Modafinil is a versatile medication.
It’s a prescription medication used for treating narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnoea but has a wide range of “off-label” uses.
Over the past decade, there’s been an increased interest in modafinil as a treatment for ADHD. It’s often preferred over alternatives because it’s less likely to result in tolerance and addiction.
Is modafinil effective for treating ADHD? How does it work?
What is ADHD?
ADHD is characterized by symptoms involving difficulty paying attention, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity. It’s a common condition in children and can sometimes extend into adulthood.
According to one study, roughly 6% of children have ADHD .
This disorder is complicated, and many factors might cause the condition.
There is a major genetic component to ADHD. In 75–91% of cases of ADHD, a familial or genetic connection can be easily identified. .
A recent study compared the genes of people with ADHD to look at dopamine function .
The Study Looked at Three Specific Genes:
- DAT1 (Dopamine transporter gene)
- DRD4 (Dopamine receptor 4)
- DRD5 (Dopamine receptor 5)
Researchers in this study found common genetic variations of people with ADHD on all three of these genes.
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Why This is an Important Finding for Those with ADHD
What we can take away from research like this is that ADHD has a significant relationship to dopamine. This means that when it comes to treating the condition, we can try to address the issues caused by the gene variations.
This research offers a good explanation for why drugs that tend to benefit ADHD the most also tend to boost dopamine levels.
Modafinil for ADHD
Although modafinil is sometimes used by doctors to treat ADHD, it’s considered “off-label” in the United States because it hasn’t yet been approved by the FDA for this use.
Modafinil and Dopamine
Modafinil has been shown to increase dopamine concentrations in the brain . It does this in a similar way to other common ADHD medications like Ritalin and Adderall, both of which have a long history of use for treating ADHD in conventional medicine.
Modafinil increases dopamine concentrations in the synapses by preventing the neurons from reabsorbing and breaking it down.
Normally, dopamine is released to exert its effect, then promptly reabsorbed and broken down. Modafinil prevents the reabsorption and breakdown stages, allowing it to exert its effects for LONGER periods of time.
Dopamine is extremely important for the mind to be able to focus on one thing at a time.
This is because dopamine is involved in the reward center of the brain.
The reward center is a unique region within the brain that causes the release of “feel good” molecules like oxytocin as a way to reward useful behaviors. This is how habits are formed.
Our brain LOVES getting rewarded and will seek behaviors that trigger this response.
Dopamine & Addiction
Unfortunately, the dopamine-regulated reward center is also responsible for the processes involved with addiction.
Many illicit compounds trigger the reward system due to their relaxing or pain-relieving benefits. This causes a release of oxytocin in the brain as part of the reward. After a while, the mind starts to crave the things that cause this oxytocin release, and we become addicted to the drug.
We can also become addicted to exercise, sex, or eating through these same processes.
ADHD & The Reward Center
Most people have sufficient dopamine levels and can trigger the reward center effectively. This makes it easy to build habits and remain focused on the same thing for more extended periods of time.
People with ADHD have issues with this system and need to work extra hard to get positive feedback in the reward center of the brain.
Concentrating on one task for more than a few minutes can be difficult as the brain seeks out more stimulating activities.
If dopamine levels increase, we may be able to lower the threshold for activation of the reward center.
This would help prevent the fidgeting and jitteriness associated with people living with ADHD.
Treating Overstimulation With Stimulants
It may seem strange that you can treat overstimulation with a stimulant. However, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this.
As people who have ADHD have a hard time stimulating the reward response in the brain, it causes them to self-stimulate by fidgeting or moving around.
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ADD vs. ADHD
ADD, and ADHD are very similar and are often used synonymously with each other.
The difference that sets the two apart is the presence of hyperactivity.
Some people with attention deficit disorder (ADD) have hyperactivity (fidgeting, frequent movements, inability to sit still), while others remain calm.
Depending on whether hyperactivity is present or not will determine whether the diagnosis is ADD or ADHD.
Although the treatment for both is roughly the same, ADHD often involves specific treatments aimed at the hyperactivity side of the condition.
How to Use Modafinil for ADHD
Using Modafinil for ADHD is simple. Doses of either 100 mg or 200 mg are taken by adults to offset the symptoms of ADD or ADHD.
There are two ways modafinil can be used for this condition:
1. Daily Use
This is the most common dosing regimen for ADHD patients. A daily dose of 100–400 mg of modafinil can be used to reduce symptoms and increase concentration.
The problem with this is the development of tolerance.
If a drug is used frequently over long periods of time, the body often starts to resist its effects. This means that more modafinil will need to be taken than usual to produce the same effects.
If you plan on using modafinil daily, it’s recommended that you first discuss your condition and the options available with your doctor.
After consulting with your doctor, we recommend buying your modafinil online from a generic medication supplier like MXL. This is going to be the most cost-effective and straightforward method available both with or without a prescription.
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2. Periodic Use
Some people living with ADHD choose to use their modafinil periodically as they need it.
They would keep some on hand for days that they know they need to be productive, such as during school, at work, or while at home studying for an exam.
The benefits of taking modafinil periodically (1–4 times per week) is that it can significantly reduce the chances of developing tolerance to the medication.
What Does Modafinil Feel Like?
Modafinil feels like a strong cup of coffee.
It’s not as stimulating on the body as older ADHD medications like Adderall or Ritalin, but it does produce profound feelings of stimulation on the brain.
When studying or working, it becomes much easier to remain intently focused on the work at hand. You no longer feel as strong an urge to get up and go somewhere else or flip open your Facebook and become entrenched in memes and pictures of your friend’s recent vacation to Bali.
How Long Does Modafinil Last?
Modafinil’s effects can vary a lot from one person to the next depending on their size, whether they ate a meal or not, and how big the dose was.
Most users will begin to feel the effects of modafinil about an hour after ingestion.
For the next 3 hours, the effects begin to increase and reach a peak gradually. The next 7–14 hours the drug slowly starts to wear off.
A 200 mg modafinil tablet will produce effects lasting about 12–15 hours. In some cases, it can last as long as 20 hours.
What are the Downsides to Using Modafinil for ADHD?
In some people, modafinil can cause anxiety or insomnia.
Although this is a common problem and can usually be avoided by taking the modafinil earlier in the day, some people can’t seem to avoid it.
If you experience frequent anxiety or insomnia while taking modafinil, try taking some time off the drug every week (such as a day or two) or lower your dose.
Most people find improvement when they take their tablet sooner in the day.
If you continue to have problems with anxiety or insomnia, it may be best to look for another treatment option.
Other Things to Consider When Treating ADHD
ADHD is strongly connected to problems with dopamine, but also has other factors that need to be considered.
Diet has also been shown to play a significant role in the development of ADHD .
Nutritional research has found that people with ADHD should avoid foods containing high-refined carbohydrates and sugars, as well as salt, added food dyes and coloring agents.
Potential allergies should also be investigated and avoided.
- Li, D., Sham, P. C., Owen, M. J., & He, L. (2006). Meta-analysis shows significant association between dopamine system genes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Human molecular genetics, 15(14), 2276-2284.
- Faraone, S. V., Perlis, R. H., Doyle, A. E., Smoller, J. W., Goralnick, J. J., Holmgren, M. A., & Sklar, P. (2005). Molecular genetics of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Biological psychiatry, 57(11), 1313-1323.
- Shastry, B. S. (2004). Molecular genetics of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): an update. Neurochemistry international, 44(7), 469-474.
- Ferraro, L. N., Antonelli, T., O’Connor, W., Tanganelli, S., Rambert, F. A., & Fuxe, K. (1997). Modafinil: an anti narcoleptic drug with a different neurochemical profile to d-amphetamine and dopamine uptake blockers. Biological psychiatry, 42, 1181-1187.
- Jacobson, M. F., & Schardt, D. (1999). Diet, ADHD & Behavior: A Quarter-Century Review [and] A Parent’s Guide to Diet, ADHD & Behavior.