Even if you are not a student of chemistry, it’s becoming common knowledge that both modafinil and adrafinil are classified as wakefulness enhancers (or eugeroics), formulations with a common goal: keeping people mentally sharp, even those who are prone to distraction and in some cases, fatigue so pervasive, they can barely function during the day.
To understand how this general category of drugs found its way to the marketplace, look back around 50 years to a time scientists searched for answers to some of the most serious sleep disorders diagnosed by doctors, especially narcolepsy.
Today, new formulas are being introduced regularly, which is why the battle between adrafinil vs modafinil has heated up. But there are distinct differences that are important to know when you make a decision to try either.
How Modafinil and Adrafinil work
While stimulants had become the signature substance class for scientists seeking ways to increase people’s wakefulness responses, stimulants were associated with negative side effects and their reach was less than optimal. Stimulants attach to the brain’s hypothalamus and amygdala, but they don’t impact the entire nervous system.
Scientists specializing in eugeroics research found the solution sleepy consumers sought: pharmaceuticals that not only act gradually and last longer but harrowing side effects and/or withdrawal symptoms experienced on stimulants were eliminated. Drugs falling within the eugeroics family wear off slowly and by degree, eliminate the jarring crash that results when the effects of stimulants dissipate and disappear.
Given so many benefits and delivering so few side effects has proven to be an enticing experience for folks who believed they were doomed to live their lives in an endless state of fatigue. But not all drugs–even those coming from the same chemical mix–are created equal.
Who benefits most from eugeroic pharmaceuticals?
If you walked around in a perpetual daze before becoming aware of this class of drug, your answer might be “everyone.” A better response might be anyone who wants to be mentally sharp and exquisitely alert throughout the day when these attributes are not just helpful but necessary to your performance.
Nicknamed smart drugs, genius pills and energy boosters, eugeroics are revered by students, shift workers and anyone required to be at the top of his or her game when it comes to cognitive abilities.
But staying awake and being sharp aren’t the only benefits that recommend these two formulas: Both are being used to help people cope with hyperactivity, daytime sleepiness, sleep apnea, shift work syndrome—-and yes, they may even be prescribed for people combating narcolepcy who negatively react to stronger types of pharmaceuticals.
Like its cousins, adrafinil’s main purpose is energizing the nervous system so users feel extremely alert. It has been mistakenly referred to as a stimulant, but because its chemical makeup does not fall into this category, users don’t experience any of the “crash and burn” side effects associated with stimulants. As such, it deals with drowsiness, but users rarely suffer anxiety or experience an increase in their heart rates. (Source)
Classified as an unscheduled drug in the U.S. and Canada, this synthetic formula can be obtained without a prescription in most parts of the world. According to Dr. Matt Lehrer, writing for SelfHacked.com, “adrafinil becomes active by converting to modafinil in the body” during the time the liver processes adrafinil.
According to Dr. Lehrer, adrafinil only maintains its chemical structure for an hour after being ingested. The remaining 12- to 15-hour high delivered by the modafinil keeps consumers performing at peak speed.
That stated, the two share commonly reported side effects. Insomnia, dry mouth, indigestion, headache and anxiety have all been cited. More serious side effects can result when a user with blood pressure fluctuations or abnormal heart rhythms takes adrafinil without consulting a physician about potential interactions.
Editors at WebMD ascribe the same benefits to adrafinil when compared to modafinil: the goal of both is combating sleep disorders and fighting symptoms of varying disorders that render people incapable of staying sharp, alert and functioning. Users say they get a new lease on life, thanks to the chemical makeup of modafinil. Unlike adrafinil, a prescription is required to obtain this generic product.
But unlike the gentle experience folks taking adrafinil have after the effects of the drug wear off, consumers are more likely to experience sweating, shaking, nausea, chills, confusion and vomiting as a result of taking modafinil. These side effects are seen most often in people taking modafinil who are prone to drug reactions in general.
Furthermore, users can develop a tolerance to modafinil if it is taken for long periods of time and/or a consumer’s body no longer responds to high doses of this drug. Given the fact that this product is associated with certain side effects, the risk of addiction is also higher than it would be with adrafinil, which rarely happens to those taking this less-powerful formulation.
Major differences between adrafinil vs modafinil
-Modafinil has been around longer and is known for its effectiveness in increasing wakefulness, energy, focus, and memory.
-There has been much less research conducted on adrafinil so there are still many things scientists don’t know about it. Modafinil’s credentials are stronger as a result of being regulated by the FDA.
-Because adrafinil is literally “the non-prescription version of modafinil”, it’s likely to be less potent.
-Adrafinil is currently not regulated by the FDA, thus it’s easier to find and requires no prescription.
-On the potency scale, modafinil packs a bigger punch than adrafinil and it’s likely to stay in your system longer.
-Modafinil is available in both 100 mg and 200 mg strengths; adrafinil dosages are larger, ranging from 300 mg to 600 mg. Some users report tolerating double doses of 400 mg or 1200 mg daily.
-If you need your med to kick in fast, only modafinil meets that criteria. Modafinil’s half life extends 14 hours while you can expect only around 5 hours of half-life after taking adrafinil.
-Reports of users experiencing liver toxicity after taking adrafinil are rare and less so for people who take modafinil, unless consumers take large doses of either over long periods of time.
-Since adrafinil isn’t regulated, there are all sorts of suspicious products on the market which requires consumers to be more cautious about brands available.
-You may run into a tolerance curve taking adrafinil, says Jonathan Roseland who chronicled his experience on a popular website. Roseland reports getting tired more quickly during the day after taking adrafinil. He stayed alert longer taking modafinil.
-Roseland says that modafinil tends to make him sweat more, but he is willing to put up with it in return for a better, sharper mind. He calls adrafinil’s taste “ghastly.”
-Both formulas stimulate liver enzymes that can impact women using hormonal birth control methods. Both adrafinil and modafinil cleanse the body of hormones quickly, which is why alternate contraceptive measures are recommended.
-There’s more flexibility with adrafinil because it’s a weaker formula. You can take a second dose later in the day without worrying about your ability to fall asleep at a reasonable hour that night.
Adrafinil vs modafinil comparisons are likely to remain an ongoing topic of debate–at least until the FDA adds adrafinil to its list of controlled substances. It’s likely consumers unable to get their hands on prescriptions will give adrafinil a try. Whether your decision comes down to availability or price, always report untoward reactions to either formula to your doctor to be on the safe side.