Modafinil vs. Adderall: Differences & What's Better

Updated on November 23, 2023
 by — reviewed by Jason Williams, PhD (Contributor: George Collins / Editor: Yoko Hill)

Modafinil and Adderall are two of the most widely prescribed stimulants in the world. However, they're also two of the most highly addictive drugs available.

There is a lot of debate surrounding the use of Modafinil and Adderall.

Some people swear by one, while others think the other is better. So, what's the difference between Modafinil and Adderall? And which one should you be taking?

This article will discuss the differences between these two drugs and their benefits and drawbacks, so you can decide which one is right for you.

Modafinil Overview

Modafinil is a medication that was initially created to treat narcolepsy. It is a wakefulness-promoting agent that works by increasing the amount of histamine in the brain (1).

Histamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to keep you awake and alert. Modafinil also increases the levels of other neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine.

These effects help to improve wakefulness, focus, and attention. Modafinil is classified as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. It is similar to other CNS stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin. The biggest difference between them is that Modafinil isn't an amphetamine.

Thus, Modafinil is less potent than these other drugs and has fewer side effects. Modafinil is available in pill form and is typically taken once a day at 100-200 mg.

The effects of Modafinil can last for 8 hours, so it is often taken in the morning. Modafinil is a prescription medication and is not available over-the-counter but from some online pharmacies that we listed here.

Modafinil's Mechanism of Action

Modafinil's mechanism of action is not yet fully understood. However, it is believed that Modafinil acts as an atypical, selective, and weak dopamine reuptake inhibitor and indirectly activates the release of orexin neuropeptides and histamine from the lateral hypothalamus and tuberomammillary nucleus (2)

How Does Modafinil Work in the Brain?

Modafinil is considered an atypical Dopamine reuptake inhibitor (DAT), which inhibits dopamine's reuptake by neurons. This results in increased extracellular dopamine concentrations and subsequent activation of post-synaptic dopamine receptors (3).

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in the brain's reward system. It helps to control pleasure, motivation, and motor function. Modafinil's effects on dopamine may explain its ability to improve wakefulness and cognitive function.

Modafinil also increases norepinephrine levels, another important neurotransmitter for focus and attention. Norepinephrine acts by inhibiting the activity of neurons in the brain. This results in increased alertness and wakefulness.

Modafinil also indirectly activates the release of orexin neuropeptides and histamine from the lateral hypothalamus and tuberomammillary nucleus. Orexins are neurotransmitters that help to regulate wakefulness and feeding behavior (4). Histamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to keep you awake and alert.

Combining these effects results in improved wakefulness, focus, and attention.

Types of Modafinil Benefits and Experiences

Modafinil has a variety of benefits that extend far beyond treating sleep disorders. In fact, many people who take Modafinil find that it improves their focus, concentration, and motivation.

modafinil vs adderall modafinil benefits

As a result, Modafinil has become a popular medication for students, professionals, and anyone else who wants to improve their cognitive performance. Modafinil is also notable for its lack of side effects. Unlike many other medications used to improve cognitive function, it is non-addictive and does not typically cause any negative reactions.

As a result, it is safe for most people to take it regularly. Whether you are looking for an edge in school or work or simply want to improve your cognitive function, modafinil may be the right medication for you.

How to Take Modafinil as a Drug and Medication?

The way you take Modafinil will depend on why you are taking it. If you are taking Modafinil to treat narcolepsy or sleep apnea, you will likely take it twice daily, 100 mg in the morning and 100 mg in the afternoon.

If you are taking Modafinil to improve cognitive function, there is no set time of day that you need to take it. You can take it in the morning or evening, with or without food.

Most people find that taking Modafinil on an empty stomach leads to fewer side effects. If you do experience side effects when taking Modafinil, they are typically mild and resolve within a few days of starting the medication.

Modafinil Side Effects and Stimulant Use Disorders

Modafinil's most common side effects include headache, nausea, and dizziness. These side effects are typically mild and resolve on their own.

More serious side effects of Modafinil are rare but can include anxiety, mania, and psychosis. If you experience any of these side effects, stop taking Modafinil.

A rare skin rash, called Stevens-Johnson syndrome, has also been associated with Modafinil. If you experience a rash while taking Modafinil, stop taking the medication and see your doctor.

Modafinil is not considered addictive, but some people may develop a dependence on the drug. If you find that you need to take Modafinil to function normally or feel good, talk to your doctor. They can help you taper off the medication safely.

Modafinil is classified as a schedule IV controlled substance in the United States. This means that it has a low potential for abuse and is available by prescription only.

In most other countries, Modafinil is classified as a prescription medication. However, it is available over the counter in some countries, such as India.

If you are traveling with Modafinil, be sure to check the laws of the country you are visiting. Some countries, such as Canada and Australia, have strict laws against importing Modafinil without a prescription.

Adderall Overview

Adderall is a medication (CNS stimulant) that is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It is a mixture of 4 different amphetamine salts that are designed to produce a (3:1) ratio between dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine (5).

Both enantiomers are stimulants, but they have enough differences to give Adderall an effects profile that is distinct from those of racemic amphetamine or dextroamphetamine.

In addition to its use as a treatment for ADHD and narcolepsy, Adderall is also used as an athletic performance enhancer, cognitive enhancer, appetite suppressant, and recreational drug. The exact mechanism of action of Adderall is not fully understood, but it is thought to work by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.

Adderall's Mechanism of Action

The active ingredient in Adderall, amphetamine, binds to trace amine-associated receptor 1 (TAAR1), which triggers the release of other hormones and neurotransmitters.

Dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine, the two active ingredients of Adderall, bind to TAAR1, but their binding affinities differ somewhat.

TAAR1 is a protein that is found in the brain and other tissues. It regulates dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels in the brain.

Adderall also binds to the dopamine transporter (DAT) and inhibits the reuptake of dopamine into presynaptic neurons. This increases the level of dopamine in the synaptic cleft, which leads to increased dopamine signaling.

How Does Adderall Work in the Brain?

Dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine are full agonists of the trace amine-associated receptor 1 (TAAR1), and both are known to produce CNS stimulation. However, dextroamphetamine is more potent than levoamphetamine at activating TAAR1, and as a result, it produces more pronounced CNS effects (6).

Additionally, dextroamphetamine has been shown to have greater cardiovascular and peripheral effects than levoamphetamine (7). While both drugs are generally well tolerated, certain patients have been reported to have a better clinical response to levoamphetamine.

Overall, both drugs appear to be effective at stimulating the CNS, but dextroamphetamine may be more potent and produce more pronounced effects in the brain.

Types of Adderall Benefits and Experiences

Adderall can be a beneficial drug when taken as prescribed for ADD, ADHD, or narcolepsy. It can help people with focus and concentration. It can also be used for its impressive nootropic benefits.

modafinil vs adderall adderall benefits

Adderall increases dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps the brain control the reward system, which is the system that motivates you to do things. Dopamine is one of the primary reasons people feel motivated to do something.

In addition, Adderall increases serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and behavior. It is also involved in sleep and appetite.

It is also a popular nootropic or cognitive enhancer that has been shown to improve memory, focus, and attention.

Adderall can increase your motivation and energy level. It can also improve your concentration and alertness. People who take Adderall feel more energized, focused, and motivated. 

To sum up, the benefits of Adderall include:

  • Being able to focus better
  • Prevent fatigue and sleepiness
  • Staying awake during long study sessions
  • Being able to concentrate on the task at hand

How to Take Adderall as a Drug and Medication?

The effects of Adderall are not immediate. They usually take effect after about 30 minutes. Some people feel more alert after taking it, while others feel sleepy.

The effects last anywhere from 3 to 6 hours. Adderall can cause dry mouth, increased heart rate, anxiety, insomnia, and headache. It can also cause constipation, which can be dangerous if you have a bowel movement.

Adderall is not addictive. It is only prescribed when the symptoms of ADHD are severe and cannot be controlled with other medications. Adderall is the most commonly used treatment for ADHD. It can also be used to treat narcolepsy, depression, and obesity.

Adderall is generally taken in the morning. The medication is usually administered orally. However, it can also be injected into the muscle or under the skin. Adderall is available in different strengths.

The pill should be taken with food. It is best to take Adderall before you go to bed. The medication will start working after about two hours.

You should not take more than 10-20 mg per day. This is because you may have side effects if you take too much. You can take it every day or just a few times a week. It depends on your needs and how you feel.

If you take a higher dose, it may affect your sleeping pattern and make you feel tired. If you have trouble sleeping, you may try taking a smaller dose.

Adderall Side Effects and Stimulant Use Disorders

The side effects of Adderall are not widely known because it is prescribed by doctors who are trained to keep their patient's information confidential. However, according to the FDA, the most common side effects include insomnia, headache, stomach ache, and changes in appetite.

Adderall is a psychostimulant medication that affects the central nervous system and the brain. It is prescribed to help people with ADHD or narcolepsy. It works by increasing the level of dopamine in the brain. This makes you feel more alert and energetic.

Some risks are associated with taking Adderall, including addiction, heart problems, and even death.

However, this can be controlled if you take the medication as directed. If you take too much or take medicine longer than recommended, you can experience these symptoms.

Some people think that Adderall is a dangerous drug because of the side effects that they have experienced. However, the FDA says that it is safe for short-term use. It also says that it has been used safely for many years. The reason why the FDA says that it is safe is that many studies show that it helps to treat ADHD.

If you're looking for the best alternative to Adderall, Vyvamind is likely your best option!

Differences Between Modafinil and Adderall

Nootropics have been around for many years now, but they're still relatively unknown. That's why it's essential to be aware of the differences between the two most popular types of nootropics, Modafinil and Adderall.

These are two of the most popular drugs people use to improve their mental performance at work and at play. While they have many similarities, each has its benefits and drawbacks.

Modafinil is a drug that was initially developed as a treatment for narcolepsy. People can also use it to treat shift-work sleep disorders. This drug is commonly used by people trying to stay awake during long flights or when they are working night shifts. It stimulates the brain, increasing activity in some brain regions, such as the prefrontal cortex.

Adderall is a drug that is used to treat ADHD. It is a mix of 4 different amphetamine salts and is designed to have an (ADHD) ratio of 3 to 1 between dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine. Adderall is also used as an athletic performance enhancer, cognitive enhancer, appetite suppressant, and recreational drug.

The reason why people use Adderall is that they find it easier to stay awake when they are taking it. It also helps to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

Adderall can be highly addictive. Many people take it for a short period, but they find that they can't stop taking it. Some people take it to get high. Some people report going to rehab because of their addiction to Adderall. It is crucial to get your prescription from a trusted healthcare provider.

Which One is Better, Modafinil or Adderall?

To start, it's important to understand how each drug works. Modafinil is a wakefulness-promoting agent that affects the brain's dopamine levels. In contrast, Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant that increases the release of norepinephrine and dopamine. So, while both drugs can increase concentration and focus, they do so differently.

modafinil vs adderall which is better

There are also some notable side effects associated with each drug. Modafinil is generally well-tolerated, but some common side effects include headache, nausea, and anxiety. Adderall, on the other hand, can cause more serious side effects like increased blood pressure and heart rate, insomnia, and dizziness.

So, which one is the better choice? It really depends on the individual. Modafinil may be a better option for those who are looking for a milder cognitive boost with fewer side effects. However, Adderall may be a better choice for those who need a more potent cognitive enhancer.

Ultimately, the best way to decide is to talk to a doctor or pharmacist about which option may be best for you.

Modafinil vs. Adderall: Conclusion

Both Modafinil and Adderall can be effective for cognitive enhancement. However, they each have their own unique benefits and drawbacks. Modafinil is a non-stimulant medication that is generally well-tolerated and does not cause the same side effects as Adderall.

However, it is not as widely available and may be more expensive. Adderall, on the other hand, is a stimulant medication that is typically less expensive and more widely available. However, it can cause side effects such as headaches, anxiety, withdrawal symptoms and insomnia. Ultimately, the decision of which medication to use should be made individually.