Adderall vs. Modafinil – Which Is Better?

Adderall vs Modafinil which Is Better

When it comes to substances that can drastically increase focus and productivity, there are two that always land at the top of the list: Adderall and modafinil.

The question is: Which is better? That’s what we’re going to explore in this post. But before we compare Adderall and modafinil, let’s first take a detailed look at each substance.

What Is Adderall?

Adderall isn’t a single substance. It’s actually four different forms of amphetamine combined into one pill. Amphetamine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that was first discovered in 1887 Germany. It was first used medically in 1933 and has been in use around the world ever since.

Today, Adderall is used as a prescription medication to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, obesity, and other conditions. It’s also popular in the nootropics community for its ability to dramatically increase focus and productivity. People from all walks of life have been using amphetamine for these reasons for decades.

As you might imagine, Adderall is popular among businesspeople, politicians, doctors, lawyers, writers, artists, musicians, computer programmers, and anyone else who’s livelihood depends on their mental abilities. Plenty of famous people have used and do use amphetamine. The list of well-known writers who used amphetamine includes (but is certainly not limited to) Jack Kerouac, Ayn Rand, and Phillip K. Dick.

While Adderall certainly has nootropic properties, it’s usually not considered one. That’s because Adderall has a long list of potential side effects, some of which are serious. While there’s no question about Adderall’s effectiveness, it often comes at a price.

Two of the most-serious potential side effects of Adderall are addiction and cardiovascular problems. While most people who use Adderall therapeutically don’t become addicted to it, some do. Anyone with a history of addiction or stimulant abuse should probably stay away from it. And Adderall can significantly increase heart rate and blood pressure in some people. While this won’t be a problem for most, anyone with a history of heart problems, stroke, or other cardiovascular issues should avoid taking Adderall.

Those are only the most-serious side effects that Adderall can cause. Other potential side effects include nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, loss of appetite, dry mouth, blurred vision, erectile dysfunction and other sexual side effects, sweating, reduced seizure threshold, tics, and teeth grinding. When taken at therapeutic dosages, most people only experience mild side effects. But when Adderall is taken in higher doses, the likelihood and seriousness of side effects increases.

In the United States, the only way to legally obtain Adderall is by getting a prescription from your doctor. And lots of Adderall prescriptions are being written every year. Over 16-million people were prescribed Adderall in 2016 in the US. And it’s estimated that an additional 5-million people take Adderall who don’t have prescriptions.

The reason so many people take Adderall is simple: because it works. And there’s plenty of science to show it. A 2015 meta-analysis looked at 48 different studies done on Adderall and concluded that it reliably improves working memory, long-term episodic memory, attention, and general cognition. And a review from 2014 showed that low-dose amphetamine increased attention, arousal, and overall cognition.

These are just two of the countless papers published in scientific journals that have shown Adderall to improve cognitive performance. Amphetamine’s medicinal properties have been studied for almost a century. A PubMed search for “amphetamine” brings up nearly 50,000 results. It’s a substance with a long history of use and plenty of science behind it. Now before we compare Adderall and modafinil, let’s take a look at what modafinil is.

What Is Modafinil?

Modafinil and Adderall have quite a few things in common. They’re both used in medicine, they both increase alertness and focus, and they’re both very popular in the nootropics community. But there are a lot of differences, too.

Modafinil was discovered a lot more recently than amphetamine – nearly 100-years more recently. In 1976, modafinil was first discovered by French scientists. It was first approved for medical use in France in 1994 and then in the United States in 1998. In the US, it’s prescribed under the brand name Provigil and is used to treat narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, and other conditions.

Like Adderall, modafinil is extremely popular in the nootropics community. But unlike Adderall, modafinil is usually considered to be a nootropic. That’s because it’s effective and has a low incidence of side effects.

While addiction is always possible with any mind-or-mood-altering substance, modafinil’s addiction potential is considered to be relatively low. Anecdotally, I’ve known plenty of people who have gotten addicted to Adderall but have yet to meet anyone addicted to modafinil – and I’ve known plenty of people who have used it.

The potential side effects of modafinil include nausea, headache, decreased appetite, anxiety, insomnia, dizziness, and diarrhea. Less than 10% of people who take modafinil experience these side effects and they are usually mild when they do occur. And they go away as soon as modafinil is discontinued.

Given that modafinil was discovered nearly a century after amphetamine, it’s not surprising that there hasn’t been nearly as much research done on it. While a PubMed search for “amphetamine” brings up close to 50,000 results, a search for “modafinil” brings up less than 2,000. However, there have been more than enough studies done on modafinil to support its use as a cognitive enhancer.

A 2015 review looked at 24 different studies done on modafinil. It concluded that modafinil increased attention, learning, and executive functioning. The reviews also noted that “we did not observe any preponderances for side effects or mood changes.” A meta-analysis from 2019 looked at 19 different placebo-controlled trials and came to a similar conclusion. It found that modafinil (modestly) improved all aspects of cognition.

While modafinil is a prescription drug like Adderall, it’s also easily available on the internet. There are several reputable online vendors that offer pharmaceutical-grade modafinil.

As you can see, Adderall and modafinil are both powerful cognitive enhancers. They both increase focus, wakefulness, and productivity. But which is better: modafinil or Adderall?

Adderall vs. Modafinil – Which Is Better?

Ultimately, it’s going to come down to the individual nootropic user. Some people will prefer Adderall while others will prefer modafinil. But we can compare the two of them to see which one will likely be best for you.

When it comes to increasing focus and especially motivation, there’s no question about it: Adderall packs a more-powerful punch than modafinil. Amphetamine, the main ingredient in Adderall, is one of the strongest stimulants available and it has been for nearly a century.

However, when it comes to increasing wakefulness, modafinil and Adderall are pretty evenly matched. Many people actually report that modafinil is better at keeping them awake and alert than Adderall. While Adderall will give you a boost for a few hours, modafinil keeps you alert all day.

That’s something that modafinil has over Adderall. The effects of modafinil are generally more subtle than Adderall. They come on gradually and last for much of the day. Adderall’s effects usually come on strong, but then they wear off a few hours later. And when they do, users often report that they “crash” just like with caffeine. That’s not good for productivity.

And another major benefit of modafinil is that it has a low potential for addiction. Adderall, on the other hand, can be highly addictive for some people. Modafinil will help you focus and stay alert but it doesn’t usually have much effect on mood. But people who use Adderall often report that it gives them a significant mood boost. For people who are prone to addictive behavior, they may chase that mood boost by taking more and more Adderall.

Yet another benefit that modafinil has over Adderall is availability. Adderall is a CII (Control 2) substance in the United States. That means it is highly regulated because of its abuse potential. Drugs in the CII category include things like oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), methadone, cocaine, and other potentially-addictive drugs. Generally, the only ways to get Adderall are to either get a prescription or buy it on the street/black market.

Modafinil, on the other hand, is a CIV substance. That means it has a low potential for abuse and is not highly regulated. While you can get it prescribed in the US, it’s also widely available online. There are several trustworthy online modafinil vendors that have excellent products and reasonable prices. When it comes to availability, modafinil clearly beats Adderall.

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