Updated on February 6, 2024
5 min read

Modafinil vs. Adderall

Key Takeaways

Is Adderall Addiction Affecting Your Life?

If you or a loved one is suffering, call now. An Addiction Specialist can help:

  • Answer questions about treatment
  • Provide financial assistance options
  • Give you valuable guidance and resources
Call now (928) 723-1202 Who answers?
Woman drinking coffee on couch

What’s the Difference Between Modafinil and Adderall?

Modafinil and Adderall are both stimulant drugs because they can affect the CNS. However, they differ in many ways.

These differences include:

  • A different drug structure
  • Modafinil is considered a wakefulness-promoting agent
  • Adderall is considered a stimulant
  • Modafinil is not approved for treating ADHD8

Modafinil can also be an off-label medication for multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson's disease symptoms. Lastly, both substances have considerable differences in their potential for addiction and side effects.

young woman with blonde hair listens to podcast through headphones while taking notes

Online Therapy Can Help

Over 3 million people use BetterHelp. Their services are:

  • Professional and effective
  • Affordable and convenient
  • Personalized and discreet
  • Easy to start
Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Woman drinking coffee on couch

Modafinil and Adderall Benefits

Modafinil is a psychostimulant that promotes wakefulness, while Adderall is a central nervous stimulant. Both medications can be used for treating excessive sleepiness and narcolepsy.5

These prescription drugs are also called "smart drugs" because they can enhance the following:

  • Cognitive function
  • Decision-making capacities
  • Wakefulness and attentiveness

Get Professional Help

BetterHelp can connect you to an addiction and mental health counselor.

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Rehab Together

What is Modafinil and How Is It Used?

Modafinil belongs to a class of medications that promote wakefulness. It is sold under the brand name Provigil. Provigil works by altering the number of chemicals in the area of the brain that controls sleep and wakefulness. 

The drug is used to treat sleep disturbances such as: 

  1. Excessive sleepiness: Being unusually tired throughout the day, despite how much sleep you get
  2. Obstructive sleep apnea: A condition in which the airway is intermittently blocked during sleep
  3. Shift work sleep disorder: A sleep disorder in which the normal sleep rhythm has been disturbed due to working night shifts
  4. Narcolepsy: A chronic sleep condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, causing an uncontrollable desire to sleep4

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Modafinil is a schedule IV controlled substance. This means it has a low risk of dependence or misuse.3

What is Adderall and How Is It Used?

Adderall (or Adderall XR) is the brand name for a combination of two stimulants: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Adderall is a prescription drug for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.1

Adderall works by affecting the central nervous system (CNS). It does this by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine.

It's considered a schedule II controlled substance. This means it has a high potential for dependence and misuse.2

Phone, Video, or Live-Chat Support

BetterHelp provides therapy in a way that works for YOU. Fill out the questionnaire, get matched, begin therapy.

Get Started

Answer a few questions to get started

Woman drinking coffee on couch

Modafinil vs. Adderall Side Effects

Despite their strengths, both Modafinil and Adderall are known to cause serious side effects. They share similar side effects, such as:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Appetite loss
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia

Modafinil Side Effects

Other common side effects of Modafinil include:

  • Chest pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness 
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Headache

Adderall Side Effects

Other common side effects of Adderall include:

  • Vomiting 
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight and hair loss
  • Fever 
  • Stomach upset
  • Diarrhea 
  • Fever
  • Heart attack 
  • Stroke

Modafinil vs. Adderall: Addiction Potential

Both Adderall and Modafinil have potential for addiction and misuse. However, Adderall is more commonly misused because of its narcotic status.

Due to its high potential for addiction and abuse, Adderall shouldn't be taken without medical consent. Some chronic users may be unable to function properly without this prescription medication.

On the other hand, Modafinil is more tolerated and less addictive. Because it's a milder stimulant, it can be used for various sleep disorders and lethargy. It also has less potential to induce:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation

Modafinil vs. Adderall: Withdrawal Symptoms

Adderall has a higher chance of causing dependence and producing withdrawal symptoms if drug administration is stopped abruptly. This means Adderall shows more significant withdrawal effects compared to Modafinil.

Adderall withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Intense hunger
  • Sluggishness or a "crash"
  • Panic attacks
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Suicidal thoughts

A study found that people with narcolepsy showed no amphetamine-like withdrawal symptoms such as agitation, insomnia, and vivid dreams.6 However, Modafinil users might report withdrawal symptoms such as lack of motivation and reduced energy when drug use is stopped.

Can You Overdose on Modafinil or Adderall?

Both drugs also have overdose risks. Modafinil can cause sleep disturbance at night when you take more than the prescribed dosage. On the other hand, an Adderall overdose can damage the sinuses, nasal linings, and lungs.

Can You Take Modafinil and Adderall Together?

A slight drug interaction exists between Modafinil and Adderall. Combining these drugs may increase the risk of over-stimulation and increase both of their side effects.

An article on ModaPharma says people should "think twice before combining Modafinil and Adderall."7 However, your doctor may prescribe taking the two for treating conditions like ADHD.

Taking Modafinil and Adderall together requires a prescription. You'll also need guidance from a physician or psychiatrist.

Dangers of Mixing Modafinil and Adderall 

Some people believe that mixing Modafinil and Adderall will double the benefits gained from the substance. However, this is not the case. Taking Modafinil and Adderall together might cause serious risks.

Mixing these two drugs can increase the side effects of both drugs. These side effects include:

  • Anxiety 
  • Nausea
  • Headache 
  • Nervousness
  • Appetite loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Tachycardia (an abnormally rapid heart rate, such as one above 100 beats per minute)
  • Palpitations 
  • Increased blood pressure 
  • Dizziness

Treatment Options for Modafinil and Adderall Misuse

Using more than one stimulant substance at a time is known as polydrug use. It can lead to combined drug intoxication (CDI), which occurs when a person takes more than one drug at a time. 

Because drugs like Adderall are schedule II substances, they have a high risk of dependency and misuse. Just like other medical conditions, drug dependence and misuse require medical attention. The sooner you seek help, the better.

Addiction treatment options for Modafinil and Adderall include:

Get matched with an affordable mental health counselor

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Updated on February 6, 2024
8 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Stimulant Therapy." Cleveland Clinic, 23 February 2016.
  2. Bourgeois, Florence, et al. “Premarket Safety and Efficacy Studies for ADHD Medications in Children.Plos One, Vol 9,7, , DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102249.
  3. “Drug Scheduling.” The United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
  4. Modafinil.”MedlinePlus, 15 February 2016.
  5. Morgenthaler, Timothy et al. "Practise Parameters for the Treatment of Narcolepsy and Other Hypersomnias of Central Origin." Sleep, Vol. 30,12 : 1705-11. doi: 10.1093/sleep/30.12.1705.
  6. Raman, Krishnan, and Krishnan, Chary. “A Rare Case Modafinil Dependence.” Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy, Vol. 6,1 : 49-50. doi: 10.4103/0976-500X.149149.
  7. Taylor Adam. "Modafinil Combinations - Full Guide 2016." ModaPharma, 9 July 2016.
  8. Turner, Danielle C et al. "Cognitive Enhancing Effects of Modafinil in Healthy Volunteers." Psychopharmacology Vol. 165,3 : 260-9. doi: 10.1007/s00213-002-1250-8.

Related Pages