Adderall vs. Modafinil: Which Nootropic Is Better?
Both modafinil and Adderall are two primary stimulants that improve brain functionality and performance. Technically speaking, they are central nervous stimulants (CNS) that deliver nootropic benefits.
Adderall is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to only treat narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Modafinil is not approved to treat ADHD but is approved for treating narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and shift-work sleep disorder. It has additional uses and benefits at a lower, less aggressive level. Determining whether Adderall or modafinil is better depends on several circumstances. Let’s get started.
Are Adderall and Modafinil Addictive?
Both stimulants carry their own addictive levels. Adderall is known to be highly addictive while modafinil has a significantly lower level of addiction. Modafinil is classified by the DEA as a Schedule IV drug, while Adderall is a Schedule II drug.
Adderall is on level II because of the highly addictive characteristics that it contains, including the euphoric experience and the powerful, fast-acting charges it delivers to stay awake and focused. Most Adderall addictions stem from psychological dependencies because the brain tends to adjust to having a fast drug that provides fast-acting performance with a rush of euphoria. The brain then starts to function based on that dependency. Side effects are immense and aggressive, such as getting a headache and feeling the “crash.”
Modafinil is better to use because of its low-addictive properties.
Don’t come to a conclusion on which drug is better just yet!
How Does Adderall Work?
Adderall carries a high level of stimulation and is available in both immediate-release and extended-release tablets and capsules.
Since Adderall is a brain stimulant, it enhances the brain’s functionality to provide better thinking and focusing skill. It makes the person more alert and awake.
Adderall is a drug that stimulates the following neurotransmitters:
All three neurotransmitters help improve focus, increase alertness, and help control ADHD symptoms. Because Adderall is designed to “awaken” the brain and body, it only makes sense that it is used to treat narcolepsy and ADHD. After all, more energy means better focus, better attention span, and less tiredness. You can get more details on its neurotransmitters below.
How Does Modafinil Work?
Modafinil also acts as a stimulant like Adderall, but it is only available in tablet form.
The drug stimulates the brain just as Adderall does, providing improved focus skills, an increased attention span, and better decision-making skills.
If you read this far, you may have realized that both drugs deliver the same benefits.
However, what you may not know is that modafinil handles more neurotransmitters which compensate for the less-aggressive characteristics compared to Adderall. More info is discussed below!
Modafinil stimulates the following neurotransmitters:
- Dopamine (like Adderall)
- Norepinephrine (like Adderall)
- GABA/Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
- Glutamate/monosodium glutamate
Each one of the neurotransmitters in modafinil plays a significant role in brain functionality. The drug DOES NOT increase dopamine and norepinephrine compounds/neurotransmitters like Adderall drugs do. However, both drugs are designed to stimulate the nervous system in their own way.
Modafinil has been found to decrease gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is a chemical that slows down the brain. Therefore, modafinil stimulates by reducing the very chemical that slows the brain whereas Adderall stimulates by lifting neurotransmissions that increase brain activity and energy.
Comparing the Ingredients of Adderall and Modafinil
As briefly mentioned before, Adderall and modafinil provide similar benefits but do it in different ways. The only exception is that modafinil treats more problems. The “neuro” stimulants in each drug offer different functions, which is why Adderall is popular for ADHD while modafinil is not used as a treatment for the condition. Modafinil handles a significant amount of neurotransmitters, unlike Adderall which only handles three, but it handles them at that less-aggressive status. Let’s compare the brain and nerve transmitters that are affected by both drugs.
What Does Dopamine Do in Adderall and Modafinil?
Dopamine is a chemical that helps control movement and start the speech process, but it also has effects on memory, mood, reward motivation, and learning capabilities. Patients with ADHD tend to have lower levels of dopamine in the body, leading to altered messages being sent to the brain cells.
For real-life situations such as muscle movement, learning, desiring certain foods, joining a competition, finding the remote, cleaning the house, etc., dopamine is the key to it all. This means that the messages that the neurotransmitter (Dopamine) sends to the brain and how the brain responds are affected by the current levels at any given moment.
Dopamine stimulation from both drugs works to control sleep disorders and motivate reward responses as in the examples above. However, modafinil is not as intense with the rewards scheme but still does the job well. Therefore, Adderall is better when it comes to ADHD.
The reward responses from an increased level of dopamine make the person want to earn more by doing what they need to do to obtain it. Basically, it makes the brain respond by believing that the reward is well worth the effort needed. ADHD patients with low dopamine levels are constantly seeking stimulation, as Dr. Ryan Davison points out.
This gives Adderall another point towards the “better” status.
When it comes to modafinil, it basically does the same thing, but it is NOT approved to treat ADHD. Modafinil is designed to enhance alertness plus focus and also maintain an awakened status. It is usually prescribed to control daytime sleepiness. Studies have shown that it improves mental functions for drug-dependent individuals, ADHD patients, and even people with reduced cognitive abilities. In addition, it has been found to increase focus with enough power to make the individual stay focused on the task at hand, deterring all and any interruptions or distractions.
Modafinil is better when it comes to concentration and focus power in the midst of many distractions, such as a text message, a phone call, a weather alert, an individual, etc.
That is why it is often obtained by college students, even though they often obtain it by illicit means.
What Does Norepinephrine Do In Adderall and Modafinil?
Norepinephrine is a hormone in the body that handles stress by transmitting signals between the nerve cells. This hormone/neurotransmitter goes into action when the brain determines that something stressful has happened. The brain needs norepinephrine in order to respond to stressful situations, which can be just about anything, including injuries, fatigue, emotional situations, crisis, illness, and more.
Norepinephrine raises the heart rate, increases blood flow, and helps release glucose into the blood. For the nervous system, it raises arousal, awareness, and alertness and promotes fast reactions. Therefore, it also stimulates the body like epinephrine to improve the fight or flight experience, as well as attention and focus levels.
Both Adderall and modafinil control hormonal levels to provide the benefits above. Therefore, this one is a tie between the two as to which one is better.
Comparing Modafinil’s Benefits to Adderall’s
Since modafinil and Adderall handle the brain in different ways, they have different ways of promoting the same results.
Adderall is more like a power pill that boosts the brain’s functions (amphetamine) in conjunction with the body and the nervous system. It does this at an aggressive rate, leading to heavy withdrawal symptoms once the drug is stopped, which is discussed below.
Modafinil is used for narcolepsy but not for ADHD. Unlike Adderall, modafinil improves the brain’s functionality through a gentle boost of several neurotransmitters while also regulating the ones that slow it down, unlike Adderall that just boosts the boosters so to speak.
Adderall is better when it comes to effectiveness, which is why it is commonly used and FDA approved to treat narcolepsy and ADHD.
Modafinil is better for long-term control of focus and energy because of its mild interaction with neurotransmitters, its targeted regulation of “slow-down” neurotransmitters, and its longer-lasting results.
Adderall’s primary uses are to control narcolepsy and ADHD, while modafinil is commonly used for narcolepsy, depression for those that have Parkinson’s disease, focus, and improving cognitive skills. Legally, modafinil can ONLY be prescribed to treat sleep disorders as listed above, but it does offer more benefits than Adderall. There have been some reports/studies that show that modafinil helps people reduce cravings for cocaine to some extent, as well as some studies that show its potential to help those with schizophrenia. More research is needed to confirm its validity and usefulness for those two benefits.
For the number of benefits that the two drugs include, modafinil wins.
The Side Effects of Adderall and Modafinil
Every drug includes potential side effects. Adderall and modafinil have varying degrees of certain side effects, which of course are also based on how much is taken. Side effects are another thing to consider when determining which drug is better.
Modafinil side effects include, but are not limited to the following experiences:
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling nervous and/or anxious
- Potential for headaches
- Skin reactions and itchiness
Adderall side effects include, but are not limited to:
- Feeling anxious
- Potential for headaches
- Reduced appetite
- Dry mouth
- Abdominal pain
- Erectile dysfunction
In either case, the capability of jerkiness, jitters, heart racing, skin reactions, itchiness, and other side effects can occur from taking either drug. However, modafinil has been reported to create much less, if any, of those particular symptoms for most people. The side effects experienced from modafinil are also dependent on the body’s current chemical structure, other meds that get ingested, as well as current health conditions. So… side effects are indeed possible, but they are not as common as they are with Adderall. There have been some reports of people that experience minimal benefits from modafinil or none at all, but it works for most.
Modafinil is better when it comes to side effects.
Adderall and Modafinil Withdrawal Symptoms
Modafinil’s gentle control does not lead to dependency the majority of the time unless the drug is abused in high quantities. Some people claim to have minor headaches and/or a little fatigue when stopping the drug, but that is to be expected. At least it doesn’t create a demanding state of mind in most cases.
Adderall’s fast-acting, potent performance leads to numerous withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, jitters, nausea, and more. The brain and body get a fast response from the drug that feels good so it wants more when more is not available.
Overall, Adderall provides more control over ADHD and narcolepsy, but it carries that greater amount of withdrawal symptoms. Modafinil still does the job, but it is not as aggressive and has very little withdrawal problems if any at all.
Modafinil is better when it comes to withdrawal symptoms.
The Benefits of Adderall and Modafinil
Modafinil is a psychostimulant classified as a eugeroic drug and offers antioxidant benefits that help eliminate free radicals in the brain. This delivers neuroprotection advantages. The drug has been reported to be very effective against impulsiveness in a variety of situations like cocaine addictions, alcohol addictions, and gambling. Furthermore, several modafinil studies suggest that it helps treat memory problems and tiredness in relation to multiple sclerosis.
Adderall is composed of salt-based amphetamines that create the stimulation needed to focus and have the energy to concentrate more effectively. It also raises mood, drive, and bodily energy to help people deal with everyday living. Adderall also increases dopamine levels to help cope with the uncontrolled movements or jitters of Parkinson’s disease, even though it is not approved by the FDA as a treatment for it.
Because modafinil offers more benefits, it is better, although it can only be prescribed for sleep disorders.
The Final Verdict on Which Nootropic is better
As you can see, each nootropic (Adderall and modafinil) offer their very own benefits, addictive levels, side effects, strengths, withdrawal symptoms, and key neurotransmitter agents. It can be a huge debate as to whether Adderall or modafinil is better.
Modafinil appears to deliver better cognitive improvements with minimal side effects but Adderall delivers a faster, greater level of focus and controlled movement, even though the withdrawal symptoms are on the higher end.
Furthermore, modafinil does not do anything or very little for some people, although that is a limited number. Since our bodies have different chemical compositions, health conditions, and specific drugs at any given time; it is possible for modafinil to deliver minimal benefits or none at all. This is perhaps why the FDA approves Adderall for ADHD while not approving modafinil to be used for that purpose.
For ADHD, Adderall is obviously better since modafinil cannot be prescribed for it plus Adderall has a powerful impact on the condition.
For narcolepsy, Adderall and modafinil are tied because Adderall delivers a powerful and fast push when it is needed while modafinil does the job too in a less intensive way for longer spans per pill.
For benefits, modafinil is better because it offers more uses with good results.
For side effects, modafinil is better because they are minimal and less aggressive.
For withdrawal symptoms, modafinil wins because it has very few symptoms if any at all.
No studies currently show that modafinil carries significant withdrawal symptoms, but Adderall has been shown to produce depression, long-term fatigue, suicidal thoughts, and some other withdrawal symptoms.
In addition, most health problems that modafinil assists with have other treatment options available that are FDA approved so the drug is not needed for those particular situations. For people who fear addiction, modafinil is still a great option that may help in other areas too. Just remember that it is approved for sleep disorders and testing will be performed first before a prescription is given.
On a final note, asking if white American or regular American cheese is better can be very debatable, based on each individual that is asked. But one thing to take into account on the two nootropics discussed here is that one can easily be better for a person than another. When you look at the pros and cons of each drug, modafinil appears to be better in the end due to its safer characteristics and gentler approach for sleep disorders, focus, and energy.
You be the judge!