What are the differences in Modafinil vs. Adderall? What about the similarities between these two so-called “smart drugs?”

First, what is Modafinil?

Modafinil is the generic name of the brand name drug Provigil, which is used to treat excessive sleepiness and sleep disorders in patients. This can include narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, and it can be used in patients who do shift work and have difficulty maintaining a normal sleep routine. Modafinil isn’t intended to cure these conditions, but instead, it helps people stay awake if they have a sleep disorder. Researchers believe modafinil affects substances in the brain responsible for control of the sleep and wake cycle. 

There are different instructions for taking modafinil based on what it’s being used to treat.

For example, people with obstructive sleep apnea are advised to take it once in the morning each day and continue their other apnea treatments unless otherwise instructed by their doctor. 

Modafinil does have therapeutic benefits, but it’s possible to develop a physical dependence when using it, which means that when suddenly stop suddenly they may have symptoms such as shaking, sweating, nausea and vomiting. Also possible with modafinil is an addiction, and this risk is higher in people who already have a substance use disorder. 

So, what about modafinil vs. Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and narcolepsy. It’s a stimulant of the central nervous system, and it affects certain neurotransmitters in the brain including dopamine and norepinephrine. 

When someone who is diagnosed with ADHD takes Adderall, it helps them be more focused, attentive and to control their behavior.

When someone without ADHD takes Adderall, the effects are different. They often feel a euphoric high and pleasant feelings such as high levels of false self-confidence. People who abuse Adderall can also stay awake for long periods and study with intense concentration, making this drug preferred among college students. Another effect of Adderall that’s off-label but desirable by some people who abuse it is appetite suppression. 

There are some similarities seen when looking at modafinil vs. Adderall. For example, both modafinil and Adderall increase wakefulness, and both can be used to treat narcolepsy. While Adderall is the only one of the two drugs approved by the FDA for the treatment of ADHD, this is an off-label use of modafinil as well. 

Related Topic: Narcolepsy cure

Modafinil, like Adderall, has the potential to improve not just wakefulness, but also brain processing speed, focus, motivation, and energy. 

The dosage for modafinil is usually between 100 to 200 mg a day, but the standard dose for Adderall is lower. 

There are some differences seen when looking at modafinil vs. Adderall regarding how they achieve the effects they do on the brain, however. 

Modafinil works on several brain processes to create a sense of stimulation, and these include GABA, glutamate, histamine and noradrenaline neurotransmitters. It’s also believed that it works on something called Orexin, which is a neuropeptide. 

Adderall, on the other hand, works on dopamine, norepinephrine and also serotonin neurotransmitters. 

Something else unique when comparing modafinil vs. Adderall is the fact that while modafinil does have many of the same effects of Adderall, it doesn’t tend to cause the level of over-stimulation that comes with Adderall. It does heighten certain senses and increases wakefulness, but not to the level of Adderall. 

Some of the side effects of modafinil vs. Adderall are similar to one another. Side effects of both can include nervousness, anxiety, headache, and nausea. Both do have the potential to be addictive, although modafinil much less so, and there are more possible serious side effects with Adderall. For example, some of the severe side effects that can occur with Adderall include hallucinations, seizures, changes in heart rate and increased blood pressure.

Modafinil and Adderall Taken Together

Can modafinil and Adderall be taken together? This is something commonly asked because people feel like doubling up on these drugs can improve their ability to study or perform at a high level. The idea among many people wondering “can modafinil and Adderall be taken together,” is that if you use both simultaneously, you’ll get double the benefits. 

That’s not necessarily true, however, and there can be risks to modafinil and Adderall taken together. 

Modafinil, which isn’t a stimulant but acts similarly to one in many ways, can be risky when taken with Adderall. If you combine two stimulant-like substances at once, it may cause over-stimulation, and it can increase the risk of the side effects of one or either of these drugs. For example, you may be more likely to feel nauseous, anxious or have a headache if modafinil and Adderall are taken together. 

Some doctors may prescribe a combination of modafinil and Adderall taken together for people with ADHD, but this is something that should only be left up to a doctor, and you should never try to self-medicate.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.