Modafinil Vs. Adderall: History, Addiction, Treatment and Recovery

Modafinil and Adderall are two medications that are very similar to each other, but there are some differences. Both can lead to addiction if they are misused, and stopping them often requires professional treatment. Once a person becomes addicted, it can be very difficult to stop without some type of assistance.

Even so, recovery is possible, and there are many people who have successfully gotten off both of these medications. It is important to understand the way each one works in the body, and how misusing them can be problematic.

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What is Modafinil?

Modafinil is the generic name for a prescription medication that is commonly sold under the name, Provigil. It is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance, and it is a stimulant. This drug is frequently prescribed in the United States. In fact, in 2016, doctors wrote more than a million prescriptions for it. That made it the 284th most prescribed medication in the country.

Modafinil was originally created in France by a man named Michel Jouvet at Lafron Laboratories in the 1970s. It was not approved in the U.S. for use until 1998. Since that time, this drug has shown to be highly effective when it is taken appropriately. Sadly, it can be abused, and it is possible to become addicted to it.

Primarily, Modafinil is prescribed to treat narcolepsy. This is a condition that is known to cause excessive sleepiness during the day. It can also be used to treat shift work sleep disorder, which means it helps people stay awake during the day and sleep at night. It can be very helpful for those who are rotating shifts for their jobs.

Many doctors will prescribe Modafinil as a way to treat obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome, or OSAHS. This is a sleep disorder that causes a person to briefly stop breathing, or only take shallow breaths while sleeping. As a result, they do not get enough restful sleep, and they constantly feel tired.

Modafinil works because it changes the amounts of chemicals in the brain that control wakefulness and sleep. For those who need it, it tends to work very well. It may be prescribed for other, off-label uses too.

This is a drug that is not commonly sold on the streets. But it is available to purchase illegally online, which is how many people get it. According to Reddit, it can go by a number of different street names, such as:

  • Mod
  • Moda
  • Limitless
  • Professional Vigil
  • Phil Pill
  • Go Pills
  • Finil
  • Daffodils

When Modafinil was first approved to treat the conditions mentioned above, it was applauded for being non-addictive. The reality is that this is really quite a safe medication when it is being used in the right way. But, experts are now learning that it does carry some serious risks.

According to Nora D. Valkow, MD, who is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this medication may be more addictive than it was previously thought to be. She says, “There is an increasing use of this medication, and people have promoted the off-label use of stimulants and Provigil as cognitive enhancers with the belief that these drugs are safe. But these drugs have side effects, and their use without proper medical oversight could lead to abuse and addiction.”

In a review that was published in the journal, European Neuropsychopharmacology, it was found that Modafinil could be a useful cognitive enhancer. Their report states that it proved to improve memory, learning capabilities, attention and other cognitive abilities.

This is not a new concept by any means. People have been using various drugs to give their brain power a boost for many years. People like Sigmund Freud have found stimulants like cocaine to be very effective at helping them think. The famed mathematician, Paul Erdos once got off amphetamines in order to win $500 in a bet. But once he won the money, he got right back on the drugs because he believed they helped him immensely.

While these drugs obviously have serious side effects, the risks are minimized with Modafinil. Many people do take it because they believe it helps them focus and be more creative. They are right, but scientists are learning more every day regarding the dangers of stimulants when they are misused in this way.


Side Effects

For many, Modafinil can seem to be a “wonder drug.” It does have a smaller risk of side effects, which may be why so many people are drawn to it. This could also be why doctors are more eager to prescribe it than some other types of stimulants. But the side effects it can cause should not be ignored. They are both physical and psychological in nature.

Physical Side Effects

The physical side effects of Modafinil can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Appetite problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Skin reactions and rashes

Some of these side effects often go away with continued treatment. But anything particularly concerning, such as chest pain, should be reported to a doctor.

Psychological Side Effects

The psychological side effects of Modafinil can include:

  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Severe depression
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Agitation
  • Confusion

Also, depression can become so severe that people typically begin having suicidal thoughts. Even though this is considered to be rare, it can still happen, and it is something to be aware of.  

Modafinil Abuse and How it Leads to Addiction

People can abuse Modafinil in many different ways. The most common is to simply take higher doses of the drug than one should, according to the doctor’s prescription. Some people will take it without a prescription, or they may experiment with different ways to use it. This might include:

  • Crushing the pills and snorting them
  • Crushing the pills, mixing them with water and injecting them.
  • Smoking the crushed pills.
  • Mixing Modafinil with another drug.
  • Mixing it with alcohol.

The goal of these methods is to enhance the drug’s effects to produce a euphoric high. It is quite intense, and over time, it can become addictive because of the way the body adapts to the drug’s presence.

Modafinil stimulants several different parts of the brain, including histamine, glutamate, GABA and noradrenaline neurotransmitters. It does not take long for a person to get accustomed to the way they feel while they are taking this drug. Once they do, they need more of it to get the same effects. At that point, their abuse has led to an addiction.

What is Adderall?

In most parts of the country, Adderall has become a household name. It is one of the most commonly prescribed stimulant drugs on the market. It is a combination of the following ingredients:

  • Amphetamine aspartate monohydrate
  • Amphetamine sulfate
  • Dextroamphetamine saccharate
  • Dextroamphetamine sulfate

In 2016, Adderall was the 45th most prescribed medication in the U.S. During that year, there were more than 17 million prescriptions written for it, for both children and adults. It has been around since 1996, when it was released as an instant-release tablet by Richwood Pharmaceuticals.

According to the DEA, Adderall is a Schedule II drug. That means it has a high potential for abuse, and that it can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. It is also a stimulant drug.

Typically, Adderall is prescribed as a way to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. In order for someone to be diagnosed with ADHD, they heed to have hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive symptoms since before the age of seven. Those symptoms have to cause significant impairment in their daily lives.

For someone who needs Adderall, it is often perceived as a life-saver. It helps to improve focus and increase one’s attention span. It works by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain, which results in stimulation. In those with ADHD, this has a calming and focusing effect. On those without ADHD or another approved condition this medication is used to treat, it can lead to a euphoric high.

Unlike Modafinil, Adderall is often found for sale on the street, but it can also be purchased illegally online. People typically start with a prescription, and then proceed to obtaining it illicitly once they start abusing it or become addicted.

On the street, this drug goes by a number of different street names, such as:

  • Pep Pills
  • Speed
  • Black Beauties
  • Beans
  • Dexies
  • Uppers

Adderall works on dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. When someone takes this drug, it causes the release of these transmitters; sometimes in excessive amounts. Once they are released, the drug blocks their reabsorption into the brain. That means that more of the chemicals are being held in brain for a longer period of time.

That in itself makes Adderall highly addictive. In fact, it is possible to get addicted to this drug even when one is taking it in an appropriate dose. Far too often, people take doses that are much too high, or they take it without a prescription. Both of these methods are very dangerous, and can easily lead to addiction.

The New York Times released an article entitled, “Generation Adderall.” It details one person’s account of getting addicted to this drug. She says, “I would open other people’s medicine cabinets, root through trash cans where I had previously disposed of pills, write friends’ college essays for barter. Once, while living in New Hampshire, I skipped a day of work to drive three hours each way to the health clinic where my prescription was still on file. Never was I more resourceful or unswerving than when I was devising ways to secure more Adderall.”

Side Effects

Like other stimulant drugs, Adderall carries a long list of side effects. These may be much more pronounced than with other medications. People generally experience both physical and mental side effects.

Physical Side Effects

The physical side effects of Adderall can include:

  • Feeling restless
  • Problems falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Shakiness
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea/Constipation
  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss

Psychological Side Effects

The mental side effects of Adderall can be quite concerning, and they include:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucination
  • Feeling suspicious of others
  • Mania
  • Hostile or aggressive behaviors
  • Anger and irritation
  • Verbal or motor tics

Serious Adderall Side Effects

There are many side effects that people can experience with Adderall that should be reported to a doctor immediately. They include:

  • Chest pain
  • A pounding heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath or other breathing difficulties
  • Slow speech
  • Weakness or numbness in the body
  • Seizures
  • Rash, hives or itching
  • Swelling of the face, tongue, throat or eyes

Prescription Stimulant Abuse and Addiction Among College Students

The use of prescription stimulants among college students is more prevalent now than ever before. Many of them turn to drugs like Adderall and Modafinil because they believe they give them a competitive edge. They are most interested in increasing their productivity. This often leads to popping pills as a way to stay up all night and study for exams. That is why these medications have earned the nickname, study drugs.

Many college students spend their time loading up their schedules with activities. They often have to attend class and maintain good GPAs, work part time, volunteer, do research and maintain active social lives. The one area they feel they can sacrifice in is sleep, and many of them do.

A lot of college students believe that taking Modafinil or Adderall actually makes them smarter. They depend on these medications to help them get through school, and they fully intend to stop when they no longer need them. What they often fail to recognize is that by that time, they are already addicted to them.

While there are some students who have prescriptions for these medications, the vast majority of them do not. Instead, they may get them from friends who have prescriptions, buy them on the street, or order them online. According to Vice, it is not uncommon for them to buy them in bulk.

The Short and Long-Term Effects of Prescription Stimulants

People who are prescribed either Adderall or Modafinil can confidently take them long-term, as long as they take them correctly. But far too many people are taking these drugs without a prescription. This puts them at risk for suffering from many of their short and long-term effects.

It is very important to understand what can happen with the continued use of prescription stimulants. Even when they are only taken sporadically, or for a short period of time, the impact can be significant.

The short-term effects of taking Adderall or Modafinil include:

  • Experiencing a rush of euphoria
  • An increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased breathing rate
  • A decrease in blood flow
  • Blood sugar level increase

When someone takes a really high dose of these drugs, they can suffer from significant effects. They include a high body temperature, heart failure, seizures and an irregular heartbeat. Any of the above can occur after only one dose if it is high enough.

The more a person misuses prescription stimulants, the greater the risks can become. Repeatedly abusing them can quickly lead to:

  • Psychosis
  • Anger problems
  • Paranoia
  • The risk of infectious diseases from injecting them
  • The risk of substance abuse later on in life
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Aggression
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attacks and anxiety
  • Heart disease
  • Significant and possibly dangerous weight loss

Can Modafinil and Adderall be Taken Together?

While this might seem like a strange question, it is one people commonly ask. In their minds, doubling up on these drugs could only produce even better effects. What they do not realize is that they put themselves at risk by taking two different medications that are meant to do the same thing.

Combining two stimulants can easily lead to over-stimulation, even after just one dose. The risk of side effects is increased, and people run the risk of serious issues as a result.

Most users report feeling very jittery when they tried taking these drugs in combination. They state that they suffered from severe insomnia with an uncomfortably high heart rate. Mixing these two drugs together should be avoided at all costs unless they are prescribed by a doctor.

Do Modafinil and Adderall Cause Withdrawal When the Drugs are Stopped?

Once a person becomes addicted to either Modafinil or Adderall, stopping them is likely to lead to withdrawal. This is the way the body responds once something it was used to has been taken away. It is important to understand the withdrawal symptoms for both medications.

There is a strong belief that Modafinil lacks withdrawal symptoms. This simply is not the case. They can include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Feeling unmotivated
  • Significant depression
  • Long sleep periods
  • Anger and even rage

Adderall withdrawal is sometimes referred to as a “crash,” and the symptoms can become quite severe. They include:

  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Depression
  • An increase in appetite and potential weight gain
  • Insomnia
  • Vivid dreams

Recovering From an Addiction to Either Modafinil or Adderall

It is possible to recover from both Modafinil or Adderall addiction, but it is very difficult. This is especially true when someone attempts to stop using either drug without professional support.

For many people, they believe that quitting cold turkey is the answer. Others may turn to natural detox methods to get through withdrawal. Some will even try to taper off the drugs themselves as a way to lessen the effects of withdrawal symptoms. None of these methods is ever recommended.

Prescription stimulants are powerful drugs that are very hard to get off. But with the right kind of treatment, it can be done with success.

Prescription Stimulant Addiction Treatment

The best treatment for Adderall or Modafinil addiction will address both sides of the addiction. It is important to treat both the physical and the psychological aspects in order for people to recover successfully. This is done by combining both detox and rehab.

Drug Detox for Adderall or Modafinil

Going to drug detox is very important when someone is addicted to a drug like Modafinil or Adderall. The first step may involve a medical taper, which involves taking less and less of the drug over time. This is believed to reduce the risks associated with withdrawal. There are other forms of treatment that may be used as well.

Medical Detox

Medical detox has become very common in the United States because it has proven to be effective. This type of treatment allows patients to take medications to address specific withdrawal symptoms.

For someone who is addicted to Adderall or Modafinil, this might mean taking something to help them sleep. It could also include anti-seizure medications or an antidepressant.

Holistic Detoxification

Holistic detox is also important for someone with an addiction to prescription stimulants. Basically, this involves improving their diet and incorporating physical activity and exercise into their daily routine. Both of these can improve their body’s ability to detox itself so they feel better faster.

Continuing Treatment After Rehab

After rehabilitation is over, continuing treatment is a vital part of the recovery process. The addict should continue to get some form of help for a significant period of time. This can mean a number of different things.

For someone who started by going to an inpatient program, they may need to transition into an intensive outpatient program, or IOP. Eventually, they may be ready to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings or outpatient rehab.

Adderall Vs. Modafinil: Which Drug is Safer?

It is difficult to say which drug is safer for each individual person. Obviously, this is a decision that should be left up to them and their doctor to make. But, according to the risks the experts have outlined, it might be better to begin with Modafinil if someone needs to choose. It has less harmful side effects and risks, and it is much easier to get off it if the need arises.

Getting Help for Adderall or Modafinil Addiction Today

When a person believes they may be addicted to either Adderall or Modafinil, they need to get help right away. They may want to begin by taking a quiz to help determine if they are an addict. Alternatively, they can opt for a free addiction assessment with a professional to get the answers they need.

At The Evergreen at Northpoint, we have treated many people with addictions to both of these drugs. We understand the dangers associated with them, and we know how to help people recover the right way.

Do you need to know more about Modafinil vs. Adderall? Do you have questions about your treatment options? Contact us to learn more.

All of the information presented on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to take the place of medical advice from a doctor, and it should be substituted for medical advice, a diagnosis or treatment. Relying upon anything discussed here is done at your own risk. Do not disregard medical advice you have received or put off getting help because of something you have read on this website. Please call 911 in the event of a medical emergency right away.

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