for each of the drugs.

  • Modafinil is a eugeroic while Adderall is clearly a CNS stimulant.
  • Modafinil has a milder effect while Adderall is a lot more potent and forced.
  • Adderall’s effects after peaking are always followed by a crash whereas with modafinil you will not crash and instead its effects tend to wear off over a considerable period of time.
  • Adderall is very addictive when compared to modafinil which has practically little or no potential for being addictive.

The Verdict

Consuming modafinil maybe akin to drinking a stronger cup of coffee because its effects are a lot milder when compared to Adderall which is a potent stimulant and amphetamine. Adderall is bound to be a lot stronger and packs quite a punch to bolster energy and focus. Significantly more than modafinil. While this may seem tempting, the negative side effects of Adderall are far too many to overlook. It is a very dangerous alternative for healthy users. Especially if the dose is increased it could easily lead to counterproductive results in the far end. Modafinil is able to enhance productivity and effective learning with fewer side effects, lower toxicity levels, zero crash effects and zero addiction even with long-term usage. Adderall is a lot more potent than modafinil. But it is also a lot more unhealthy and not too effective in enhancing learning and productivity. Crashing and burning after Adderall has worn out is a given. Which is the smarter drug? The verdict is rather obvious. Modafinil because it is a safe(r) and smart(er) drug.