Adderall vs. Modafinil: Is There A Difference?

Adderall and Modafinil (Provigil) produce some similar effects but are not entirely the same. Abuse of either drug, however, may pose serious health risks, including substance addiction.

Adderall and modafinil (Provigil) are both prescription stimulants used to treat symptoms of sleep disorders such as narcolepsy. Modafinil and Adderall can also be effective in treating symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, while Adderall is approved to treat the condition, modafinil is not.

Both medications stimulate brain activity and can improve concentration. However, there are some ways in which they differ. This includes their potential for abuse and risk for addiction.

Adderall is a powerful stimulant that may pose severe health consequences when abused. Modafinil has a lower risk for abuse and is not known to cause severe side effects in most people.

Additional differences between Adderall vs modafinil include:

  • effects on the brain
  • some side effects
  • approved uses

When taken for an extended period of time, both drugs may cause physical dependence. People who abuse Adderall or modafinil may be at higher risk for addiction. Addiction to stimulant drugs can be dangerous and have a negative impact on all aspects of a person’s life.

Those who have become addicted to either drug or abuse them for their effects, may need to seek inpatient treatment for substance abuse.

What Is Modafinil?

Modafinil is the generic name for the drug, Provigil, which belongs to a class of stimulants known as eugeroics. Eugeroics are wakefulness-promoting drugs that balance brain chemicals known to manage the sleep cycle. They have also typically been shown to produce fewer side effects than amphetamines like Adderall.

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Currently, modafinil is only approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat narcolepsy and some other sleep disorders. However, it has also been used off-label to treat symptoms of ADHD. Modafinil can increase wakefulness, alertness, and relieve fatigue caused by poor sleep.

Some potential side effects include:

  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • dry mouth
  • sweating
  • heartburn
  • loss of appetite
  • uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body

How Does Modafinil Compare To Adderall?

Modafinil and Adderall produce some similar effects, including increased alertness and wakefulness. This has made both drugs common among students and professional executives who need to stay awake for long hours or have trouble focusing on school or work-related tasks.

Despite some similarities, Adderall and modafinil are not the same. The primary differences between the two drugs concern their abuse potential, the intensity of effects, and certain health risks.

How They Work

All stimulants generally affect the brain in similar ways — including illicit stimulants like cocaine. Some stimulants target different chemicals in the brain, however, and produce different effects. This may be due to differences in ingredients, how the drug is used, and other factors.

People who take Adderall to treat ADHD symptoms may experience increased focus and concentration as the drug alters the levels of certain chemicals in the brain. Adderall also acts on the brain’s reward system, which involves the neurochemical dopamine. This can cause feelings of pleasure and reinforce people to take more of the drug.

People without ADHD symptoms that take Adderall may experience an intense rush, resulting in increased energy and self-confidence. Adderall may also decrease appetite and cause restlessness.

Despite having some similar effects, modafinil is a much milder stimulant. It is also believed to affect some additional receptors in the brain. Modafinil is less likely to cause common side effects linked to Adderall, such as jitteriness, nervousness, and agitation. It is also less likely to cause hallucinations, seizures, or significant changes in heart rate.

Drug Uses

Adderall is available as an immediate-release tablet or long-acting capsule (Adderall XR) for ADHD symptom relief. It has also been approved to treat narcolepsy in adults.

Unlike Adderall, modafinil has not been approved to treat ADHD symptoms, although it may be prescribed off-label for this purpose. At this time, modafinil is only approved to treat certain sleep disorders.

Modafinil may also be prescribed in some cases to treat symptoms of clinical depression or sleepiness in patients with Parkinson’s disease. The effectiveness of modafinil for these uses has been inconsistent.

Adderall is often used for its stimulating effects, and may be abused to get high. Its impact on appetite has also led to some taking the drug in order to lose weight.

Can Modafinil Be Abused?

Like all other stimulants, chronic use of modafinil may lead to drug dependence. This occurs when the body adapts to the presence of a drug in your system, and can cause withdrawal symptoms.

Abusing stimulants by taking large or frequent doses can lead to faster and more severe dependence. It may also lead to physical and psychological addiction to the drug.

Modafinil Abuse Risks

Adderall is known to have a high risk for abuse. Despite having similar stimulant properties, modafinil is believed to have low abuse potential. This makes it less likely to lead to misuse.

There are certain factors, however, that may increase someone’s risk of abusing modafinil. This includes having a personal history of substance abuse, or taking the drug in higher doses or more frequently than prescribed.

Stimulants like Adderall and modafinil may also be abused for their effects on energy and cognition. Taking high doses of Adderall can cause intense effects, including a drug-induced high. This, as well as its effects on concentration and energy, can be addictive.

Although modafinil can increase alertness and improve fatigue, those who take it are unlikely to experience a high. Chronic use of it may lead to physical dependence, however, and risk addiction.

Dangers Of Stimulant Abuse And Addiction

Abusing any type of drug has the potential to lead to serious consequences on health. One of these consequences is addiction, which can negatively impact physical and mental wellbeing.

Some other dangers of stimulant abuse can include:

  • heart complications
  • increased blood pressure (hypertension)
  • sleep disturbances
  • lowered immune response
  • weight loss
  • overdose
  • sudden death

Dangers specific to modafinil are not as well-known due to its low potential for abuse. More often, misuse of modafinil may cause symptoms such as headaches, hypertension, and nausea. These, as well as other health complications, may be higher for people with hepatic disease.

People who become addicted to either Adderall or Provigil may need treatment to overcome their substance abuse. The type of treatment required may depend on the severity of a person’s problem and other personal needs. If addiction has had a significant impact on someone’s life or caused health problems, treatment within an inpatient program for drug abuse may often be recommended.

Treatment For Adderall And Modafinil Addiction

Treating substance addiction begins with helping a person stop using a drug. This is known as detoxification or detox. The safest and most effective way to stop using stimulants is through medically-supervised detox.

Individual behavioral therapies can also be effective in treating the emotional and psychological sides of stimulant addiction. Behavioral therapy can help prevent relapse and guide patients towards healthier coping skills to aid them in recovery.

Contact one of our specialists today for more information on Adderall and modafinil abuse and treatment options.

National Institutes of Health: MedlinePlus - Modafinil, Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine

National Institutes of Health: PubMedCentral - Practical Use and Risk of Modafinil, a Novel Waking Drug

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