In the search for the best smart drugs on the market, many nootropics users are constantly comparing new options, with older options.
Modafinil and Ritalin are both popular central nervous system stimulants. They’ve been used by millions of people worldwide with great results in wakefulness and productivity.
Some people even mix the two together for a combined effect.
Here we discuss what makes these two drugs different, what makes them the same, and which one is the best option for you.
Why People Take Smart Drugs
There are many reasons someone would want to take a smart drug.
The Most Common Reasons Include:
- To boost performance at work
- To improve efficiency while studying
- To treat a cognitive disorder like narcolepsy or ADHD
- To perform at a higher level athletically
- To increase reaction times for E-Sport competitions
Smart drugs are thought to provide an unfair advantage in the workplace. It allows people to do their jobs better, faster and longer than the average person.
The University of Oxford even wrote an entire post about smart drugs on their blog and appeared to be pretty upset about them, calling them an “unfair advantage”.
This is the primary reason someone would take them outside of the prescribed uses.
They want to get a step up on their competition, score higher on tests, land a new deal for their company, or get through virtually any task with record times.
Smart Drugs Like Modafinil & Ritalin Make Us More Alert
Have you ever seen the movie Limitless? The one with Bradley Cooper where he takes a magical pill that makes him better at everything he does by a factor of 10?
The drug in the movie, NZT-48, doesn’t exist.
The real-life versions, modafinil, and Ritalin don’t actually increase intelligence.
They do, however, significantly increase productivity.
Both drugs work by hitting the “on-switch” in our brains when it would normally want to turn it off.
Hitting the on-switch allows us to stay vigilant on the tasks we’re working on for a longer period of time. Normally, after working for a few hours, the brain becomes slow and fatigued. When this happens, our efficiency at performing tasks involving virtually all areas of the brain, start to diminish.
The Effects Of Fatigue On The Brain Include:
- Adenosine builds up in the brain (causing our neurons to fire slower)
- Dopamine levels diminish (causing our attention spans to disintegrate)
- Acetylcholine levels drop (making it harder to store and retrieve memories)
- Histamine is used up (making it more difficult to remain vigilant on the task at hand)
- Norepinephrine levels decline (making us feel less alert)
Our neurons fire slower, meaning it takes longer to transmit the same amount of information per second.
As neurotransmitter levels begin to decline, we experience a drop-off in attention spans and memory.
Buying Sart Drugs Online
Most pharmaceutical smart drugs are prescription only, including modafinil and Ritalin.
This means that getting the drug will require a visit to the doctor and a reason for the prescription.
The only way a doctor can prescribe these drugs is if there is an indication that you suffer from either “excessive daytime sleepiness” or are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.
Doctors will not give a prescription for these drugs on the basis that you need it to boost productivity.
But there’s still a way to get them.
Some online sources, such as Afinil.com offer generic modafinil for much lower prices.
Instead of the expensive brand-name options like Provigil® and Nuvigil®, they offer high-quality generics for a fraction of the price.
The online nature of these vendors allows them to sell modafinil without a prescription, making it the number one place to get modafinil for productivity and work performance.
How Do Smart Drugs Like Modafinil & Ritalin Work?
Both Ritalin and modafinil have similar effects in the brain, all working to increase the feeling of being alert and awake.
They’re both considered central nervous system stimulants, which means that they force the “on switch” in the brain.
They rely on different mechanisms to achieve this, however.
Let me explain.
Ritalin is the brand name for methylphenidate.
The main benefit of the drug is to increase dopamine levels in the brain.
This is useful because dopamine is one of the primary neurotransmitters involved with focus and concentration.
This may get a little technical, but here’s exactly how it works.
Ritalin blocks 50% of dopamine transporters (DAT) in the brain .
These dopamine transporters are tasked with moving dopamine into the neurons after they’ve released. Once transported, the dopamine is then broken down into its individual parts, ready to be reused elsewhere.
Its effects are especially good at enhancing extracellular dopamine in an area known as the basal ganglia of the brain but may cause some damage to this specialized region over time .
By inhibiting the dopamine transporters, Ritalin is able to increase the amount of dopamine in the synapses, allowing us to concentrate on tasks more easily.
This mechanism is especially useful for the condition of ADD or ADHD because dopamine levels are often found in lower amounts in people with this condition .
Dopamine is also a key part of the reward center in the brain.
If levels are too low, the brain needs to work extra hard to stimulate itself, causing the characteristic fidgety, low attention symptoms common in ADHD sufferers.
The results of low Dopamine may include:
- Fidgety behavior
- Inability to concentrate on a task for extended periods of time
- Learning disabilities
There Are 2 Forms of Methylphenidate
Both modafinil and Ritalin come in two chemical forms, called enantiomers.
Modafinil comes in an R-modafinil, and S-modafinil, while methylphenidate comes in d-threo-methylphenidate and l-threo-methylphenidate.
Enantiomers are compounds that have the exact same structure but are mirror images of each other. This is common in the world of chemistry.
Some compounds have no difference from one enantiomer to the next, while others, like Ritalin, there is a large difference between the two.
Only the d-threo-methylphenidate blocks dopamine receptors, which has lead to the development of an enantiopure (only one enantiomer) version called Focalin.
This compound only contains d-threo-methylphenidate, and therefore has slightly stronger effects on dopamine overall.
Other Forms of Methylphenidate Include:
- Aptensio XR
- Cotempla XR-ODT
- Metadate CD
- Metadate ER
- QuilliChew ER
- Quillivant XR
Ritalin reaches peak concentrations about 60-90 minutes after consumption .
These effects tend to last about 3 hours or 8 hours if taking the extended-release versions.
When taking the normal (non-extended release) version of the drug, it needs to be taken in increments of about 4 hours in order to maintain its effects throughout the day.
Most people who take Ritalin will take it about 2 or 3 times per day. Starting before breakfast, then about 30 minutes before lunch, then again between 2 and 4 pm.
This dosage schedule allows the effects of the drug to spread out across the day.
The extended-release versions don’t need to be taken as frequently, usually only once or twice per day.
Side Effects of Ritalin
Like any pharmaceutical medication, there are some side effects of Ritalin. Most of these side effects are shared by all stimulants, including modafinil.
The most common side effects when taking Ritalin are insomnia, fast heartbeat, weight loss, and headaches.
Mild Side Effects Include:
- Mood changes
- Fast heartbeat (Tachycardia)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Stomach pain
More Severe Side Effects Include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle twitches
- Vision disturbances
- Painful erection
Modafinil, like Ritalin, is a central nervous system stimulant.
Similarly to Ritalin, it works by increasing dopamine levels in the brain by inhibiting the dopamine transporters.
Instead of focusing most of its effects on dopamine, it offers additional benefits on other regions of the brain like the orexin pathway, and norepinephrine reuptake.
Orexin is a neuropeptide in the brain that carries out the effects of the wakefulness portion of the sleep-wake cycle.
The sleep-wake cycle is what makes us feel awake during the day, and tired at night.
It’s lined up according to our habits, as well the natural rhythm of night and day. When the sun comes up it stimulates the waking side. When the sun goes down it stimulates the sleeping side of the system.
Modafinil overrides this system by directly stimulating the waking portion of the sleep-wake cycle.
When the wakefulness switch is “flipped on”, orexin is released from the hypothalamus and travels all around the brain telling it to wake up.
The results are a state of hypervigilance even when we would otherwise be tired. It allows us to work longer amounts of time, getting more done.
Medically, the drug is specific for conditions that involve “excessive sleepiness”. This includes conditions like narcolepsy and side effects of other conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple sclerosis.
There Are 2 Forms of Modafinil
Just like Ritalin, there are actually 2 forms of modafinil (enantiomers). These are R-modafinil, and S-modafinil.
The R-modafinil enantiopure product of modafinil is called Nuvigil®, Artvigil, or Modvigil.
Other Forms Of Modafinil Include:
There are a number of different forms of modafinil, including brand name and generic versions of the drug.
Although most are very similar, our favorite is Modalert and Modvigil. They offer an excellent mix of both cost and benefits.
Other Versions Include:
- Modalert (Sun Pharmaceuticals)
- Modvigil (HAB Pharmaceuticals)
- Alertec (Cephalon Inc)
- Provigil (Cephalon Inc)
- Vilafinil (Centurian Labs)
- Modaheal (Healing Pharmaceuticals)
- Modafresh (Sunrise Pharmaceuticals)
- Modafil MD (INTAS)
- Modawake (HAB Pharmaceuticals)
Side Effects of Modafinil
Modafinil shares many of the same side effects as Ritalin and other central nervous stimulants like Adderall.
Mild Side Effects Include:
- Poor appetite
- Dry mouth
- Fast heartbeat
More Severe Side Effects Include:
- Mood disturbances
- Severe depression
- Chest pain
- Severe skin reactions (Steven Johnson Syndrome)
- Chest pain
- Heart palpations
Modafinil & Ritalin: How Do They Compare?
Modafinil and Ritalin are used for the same conditions but have some slightly different effect profiles nonetheless.
In general, Ritalin is better for boosting dopamine levels, while modafinil is better for stimulating wakefulness.
In terms of duration of effects, modafinil lasts significantly longer than Ritalin.
Comparing The Effects
Effect on dopamine
|Mild Increase||Strong Increase|
Effect on wakefulness
|Strong Increase||Mild Increase|
|Mild Side Effects Common||Mild Side Effects Common|
Duration Of Effects
|14-18 hours||3-4 hours|
Can Modafinil & Ritalin be Combined?
Some people have started combining modafinil and Ritalin to boost both of their benefits.
When working on tasks at work or school they want to be more awake (modafinil is best for this), AND more concentrated (Ritalin is best for this).
They combine the two to get the best of both worlds.
This combination will affect everyone differently. Some people report that the combo turned them into a machine while studying for their exams, but actually made it more difficult during the exam.
Other reports suggest similar findings, saying that the combo helps with concentration, but can ultimately lower memory recall.
Users on forums like Reddit and Longecity are reporting improvements in both concentration and memory with a smaller dose of each (100mg modafinil and 10mg Ritalin every 4 hours).
Ultimately, you will need to do some self-experimentation to really get a feel for how this combination affects your productivity and performance.
We recommend starting with a smaller dose, and building up slowly until you know how it works for you.
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