Adrafinil and Modafinil are the most popular nootropic compounds available on the market at the moment as they have the ability to improve energy levels, vitality, cognitive speed, productivity, alertness and much more. Though the two offer similar benefits and have similar effects, there are some important differences between the two compounds, including in how those effects are achieved, side effects and legality of the products.

A Brief History

Two chemists that worked for Lafon Laboratories, a French pharmaceutical company, were analyzing various compounds looking for analgesics in 1974 when they discovered Adrafinil. They conducted studies of this compound and found that it acted as a stimulant on animals, promoting wakefulness and causing hyperactivity. It would take 4 years before the substance would be tested on humans to determine its effectiveness in treating narcolepsy. It reached the French market in 1984.

Two years after this compound was discovered, Modafinil made an appearance. A metabolite of Adrafinil, Modafinil appeared to be more powerful, which was why it was chosen to be subjected to more clinical development. Though both compounds were put on the market, in 2011, Cephalon stopped manufacturing Adrafinil, marketed under the Olmifon brand, choosing to stick solely with their Modafinil product.

How Does Adrafinil Work?

Once Adrafinil reaches the liver, it is metabolized into Modafinil, increasing concentrations of the latter in the body. In other words, its mechanism of action is, essentially, that of Modafinil. The problem is that it’s still not clear how Modafinil works, meaning that no one really knows how Adrafinil works either. Some feel that an important role is played by histaminergic signaling.

An important distinction between these drugs is that Modafinil is classed as a Schedule IV controlled substance and is only available by prescription, whereas Adrafinil is not bound by these regulations. In fact, the FDA doesn’t regulate this compound in any way and it is considered completely legal. Note that this doesn’t mean it has FDA approval, but that it hasn’t been dealt with so far in the United States. Still, it is completely legal to purchase Adrafinil.

The Benefits of Adrafinil

This compound was originally developed to help people with sleep disorders and is still used in many European countries for this purpose. One of the biggest advantages it has is that it can help people achieve more normal sleep patterns, while also significantly improving levels of alertness and wakefulness.

People who use this supplement have also found that they have a lot more energy, which is likely owed to the fact that it increases the levels of hypocretin, a neurotransmitter responsible for how awake and alert we feel.

An increase in catecholamines has also been observed, which is also a likely culprit for the higher energy levels some experience. Catecholamines are neurotransmitters that are part of the brains adrenergic systems and help to increase stamina, focus, awareness and attention span.

People have also reported an improvement in mood, which is likely caused by the higher levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These two neurotransmitters are connected to pleasure and an increase in their level can help to alleviate fatigue, stress and anxiety symptoms.

This compound has also been found to stimulate the brain’s glutamate receptors, activating their pathways and thereby improving memory and also, possibly improving how fast we are able to recall information.

Adrafinil Dosage

The recommended dosage is between 600 mg and 1,200 mg. When it was prescribed for narcolepsy, the dosage was 1,200 mg taken in two administrations, one in the morning and one around midday. Another option was a single 600 mg to 900 mg dosage taken in the morning. It should be noted that Adrafinil is no longer used to treat these sleep disorders as Modafinil is considered a better drug.

It is advisable not to take this compound in the afternoons and evenings as it could have a negative impact on your ability to sleep. Generally speaking, this supplement should be taken thrice weekly for a maximum of five months.

Side Effects of Adrafinil

This compound is considered safe as long as you stick to the recommended dose and use it only for the short term. Side effects can still occur, though, such as headaches, nervousness, intestinal problems and fatigue. Note that the headaches can often be dealt with by taking a Choline supplement.

However, if you are taking high doses of Adrafinil, you might experience an increase in blood pressure and could even experience cardiovascular problems, which is why you should never take more than the recommended dosage.

It is also generally advisable not to supplement with this compound over the long term because there is little information regarding the safety of the liver and what effects the metabolization process could have on it. It should be noted that an increase in the level of certain enzymes associated with liver damage has been observed.


Adrafinil is a powerful nootropic compound but it does carry some risks if recommended doses are exceeded or if you attempt to use it over the long-term continuously. It definitely has a wide range of benefits but it should be used only occasionally and only when absolutely necessary.

Nicole Sanders

Hi, I'm Nicole, chief editor at Nootropics Revealed. Learn more about me and my mission here.