If you’re a student, you’ve probably heard of Adderall and modafinil.
They’re the most commonly used smart drugs currently available.
Depending on who you ask, you’ll likely hear different anecdotes about which one is better and others still saying that they’re better when combined at the same time.
Here, we’ll show you what makes these drugs different and which one you’re better off using to boost your productivity at work or school.
Introduction to Eugeroics
Both modafinil and Adderall are considered eugeroics.
What does this mean you ask?
In the most basic sense, a eugeroic is any compound that promotes wakefulness.
They’re used medicinally to treat conditions involving “excessive daytime sleepiness”.
They’re also used off-label to help people stay alert at work or school in order to achieve longer working hours and get more out of their work or study session.
Conditions Treated With Eugeroics Include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Shift worker sleeping disorder
- Side effects of other medications
- Side effects of multiple sclerosis
Most eugeroics work through a stimulating effect on the brain. We often refer to this class of drugs as a central nervous system stimulant, or more simply, “stimulants”.
There are quite a few stimulants on the market, some of which are extremely popular (such as caffeine).
Examples of Stimulant Medications Include:
Why People Use Stimulants
People use stimulants for a number of reasons.
From increased productivity to treating medical conditions, stimulants certainly have their place.
Adderall is one of the older central nervous system stimulants.
It’s a combination of two amphetamines; amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.
It’s primarily used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but is also used as a treatment for narcolepsy and conditions involving excessive sleepiness.
This may include multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, narcolepsy, and obstructive sleep apnea.
Its primary effects are on norepinephrine and dopamine.
Unfortunately, the effects on dopamine, although useful, make the drug addictive.
Adderall Side Effects
- Blurred vision
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Dry mouth
- Hair loss
- Heart palpitations
- Increase blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Low libido
- Mood changes
- Muscle tremors
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
Modafinil is a newer generation stimulant only released in the last 2 dozen years.
As new generations of drugs come out, one of the main things we see improvements on over the past generation is how “specific” they are.
What do I mean by this?
Let me explain.
In most cases, when a drug is more specific in its actions, it not only becomes better at its job, but it has fewer side effects.
It’s also more predictable in its benefits and side effects.
Some drugs will activate a number of different, unrelated receptors in the body. If the drug isn’t able to activate one of these receptor types (there are many reasons how this could happen), then the effects of the drug will change. Sometimes this can produce very negative side effects.
When the drug only targets one specific receptor, and it isn’t able to activate that receptor, the drug simply has no effect.
Modafinil’s specificity on its target receptors makes it much safer than older stimulant medications, including modafinil.
Effects Of Modafinil On The Central Nervous System:
- Inhibits dopamine reuptake (DAT)
- Increases orexin release
- Inhibits norepinephrine reuptake
- Boosts histamine activity in the brain
Modafinil Side Effects
- Dry Mouth
- Upper Respiratory Tract Infection
Comparing Adderall & Modafinil for 5 Common Uses
1. Increasing Productivity at Work/School
This is one of the most common reasons why someone would take a stimulant.
Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant, by far.
In fact, caffeine is arguably the most popular drug in all of history.
It’s long been associated with productivity, being reserved for scholars and the business elite for most of the early days in coffee history.
Pharmaceutical stimulants are simply the next level of productivity enhancement stimulants.
We’ve all felt it.
The fatigue that starts to set in late into the afternoon. We start feeling dull and lethargic, it can be a challenge to get the same amount of work done as it was earlier in the day.
This is what people take stimulants for.
The goal is to delay the onset of fatigue and remain at the top of your game for longer amounts of time. Getting a lot more work done in the process.
This is especially useful if you have a tight deadline, like a test or work project, and need to work through the night to get it done. It’s also useful if the task you’re trying to complete is boring or tedious, and therefore more likely to make you tired while you finish it.
Adderall and modafinil are both used for this and both are actually highly effective.
So Which One is Better?
Although both of these medications are excellent for boosting productivity, modafinil is preferred by most.
The effects of these medications are very similar for this effect and both will delay the onset of fatigue very effectively, however, the negative side effects common to Adderall, especially its addictive side effects, can actually hurt productivity in the long run.
When we seek enhanced productivity, we generally want to get these effects more often than just once. Taking Adderall will certainly boost your productivity the day you take it, but can quickly start to have diminishing returns as tolerance forms, and you start to depend on the drug to be productive at all.
Without it, we start to feel dull and foggy.
The addictive potential of the drug is a real problem. Doctors are more hesitant to prescribe it, and many users have already switched over to modafinil.
Modafinil offers virtually identical benefit in terms of productivity but isn’t addictive.
2. ADHD Treatment
Both modafinil and Adderall are used for ADHD treatment, however, in the United States, only Adderall is approved for this use.
ADHD is a complicated neurological dysfunction. In most cases, the issue can be linked back to dopamine function in the brain.
ADHD sufferers on average have less dopamine expression in the reward center of the brain than normal . The reward center uses dopamine to communicate with the rest of the brain to reward positive behavior.
It does this by releasing small doses of oxytocin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter in the brain whenever we do something interesting, or that benefits us (like eating or having sex).
The lack of dopamine makes it harder to trigger this oxytocin release, causing them to have to work harder to stimulate it. This is demonstrated by fidgeting movements, distracted behavior, and hyperactivity.
Adderall and modafinil both increase dopamine levels in the brain by preventing it from being reabsorbed and destroyed by the neurons.
They keep dopamine floating around for longer periods of time, allowing it to exert stronger effects.
The Results Are:
- Improved concentration
- Less fidgeting
- Better memory
- More stable energy levels
- Fewer feelings of frustration
Which One is Better?
Both of these medications will work for ADHD, however, Adderall is slightly better for this because it has MORE of a focus on dopamine than modafinil.
This effect on dopamine is great but is also the main reason for its addictive nature.
The reward center is also one of the main causes of addiction. When we stimulate this region of the brain too much, we develop an addiction to it as the body craves its activation when we’re not on the drug.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for direct improvement in ADHD symptoms, Adderall is going to produce stronger benefits overall— just be aware of the addictive nature of the drug.
If you want to avoid addictive side effects modafinil and other drugs like Vyvanse are also excellent options for treating ADHD symptoms.
3. Increasing Reaction Times
A newer use of stimulants that have only started to become more well-known in recent years is to increase reaction times for professional or amateur video gaming.
E-Sports (electronic sports) have exploded in interest in recent years.
In 2015, the world final championship for the video game League of Legends had an attendance of 45,000 people and 27 million online viewers. The prize money exceeded 2 million dollars.
E-Sports is huge, and stakes are high.
As a result, people are always looking for opportunities to get a step up on the competition.
Unlike more traditional sports, it’s not the muscles and blood that need a boost to enhance performance, it’s the brain.
Stimulants are popular among these attendees because it increases vigilance and reaction speeds. At high levels, even a slight improvement in reaction times can make a significant difference.
It can mean the difference between winning and losing.
Adderall and modafinil are both common in this arena, as well as other stimulants like caffeine and Ritalin.
Which One is the Best?
In light of some high-level, E-Sports champions coming out in recent years saying they took stimulant medications to win, a lot of gaming commissions regulating the industry have started testing for Adderall.
Modafinil has also been mentioned, but currently is not being tested for in professional E-Sports events. This makes modafinil the clear winner here.
4. Enhancing Athletic Performance
Traditional sports players also use Adderall and modafinil, however, they’re not nearly as common at these events.
Athletes can also benefit from the stimulating effects of the drugs. They sometimes use them when they want to do high-intensity training or long training events (over 10 hours).
The drug helps them stay alert and focused while doing ultramarathons, or all-day/night biking events.
It’s important to note here that we don’t actually recommend taking modafinil or Adderall for these activities unless under the direct supervision of a trained medical professional.
Nevertheless, this remains a popular application of these medications.
Which is Better?
Adderall is currently banned by every sports commission in operation, but the drug is still discretely used by many top-level athletes.
Drug testing is the biggest factor when it comes to athletic stimulant use.
Also important to consider is the after-effects of the drugs.
Adderall often causes dopamine levels to drop the day after taking it, which can negatively affect your performance.
One study found that the top athletes involved in the study had the best dopamine efficiency .
Modafinil hasn’t been shown to lower dopamine levels after dosing, while also offering the same stimulating effects on the brain. This makes modafinil the preferred option as an athletic performance enhancement stimulant.
5. Treating Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
Excessive sleepiness is a symptom. It often develops with medical conditions like multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, narcolepsy, or obstructive sleep apnea.
Both Adderall and modafinil are approved for the treatment of excessive sleepiness and are commonly prescribed for these conditions as a result.
Both drugs stimulate the central nervous system in the brain, causing an increased level of alertness, and keeps them wide awake throughout the day.
Which is Better?
Modafinil is the preferred treatment for excessive sleepiness of any kind by doctors because it’s far less addictive than the older generation stimulants like Adderall.
The effects on sleepiness from both Adderall and modafinil are very similar, however, modafinil is considered slightly stronger in this effect.
This is likely because of modafinil’s higher level of specificity in the brain than Adderall. This makes its effects more targeted, which also reduce side effects.
Adderall affects more receptors in the brain, which can cause more side effects, can make the drug unpredictable from one person to the next.
Adderall vs Modafinil: Which One is Better?
Both of these drugs are excellent pharmaceutical stimulants.
They force the brain into a waking state, increase dopamine levels, and help us get our tasks done faster, better, and for a longer period of time.
Deciding which is best will depend on what you’re using it for.
If you’re using it as a treatment for ADHD. Adderall is slightly better, though not without its side effects.
If you’re using it for increasing productivity, staying awake, improving athletic performance, or boosting your reaction times, modafinil is the better option.
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- Gilbert, C. (1995). Optimal physical performance in athletes: key roles of dopamine in a specific neurotransmitter/hormonal mechanism. Mechanisms of ageing and development, 84(2), 83-102.