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modafinil vs adderall

Modafinil and Adderall Uses, Dangers, Addiction, Side Effects, Medical Detox & Rehab Treatment.

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What is Modafinil Used For?

Modafinil, better known by the brand name Provigil, is also a central nervous stimulant drug. Modafinil is often referred to as a eugeroic medication, which is a medication that promotes alertness and wakefulness. Modafinil is approved by the FDA to treat daytime sleepiness in people who have several different conditions, including:

  • Narcolepsy
  • Shift work disorder: is a formal disorder that involves a disruption of normal sleeping hours when one is working nights
  • Sleepiness that occurs in other medical conditions like obstructive sleep apnea

Modafinil is also a controlled substance but classified at a much lower level of control/severity than Adderall. Modafinil is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance.

modafinil vs adderall
Modafinil, better known by the brand name Provigil, is also a central nervous stimulant drug.

The difference in the formal classification of Adderall and modafinil indicates that the overall general research and the opinion of the federal government are that Adderall is a more dangerous drug of abuse than modafinil.

All stimulant drugs share similar mechanisms of action. Because of this, even when prescription stimulants that are considered to be relatively mild like modafinil are compared to stimulants that have a significant potential for abuse (e.g., cocaine), the findings indicate that there is a similar mechanism of action between these drugs. Some sources will attempt to capitalize on this finding and state that similar mechanisms of action indicate similar potentials for abuse; however, this is not always true.

Adderall is believed to exert its effects by both blocking the reuptake of the excitatory neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, and by actually increasing the intracellular concentration of these neurotransmitters by releasing them from storage units in neurons. Modafinil is also believed to affect several different neurotransmitters, including excitatory neurotransmitters like dopamine and glutamate (increasing their availability) and decreasing the availability of inhibitory neurotransmitters like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Modafinil’s Common Side Effects

Common side effects of Provigil are:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Dry mouth
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)

Tell your doctor if you experience serious side effects of Provigil including:

  • Fever
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Chest pain
  • Fast/pounding/irregular heartbeat
  • Mental/mood changes (such as confusion, depression, hallucinations, and rare thoughts of suicide)

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Modafinil Off Label Uses

Although the drugs have approved uses, the prescription of these drugs is often made according to uses that they are not formally approved to address. This is true for many different types of medications.

Off-label uses for Adderall are designed to take advantage of its stimulant effects. Adderall may be used for weight control, to increase alertness, and to address issues with obesity.

Modafinil is also prescribed to address conditions that its stimulant effects may treat, including treating fatigue and lethargy in individuals with numerous neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, in cancer patients, and even the fatigue that occurs in patients with clinical depression.

Modafinil is a much milder stimulant than Adderall, and its mild stimulant properties allow for using it in varied situations to address lethargy and sleepiness without the potential for inducing anxiety, and jitteriness, irritability, or agitation. Adderall is a more powerful stimulant, and its use must be tempered.

modafinil vs adderall
Modafinil is a much milder stimulant than Adderall, and its mild stimulant properties allow for using it in varied situations without the potential for inducing unwanted side effects.

Modafinil is not approved for the treatment of ADHD; however, it may be prescribed off-label for this use. At the time of this writing, some small controlled studies suggest that modafinil is a useful treatment for ADHD. Research studies have indicated that modafinil:

  • May be significantly more effective in treating the symptoms of ADHD than a placebo.
  • May have comparable efficacy for treating ADHD to methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin, Concerta) and fewer side effects.
  • May have comparable efficacy for treating ADHD compared to dextroamphetamine (one of the ingredients in Adderall).

It should be noted that modafinil is not an approved medication for ADHD. Insurance companies may not approve its use for this purpose and therefore may not pay for the medication when it is prescribed for this purpose.

What’s Adderall Used For?

Adderall and other amphetamines are known as “brain boosters” and “study drugs” because some students believe that these drugs help improve cognition. Adderall doesn’t make a person smarter, but it can increase the perception and feeling of being smarter by improving motivation. Also, It can cause side effects like hallucinations, epilepsy, psychosis, and malnutrition.

The prolonged use of Adderall can lead to addiction and its associated risks. Contrary to what many teens — and even some parents — believe about abusing Adderall, amphetamine is a highly addictive drug.

Prescription stimulants are usually safe for those they are prescribed, but even people under the supervision of a doctor are at risk of developing an addiction. Those who use Adderall without medical assistance to get high or fuel all-night study sessions are at risk of developing an addiction. Due to the likelihood of Adderall addiction, the U.S. government designated Adderall to the same drug classification as cocaine and methamphetamine.

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Adderall Recreational Use

Adderall Addiction is a well-known condition in America. However, the fact that a prescription medication that is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy can cause a severe addiction may be slightly surprising nonetheless. Despite being a prescription drug, in some cases, Adderall is abused by users who don’t have a prescription for the medication because it contains amphetamine, a potent stimulant.  Adderall abuse falls within the stimulant use disorder category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5).

According to this organization, in the past, there was a clinical differentiation between physical dependence and addiction. However, DSM-5 has joined these concepts together under the rubric of substance use disorders (with each of nine drug categories having its own use disorder). For diagnostic purposes, a person has a substance use disorder, from mild to severe, depending on the number of symptoms they experience. Per the DSM-5, there are 11 listed symptoms. The following is a sample of the symptoms that can emerge as a result of a stimulant use disorder:

  • Continuing to abuse Adderall even though it is causing physical and psychological problems
  • Shirking responsibilities related to core spheres of life, such as family, work, or school, to abuse Adderall
  • Taking higher doses of Adderall or taking it too frequently to get a high from it
  • Having to consume more Adderall to get a similar high to that experienced with earlier use
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the familiar amount of Adderall consumption drops

The group of individuals who abuse Adderall can be subdivided into at least two groups. Some obtained this drug as a result of having a medical condition for which it is indicated. This group typically will not develop a substance use disorder, provided they follow the prescribing doctor’s orders.

Some do not have a medical need for Adderall and, through different means, obtain pills and abuse them to get high. The format of Adderall pills is often manipulated to potentiate the high. For instance, individuals who abuse Adderall may crush the pills and snort them, to deliver the stimulant faster to the brain and get a more intense euphoric rush.

Adderall Side Effects Long Term Use

Long-term side effects of Adderall include weight loss, stunted growth in children, and possible complications from high blood pressure. Usually, these side effects stop once treatment stops. Some studies show long-term Adderall use may cause adverse psychological effects and changes in the brain.

Long-term side effects of Adderall include:

  • Aggression
  • Changes in mood and behavior
  • Dependency and addiction
  • Erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart problems and stroke
  • Irritability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Problems sleeping
  • Weight loss

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How Addictive is Adderall?

The symptoms discussed above can get the attention of a concerned person, but there will usually also be behavioral Adderall addiction signs. The fact that Adderall is a prescription drug means that individuals can “doctor shop” to get a high volume of it. These individuals will typically go to different pharmacies to fill the prescriptions to avoid detection. A concerned individual may find prescription bottles from different doctors and pharmacies; this is one significant tipoff of abuse.

Adderall can also be purchased on the street or through friends, family, coworkers, or classmates. Since Adderall is a prescription drug, there are different ways individuals can get it, but these ways can leave a trail of evidence that can help with the detection of Adderall addiction signs.


There are numerous behavioral signs of Adderall abuse, but the types of signs that emerge depend on the person’s particular practices. For instance, a person who injects Adderall will need the appropriate paraphernalia. This is the same paraphernalia that is used for other injectable drugs and includes a syringe, a spoon (usually with heating marks), a heating device or lighter, a belt or rope (to tie a limb and make it easier to find a vein), and something capable of crushing Adderall (things such as an espresso stopper, a hammer, or a mortar and pestle).

Crushing Pills

A person who snorts Adderall will need some object that can crush the pills (Adderall does not come in powder form). To snort the crushed Adderall, a person may use a straw, a rolled-up bill, a hollowed-out pen, or something similar. To make the Adderall into lines, a person may use something with a sharp edge, such as a credit card (which, if discovered, may have residue on its edge).

Economic Problems Due To Adderall Addiction

There are also behavioral Adderall addiction signs around the way a person pays for this drug. To fund the abuse, a person may spend their resources, including wages from work, money in a checking or savings account, and cash advances available through credit cards. If there are financial assets, such as a Certificate of Deposit (CD) or pension plan (such as a 401(K)), a person might liquidate them. Things of value at home or work may go missing. For people in college, if it’s available, they may begin to use tuition or book money toward their Adderall abuse.

Poor Hygiene

As people increasingly become addicted to Adderall, they will likely become remiss in their grooming. A sudden or gradual and noticeable change in a person’s level of self-care can be a strong indication that drug abuse is occurring. Drug abuse will draw a person further and further into servicing it, to the exclusion of doing other activities, including even the basics, like grooming.

Secretive Behavior

There may also be a perceptible shift in the person’s social life, and they may become secretive. Adderall abuse can lead a person to withdraw from friends and family, and become socially isolated. At the same time, when the person does interact with others, Adderall or other drug abuse may be what they mainly have in common. Using drugs can simultaneously make a person spend a lot of time alone but also draw them out to use drugs in a group.

The new individuals who come into a person’s life may exhibit some of the symptoms discussed above. The longer Adderall abuse continues, the more obvious it is likely to become. Initially, people may try to hide their drug abuse, but as it overtakes them, they become less focused on maintaining their concern for what others think of them. The upside of this is that concerned people can begin to think about how to offer help to the person in need of treatment.

At this point, it is critical to keep in mind that recovery is possible. Adderall abuse, or a stimulant use disorder, is a treatable issue, and there are numerous therapies available at rehab centers to help those in need.

Modafinil vs Adderall

Adderall and modafinil are central nervous system stimulant medications (psychostimulants). Both of these drugs have similar properties and similar applications. Both drugs are listed as controlled substances by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

Stimulant Abuse Potential

The abuse of stimulants has received quite a bit of publicity, particularly regarding the abuse of methamphetamine (meth), cocaine, and medications designed to treat ADHD like methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin and Concerta) and Adderall. Over-the-counter stimulants may be abused in conjunction with other drugs to assist in weight loss, to produce euphoria, and for other reasons. Long-term stimulant abuse can have significant ramifications on physical and emotional health.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducts yearly surveys and releases yearly estimates on the use and abuse of numerous prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and illicit drugs. According to the latest available data from SAMHSA:

  • In 2015, 11.3 million individuals reported some use of an amphetamine product; in 2016, this figure was 12 million individuals; SAMHSA reports overall figures for amphetamine use/misuse and not specific figures for Adderall or others.
modafinil vs adderall
Stimulant abuse is a serious problem in the United States.

In 2015 4.8 million individuals reported at least one misuse of an amphetamine product; in 2016, this figure was 5.1 million.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that stimulant abuse is a significant problem in the United States and that nearly 170,000 individuals under the age of 18 reports some form of stimulant abuse (abusing a stimulant at least once). NIDA does not report figures on abuse of specific stimulants and does not include modafinil in its estimates. However, stimulant abuse is a significant problem for young people.

The abuse potential of these two medications is considered to be quite different. Adderall is known to be a significant potential drug of abuse. Motivation for abusing Adderall typically consists of trying to capitalize on its stimulant properties as a form of a “cognitive enhancer,” abusing it to lose weight, or abusing it with other drugs for its psychoactive effects. Modafinil abuse appears to be mostly associated with attempting to use its stimulant properties as a form of cognitive enhancer.

The term cognitive enhancer refers to the notion that a particular substance makes an individual smarter; hence, the term smart drug is often used to describe these drugs. However, there are no drugs that make people smarter. Stimulants like caffeine, Adderall, and modafinil can increase the ability of a person to pay attention and concentrate; however, when taken in moderate to large amounts, they may inhibit this ability.

The perception that Adderall and modafinil are smart drugs is a misperception, even though in small doses, they may help a person with their ability to pay attention. The long-term effects of these drugs regarding their ability to increase a person’s academic performance are highly overstated. The majority of individuals who abuse drugs like Adderall have lower academic achievement than individuals who do not use these drugs as cognitive enhancers.

Numerous research studies documented the abuse potential of Adderall, particularly in high school students and college students, younger individuals in high-performance occupations, and individuals attempting to lose weight (mostly females). Adderall has been demonstrated to be a significant drug of abuse, is most often abused in conjunction with other drugs like alcohol, and has a significant potential to produce physical dependence by producing tolerance rapidly in chronic users.

The abuse potential of modafinil is far lower than it is for Adderall. This is not to say that modafinil cannot be abused, but it is less likely to be a potential drug of abuse. Research studies indicate that there is very little evidence that modafinil use produces significant tolerance, that withdrawal symptoms associated with modafinil are rare, and they’re only a few case studies in the literature that have identified evidence of dependence on modafinil. The drug does not appear to produce the significant euphoria that is often associated with other stimulants, and in the few case studies where the development of physical dependence was suspected, the symptoms of withdrawal were primarily emotional such as apathy, lethargy, and cravings.

Thus, the research data and the survey data (SAMHSA) suggest that both drugs do have a potential for abuse, but the potential for abuse is far higher for Adderall than it is for modafinil.

Adderall Addiction Treatment

There are no approved medications to help treat an Adderall addiction. Instead, treatment is focused on supervising a person as they go through a detoxification process. Withdrawal from stimulants like Adderall can be extremely uncomfortable and stressful for the body. The doctor will refer the person to an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation center or detox facility.

During drug addiction rehab, doctors will help the person through the withdrawal process and make it easier to manage any withdrawal symptoms. It’s not recommended that someone quit Adderall cold turkey. Instead, the doctor will slowly lower the dosage under medical supervision. This is called tapering.

modafinil vs adderall
Treatment is focused on supervising a person as they go through a detoxification process.

In general, the steps for treating an Adderall addiction include the following steps:

  • Undergo psychotherapy or behavioral therapy
  • Develop a plan for aftercare. This can include attending ongoing individual and group psychotherapy conducted by licensed therapists.

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