Adderall Vs. Modafinil

While both are sometimes used to treat overlapping conditions, these medications have many important differences and starkly different potentials for abuse.

Adderall (amphetamine salts) and Provigil (modafinil) are both brand name central nervous system stimulant medications.

While both are sometimes used to treat overlapping conditions, these medications have many important differences and starkly different potentials for abuse.

Similarities Between Adderall & Provigil

Both amphetamine and modafinil are prescription drugs that act on the body to boost physiological activity, including:

  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased body temperature
  • feelings of energy or exhilaration
  • increased wakefulness
  • improved concentration
  • reduced appetite

Because of these stimulant effects, both medications are often abused by those who want to get high or suppress their appetite for weight loss.

They are also both abused by high school or college students interested in ‘smart drugs’ that may increase their focus, thinking, and academic or athletic performance.

Differences Between Adderall & Provigil

While they may share certain similarities, Adderall is significantly more potent than Provigil, a characteristic that sets the two drugs apart in key areas.

Active Ingredients

Adderall is a combination medication containing both amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (also called “amphetamine salts”).

Provigil contains the drug modafinil, considered a eugeroic or wakefulness-promoting medication.

Length Of Effect

Adderall is available in both immediate-release (Adderall IR) and extended-release (Adderall XR) forms, with lengths of effect of around six and ten hours, respectively.

Provigil is long-acting and effectively acts as an extended-release medication by default, with Modafinil offering a length of effect of around 16-22 hours.

Mechanism Of Action

Adderall works by physically blocking the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, increasing the activity of these and other neurotransmitters. This effect can trigger an addictive euphoria in high doses.

Modafinil works differently, and its method of action is not fully understood.

According to experts, it appears to bind to and block dopamine reuptake transporters in a similar way to cocaine (though far weaker) while also increasing histamine and glutamate activity and decreasing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity.

Approved Uses

Adderall has been approved by the FDA for use in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in both children and adults, as well as treating narcolepsy, a sleep disorder involving daytime sleep attacks.

Modafinil is approved by the FDA to treat medical conditions relating to excessive sleepiness, including narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder (a common condition involving a disruption of the circadian rhythm), and obstructive sleep apnea (a condition of frequent sleep disturbances).

Provigil is not approved for the treatment of ADHD, though healthcare providers sometimes do prescribe it for off-label use treating ADHD and certain other conditions.

Side Effects

Because the effects of modafinil are milder than those of amphetamine, Provigil use is associated with fewer side effects than Adderall use, and it is much less likely to cause anxiety, jitteriness, irritability, or agitation.

Both drugs can cause allergic reactions and other serious side effects in rare situations, however.

Common side effects of Adderall and (less commonly) Provigil include:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • feeling nervous or anxious
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • dry mouth
  • upset stomach
  • sleep problems (insomnia)
  • chest pain
  • unusual weight loss
  • fever

Drug Schedule

Adderall is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance with a significant risk for abuse and a high potential for the development of physical or psychological dependence.

Modafinil is classified as a schedule IV controlled substance. This means that while the drug is still only available with a prescription, it is considered to have a lower potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction than schedule II or schedule III substances.

Abuse Potential

Adderall, because it is more potent, is sometimes crushed and snorted, injected, smoked, or taken orally in higher quantities to trigger a euphoric high similar to methamphetamine.

Provigil, in contrast, generates a less euphoric high even when taken in high doses.

In either case, abusing stimulants over long periods of time will likely damage your physical and mental health, while increasing your risk of overdose and premature death.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Generally speaking, the more intense a medication’s effects are, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms or rebound symptoms it can cause when a person stops using it.

Adderall is known to trigger intensive withdrawal symptoms that may last for several days or a few weeks, especially after an extended period of Adderall abuse.

While not directly life-threatening, these symptoms can be distressing, and may include:

  • depression
  • vivid or unpleasant dreams
  • increased appetite
  • brain fog
  • slowed movements or reflexes
  • unusually slow heart rate
  • headaches
  • drug cravings
  • suicidal thoughts

In contrast, many who stop taking Provigil do not report experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, though they may feel more tired or have some issues with concentration, low energy, depression, fatigue, sleepiness, or shortness of breath.

Withdrawal symptoms are much more likely to occur if Provigil was abused in higher doses.

To learn about our outpatient substance abuse treatment options for prescription stimulant addiction recovery, please contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center today.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

Published on

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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