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.
We also go over mixing Adderall and modafinil together — why you might want to do it, and how to do it safely.
What are 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 to achieve longer working hours and get more out of their work or study session.
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Conditions Often 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 do 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 two 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 adverse 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 sluggish; 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 highly effective.
So Which One is Better for Productivity?
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 effectively. However, the negative side effects common to Adderall, especially its addictive side effects, can 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 regarding 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 extended periods of time, allowing it to exert stronger effects.
The Results of Boosting Dopamine Includes:
- Improved concentration
- Less fidgeting
- Better memory
- More stable energy levels
- Fewer feelings of frustration
Which One is Better for ADHD?
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— but 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 enormous, and the 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.
Which One is the Best for Increasing Reaction Time?
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 recommend taking modafinil or Adderall for these activities unless under the direct supervision of a trained medical professional.
Nevertheless, this remains a widespread application of these medications.
Which is Better for Athletic Enhancement?
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 most significant 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 for Daytime Sleepiness?
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.
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.
Can you Mix Modafinil with Adderall?
Some people choose to combine their modafinil with Adderall. The idea is that by mixing two compounds that have similar effects, but work through different mechanisms, we can provide more reliable results.
Is Mixing Modafinil & Adderall Safe?
It’s unclear whether the combination of modafinil and Adderall is safe.
Based on the way these medications work, as outlined above, it’s likely that combining the two will only serve to increase side effects or cause serious overstimulation which could reduce productivity and negate the entire reason someone would want to take these medications.
Going back to the shower example, mixing Adderall and modafinil would be like plugging the shower drain, and cranking the faucet on as high as it will go. The tub will quickly fill up with water and may start to overflow over the sides.
This is the same thing that would happen to the brain when you take these two stimulants together. Too much dopamine can cause short-term cognitive problems like headaches, anxiety, twitchiness, and irritability. Long-term effects can include insomnia, depression, low libido, and lack of motivation.
Should I Mix Adderall with My Modafinil?
Most people participating in the discussion about whether or not modafinil and Adderall SHOULD be mixed agree that they’re probably best kept apart.
We tend to agree with them.
Both of these drugs are very powerful, and there are no studies investigating the combined use of them at the same time.
The combination could be the ride of your life, but it could also lead to serious side effects.
In fact, we recommend taking only one stimulant at a time and don’t even recommend taking caffeine with your modafinil.
Modafinil works perfectly fine on its own and so does Adderall. Therefore, we see no need to mix the two together, and it serves no reasonable benefit to do so.
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Common Side Effects of Mixing Modafinil & Adderall
- Heart palpitations
How To Mix Them Together Safely
Let’s say that despite all of the information above and you still want to mix Adderall and modafinil together, how can you do it safely?
Due to the similarities in their effects, we recommend taking them each in smaller doses if you’re going to take them at the same time.
The normal dose of modafinil is 200 mg per day. The equivalent to this in Adderall is about 60 mg.
Therefore, if you’re going to mix the two, start with a half dose of each. 100 mg of modafinil and about 30 mg of Adderall.
You can buy modafinil in the 200 mg dose and use the manufacturer’s crease to break the capsules in half for even 100 mg doses.
Adderall doesn’t usually come with a crease down the middle but is supplied in doses of 10 mg, 30 mg, or 60 mg. We recommend buying either the 10 mg or 30 mg doses to mix with your modafinil.
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Start Low And Increase Gradually
It’s very important that you start with a lower dose when you’re just starting. This goes for any new combination of drugs or supplements.
This is done to make sure there are no serious side effects from the medication.
Start with a half dose of each and build up slowly.
Even if you don’t feel the effects as strong as you had hoped on the first day, WAIT until the next time before increasing the dose.
An easy way to create problems for yourself is to take a second dose out of impatience before the first one took effect. This is how many people overdose on illicit drugs like MDMA (which Adderall is a close relative).
Keep in mind that Adderall doesn’t reach peak concentrations for about 3 hours , while modafinil takes about 2 hours.
Final Thoughts on Mixing Modafinil & Adderall
Although Adderall and modafinil may seem like a good pairing, it can be unsafe and isn’t necessary since both drugs are so similar, and both drugs work just fine on their own.
If you’re really determined to mix the two together, it’s important to start with smaller doses of each before building the dose up.
Wrapping it up
Modafinil and Adderall are similar but have some distinct differences.
While modafinil is better for keeping you awake and productive for hours on end, Adderall is better for boosting dopamine in people with ADHD.
Both drugs are extremely potent and will provide much of the same benefit.
Ultimately I prefer modafinil over Adderall because despite having many of the same benefits, modafinil is less addictive, and has fewer side effects than Adderall.
The only exception is in people with ADHD — Adderall may be a better option (though only slightly) in this regard.
If you aim to mix the two together, I highly recommend taking it slow, and start with a lower dose than normal for each until you know exactly how it’s going to affect you individually.
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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.
- Arrang, J. M., Devaux, B., Chodkiewicz, J. P., & Schwartz, J. C. (1988). H3‐receptors control histamine release in human brain. Journal of neurochemistry, 51(1), 105-108.
- Ishizuka, T., Sakamoto, Y., Sakurai, T., & Yamatodani, A. (2003). Modafinil increases histamine release in the anterior hypothalamus of rats. Neuroscience letters, 339(2), 143-146.
- Madras, B. K., Xie, Z., Lin, Z., Jassen, A., Panas, H., Lynch, L., … & Miller, G. M. (2006). Modafinil occupies dopamine and norepinephrine transporters in vivo and modulates the transporters and trace amine activity in vitro. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 319(2), 561-569.
- Sherzada, A. (2012). An analysis of ADHD drugs: Ritalin and Adderall. JCCC Honors Journal, 3(1), 2.