Modafinil and Adderall are prescription drugs used to increase wakefulness, alertness, and motivation in people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and other disorders. Adderall is FDA-approved while Modafinil is typically prescribed off-label by psychiatrists, according to Nootriment.com.
According to WebMD, “off-label” is the practice of using the medication in a manner not specified by the FDA label or insert.
Both drugs attract interest from people who need them to manage their health as well as those who seek them out for other reasons. Here, we offer comparisons of both medications, including a look at the dosage, side effects, and withdrawal periods for each so that users know the differences between Modafinil and Adderall.
Modafinil Vs. Adderall: AN OVERVIEW
Modafinil and Adderall both produce stimulant-like effects, but Modafinil is not a stimulant. However, Adderall is a stimulant and is subsequently the more addictive drug.
Adderall is a potent stimulant that affects the central nervous system, and its combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine boosts dopamine levels, which results in lifting the user’s mood.
Adderall is most commonly misused and abused as a “study drug” or “study aid” among high school and college students. Adderall boosts energy levels and heightens alertness, which helps users concentrate for longer time periods. For these reasons, people use the medication because they feel it gives them an edge on being appearing smarter and achieving high academic performance. Others use it to stay awake just to get through long hours of studying.
The Schedule II drug is easily accessible, as data reported in the 2016 Monitoring the Future Survey show. Nearly 42 percent of the high-school seniors surveyed for the report said Adderall was easy to get.
Adderall use among 12th-graders in 2015 reached 7.5 percent–a figure that ranks among the highest usage levels for prescription, over-the-counter, and illicit drugs other than marijuana, according to the report.
Despite its strong demand, widespread access, and popularity, Adderall is not a drug to take lightly. It is highly addictive, and chronic users may find they cannot function properly without it. People who abuse Adderall have been known to do so with alcohol, which further increases their chances of harm, permanent injury, or death.
Modafinil is a potent stimulant prescribed to treat excessive sleepiness commonly associated with narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, shift work disorder, and other daytime sleep disorders. It is sold in Canada and the US, where it is a Schedule IV-controlled substance in the US.
The prescription ergogenic drug, which is sold under the brand name Provigil, is sought after for its cognitive-enhancing benefits. Users report a boost in their mental acuity and focus for people who have attention processing disorders, such as ADHD. Some people do not use Modafinil to treat disorders. Instead, they take it to help improve brain function.
Some Modafinil users, such as Dave Asprey, who wrote the article “13 Nootropics to Unlock Your True Brain” for the site Bulletproof, says the medication binds to the brain’s dopamine receptors differently than addictive drugs like cocaine and amphetamines such as Adderall. This means users can use the drug without experiencing addictive effects or withdrawal symptoms that come with other drugs.
The usual adult dose for Modafinil is between 100 mg to 200 mg orally once a day in the morning. Taking more than that may disturb sleep during at night. The medication is usually given for 12 weeks or less, according to Drugs.com.
The Adderall dose for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder depends on the person’s age and unique needs. According to Drugs.com, in adults with ADHD who are either starting treatment for the first time or switching from another medication, the recommended dose is 20 mg per day. When administered for narcolepsy, the usual dose is 5 mg to 60 mg per day in divided doses, depending on the individual person’s response.
Chronic Adderall users typically snort the drug in larger quantities that are far beyond the intended doses, risking damage to their lungs, sinuses, and nasal linings. They also may experience hyperactivity, insomnia, irritability, and changes in personality when guidelines for Adderall use aren’t followed.
Side effects are reported to be milder with Modafinil vs. Adderall, according to Drugs.com, though the medication can “significantly increase heart rate and blood pressure.” People with a history of heart problems or heart valve problems are advised against taking this medication. Here’s an overview of side effects for both drugs though it is should be noted that it’s not an exhaustive list.
Adderall Side Effects
Some people who take Adderall may experience side effects that range from mild to life-threatening.
Seek emergency medical attention if the following life-threatening Adderall side effects happen:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
These are all signs of an allergic reaction and should be tended to immediately.
Users are advised to stop using Adderall and call a doctor immediately if they experience these serious side effects, such as:
- Fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeats;
- Pain or burning when urinating
- Talking more than usual, feelings of extreme happiness or sadness
- Tremors, hallucinations, unusual behavior, or motor tics (muscle twitches)
- Dangerously high blood pressure (severe headache, buzzing in your ears, anxiety, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, uneven heartbeats, seizure)
Less-serious Adderall side effects may include:
- Headache, weakness, dizziness, blurred vision
- Restless, irritability, agitation
- Sleep problems, such as insomnia
- Dry mouth or an unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Constipation, diarrhea stomach pain, nausea, vomiting
- Hair loss, loss of appetite, weight loss
- Loss of interest in sex, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm
Modafinil Side Effects
This medication also has side effects. Not everyone who takes Modafinil will experience them.
Seek emergency medical attention if the following life-threatening Modafinil side effects happen:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
These are signs of an allergic reaction to Modafinil, and immediate treatment is needed.
Stop using Modafinil and call a doctor if these serious side effects occur:
- Fever, sore throat, headache, and vomiting
- Severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash
- Bruising, severe tingling, numbness, pain, muscle weakness
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- White patches or sores inside your mouth or on your lips
- Hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior
- Anxiety depression, aggression
- Chest pain, uneven heartbeats.
Less-serious Modafinil side effects include:
- Loose stools (diarrhea)
- Nervousness and excitability
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Stomach pains
- Sleep disturbances
Research published in 2000 in the journal Neurology found that there was no pattern of amphetamine-like withdrawal symptoms in narcolepsy patients—such as vivid dreams, insomnia, and agitation—who were receiving Modafinil.
According to Drugs.com, Modafinil users have reported significantly reduced energy, lack of motivation, and depression after discontinuing their use.
If taken when needed, withdrawal symptoms may not occur. Longtime Modafinil users; however, are advised to taper off the drug gradually. Prolonged use means a tolerance for the drug has developed, which means going off it too quickly could result in withdrawal.
People in Adderall withdrawal may experience a “crash,” which is when users feel sluggish after the stimulant wears off. Crashes can happen when too much of the drug is ingested or when use is ended abruptly.
Symptoms of Adderall withdrawal include but are not limited to:
- Intense cravings for the drug to return to feeling “normal”
- Intense hunger
- Increased anxiety, irritability
- Panic attacks
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Sleep disturbances that range from insomnia to oversleeping
- Suicidal thoughts or ideations
Adderall users who chronically abuse the medication are advised to seek help from a doctor if they are in withdrawal. Cutting back on use or stopping it altogether, a method known as quitting the drug cold turkey, is never recommended. Withdrawal symptoms are a sure sign that a chemical dependence has developed. To end that dependence, users should withdraw safely from the drug by undergoing a detoxification process that is monitored by medical professionals.
How long Adderall withdrawal lasts depends largely on the person, including the length of time they have been using, the size of the dose they’ve been taking, and how often they have been taking it. Adderall withdrawal symptoms can last a few days to a few weeks.
Consult with a licensed facility, such as Arete Detox, to enter a medical detoxification program that can help you slowly wean yourself of Adderall with a gradual taper method. Users can focus on eating healthy foods and getting regularly scheduled rest and establishing a sleep routine as they reduce their dependence on Adderall. Amphetamine users can still experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms, known as PAWS. Seeking out emotional and mental health support during this withdrawal period can help improve the chances of quitting Adderall and avoid relapse.