Modafinil vs. Adderall: Everything You Need to Know

Modafinil vs Adderall

Modafinil vs Adderall. In this article, we will cover all there is to know about both these medicines.

Modafinil and Adderall are medications useful in the treatment of narcolepsy. Both the medicines have a stimulant-like effect. But the medicines are different in structure, risk to side effects, and addiction.

Adderall is more likely to cause dependence and addiction as against Modafinil. It also has greater withdrawal symptoms on discontinuation.

Modafinil is not categorized as a stimulant, but Adderall is. These medications promote wakefulness and help in decision making. But these do not make you smarter. These medicines must not be taken with alcohol.

Modafinil vs Adderall: Major Differences

1. Structure of Modafinil and Adderall

Modafinil has a unique structure. The structure of this medicine is not like that of Adderall (stimulant). However, Modafinil has stimulant-like effect such as improvement in alertness, perception, and thinking.

In addition to these effects, it also helps you to stay awake. Researchers are unable to point out the exact working mechanism of this medication.

But, it is said to increase several brain chemicals (neurotransmitters). These neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, GABA, and histamine.

Studies do not indicate any potent withdrawal effect to Modafinil.

But any medicine with stimulant-like effects may cause withdrawal symptom and dependence. On discontinuation of the treatment, you may experience lack of motivation, anxiety, and reduced energy.

Your doctor may taper off the dosage towards the end of the treatment than suddenly discontinuing the medication.

2. FDA Approval and Use of Modafinil

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) first approved Modafinil in 1998 and has been avaiable for purchase.

The FDA gave its approval for the treatment of narcolepsy. Modafinil is good for the treatment of shift work syndrome. It is also great to banish excessive sleepiness caused by OSA (obstructive sleep apnea).

Basically, the medicine treats fatigue and daytime sleepiness. It may however not replace the sleep or cause sleepiness in the affected individuals.

Off-label use is for people with Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. The affected people experience greater alertness on usage of Modafinil.

The medicine is favoured by military, executives, and students who want to combat fatigue and sleep deprivation.

It is not approved for the treatment of ADHD. But it may or may not reduce impulsivity in people with ADHD.

3. FDA Approval and Use of Adderall

Adderall is the trade (brand) name. It is a combination tablet. The medication contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.

These substances are often known as mixed amphetamine salts.

This medication is usually for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.

The medication was approved for narcolepsy by the FDA in 1998 and ADHD in 1996. The exact mechanism of action for narcolepsy and ADHD is not known.

Adderall is a stimulant. It enhances the concentration of norepinephrine and dopamine in your brain.

This medicine is a prominent illicit ‘study-aid’ (for students). It may also be taken by party-goers to keep awake.

In both the cases, you must never overuse or misuse the medication.

4. Side Effects of Modafinil

Modafinil side effects are milder against that caused by Adderall.

Modafinil is known to rarely increase blood pressure and heart rate. It must not be taken by those with history of heart valve problems such as left ventricular hypertrophy and mitral valve prolapse. It should not be taken by those with other heart issues as well.

This medication is a Schedule IV controlled substance.

Common Side Effects of Modafinil

  • Headache and nausea
  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Rhinitis
  • Insomnia
  • Back pain
  • Indigestion and diarrhoea

5. Warnings for Modafinil Usage

Modafinil may also reduce the effectiveness of hormonal birth control methods such as pills, vaginal rings, skin patches, injections, etc.

The hormonal contraceptives contain estrogen and progestogen. Modafinil interferes with these enzymes. This does not let the hormonal contraceptives to work effectively.

Other serious effects to Modafinil are allergic reactions, hypersensitivity syndrome (DRESS), or Stevens – Johnson syndrome (SJS).

6. Side Effects of Adderall

Compared to Modafinil, Adderall has a broader range of side effects. Many experience particular side effects more severely than other patients. People who are overly sensitive to stimulants may encounter a confused thought process. But, this is irrelevant to the dosage they take. Psychiatric side effects are suspicion for no reason, hearing voices, manic behaviours, etc. This is why Adderall is not recommended for those with existing bipolar illness and psychotic disorder.

Common Side Effects of Adderall

  • Dry mouth and abdominal pain
  • Short-lived blood pressure elevation
  • Loss of appetite and nervousness
  • Fast heart rate
  • Insomnia and headache
  • Disturbance in sexual function

7. Warnings for Adderall Usage

Adderall is not recommended for people with overactive thyroid, glaucoma, moderate to severe high blood pressure, heart disease, or a history of alcohol or substance addiction.

It is a schedule II controlled substance.

The medicine has tendency of causing dependence and tolerance. This happens on the overuse or long-term use of Adderall.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms are extreme tiredness, sleep disturbance, and depression. Your doctor may taper off the dose than suddenly discontinuing the treatment.

8. Modafinil and Adderall – Interaction with Alcohol

Both these medications must not be mixed with alcohol.

Alcohol is a depressant.

Adderall and Modafinil are like stimulants.

Thus, using the medications and alcohol together can send mixed messages or signals to your brain. Using these together can cause blackout or have you visit an emergency room for treatment.

Both the medicines can affect blood pressure and heart. Alcohol increases the possibility of heart complaints and arrhythmias.

Thus, the medications must not be mixed with alcohol.

9. Are Adderall and Modafinil Cognitive Enhancers?

Several trials and researches have been performed on the efficacy of Modafinil.

The subject of trial was the effects of Modafinil on enhancement of cognition. Participants of these trials reported feeling of increased awareness, alertness, energy, and attention span.

In some cases, participants reported improvement in memory tasks such as visual recognition and digit span.

Some of the trials reported that Modafinil reduced impulsivity and helped in decision making.

But this medication did not have any effect on accuracy of performance.

People from the trails also reported an improvement in learning and recognition after usage of Modafinil.

But, the medicine did not influence understanding different points of view or the working memory.

Studies on Adderall on the other hand established its positive effect on ADHD patients. The patients experienced reduced impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity.

It is unsure if the medication may enhance cognition level in people without ADHD.

Adderall was found to promote wakefulness. But, it had no visible improvements in IQ of the participants.

Read More: Armodafinil Vs Modafinil: Everything You Need To Know


Modafinil and Adderall are effective in eliminating some of the symptoms of OSA, shift work disorder, and narcolepsy.

Both the medicines are helpful in treating fatigue and extreme sleepiness during daytime. Modafinil is not addictive as Adderall.

The latter is a stimulant and may cause dependence and addiction. The medications are usually taken by people with sleep disorders. However, some may misuse Adderall, which is not advisable.

Long-term use does not cause much benefit for Adderall and Modafinil. Both the medicines must be used in control and as per doctor’s instructions.

You should inform your doctor about your medical history before starting with the treatment.

To prevent withdrawal symptoms resulting from the use of any of these medicines, follow prescribed dosage indications. In case of serious side effects or allergic reactions, you must contact your doctor immediately.


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