Modafinil vs Adderall: Is There a Difference?

When comparing Modafinil vs Adderall it is important to realize that they are very different drugs all together.  While both substances seem to be highly sought after for their off-label usage as smart drugs, they do not function in the same ways and were designed for very different purposes.

Both compounds have acquired FDA approval for such disorders as narcolepsy, chronic obstructive sleep apnea, shift work sleep disorder, ADHD and other similar issues.

Nonetheless, reviews prove that both are used by executives, students, and entrepreneurs alike who seek to increase their wakefulness, motivation, focus and overall cognitive functions regardless of their medical diagnosis to “need” the drug.

The mechanisms of action for both Adderall and Modafinil are yet to be fully understood, however, researchers have identified the biochemical processes and chemicals in the brain affected by the two drugs.

Below is a look at each drug’s mechanisms of action and the resulting effects to the user.  We will be looking at the similarities and differences of Modafinil vs Adderall, as well as the benefits offered by the perspective compounds.


Modafinil  was originally developed as a wakefulness agent is usually categorized as a nootropic due to its ability to increases mental energy and clarity to promote mental and physical alertness.  It’s thought to affect Glutamate, Histamine, GABA, and Noradrenaline neurotransmitters in the brain and enhances energy much like a stimulant would but not in the same ways.

The stimulation generates wakefulness, increased alertness, focus, mood elevation, and general enhanced cognitive abilities.  Modafinil users have reported experiencing reduced fatigue, anxiety and stress as well as enhanced mood and wakefulness while taking the drug.


Adderall is a popular psychostimulant belonging to the amphetamine class of drugs. It’s formulated from the combining of four amphetamines and dextroamphetamine salts namely aspartate monohydrate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, aspartate sulfate and dextroamphetamine saccharate and is used to treat learning disabilities such as ADD and ADHD.

Adderall works on the neurotransmitters to increase the activities of both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system, which produces a highly stimulative effect.  Dopamine, histamine, serotonin and Norepinephrine neurotransmitters are specifically targeted in the brain to bring about psycho-stimulation. The end result is an increased level of mental energy, motivation, and improved focus.

When patients suffering from ADD/ADHD receive Adderall, they experience a mental state of calmness and wakefulness, which allows them to focus on tasks at hand. Reports state that when patients that do not possess these conditions consume adderall that the drug stimulates the mind and body to provide a wide range of cognitive enhancements that may be similar to a nootropic smart drug.

Modafinil vs Adderall — Final Verdict


Both Modafinil and Adderall are used in the treatment of focus related disorders. They are widely used as cognitive enhancers by both students and workers to increase their intellectual capacity and boost their overall productivity. Users who have tested both the drugs report that Adderall is highly stimulating and its effects are a little more intense, but they wear off much faster compared to Modafinil.

Adderall may also leave you feeling burned out mentally where modafinil leaves a clear feeling in the minds of its users. However, they are both relatively safe and do not produce any significant side effects.  It is generally accepted when comparing modafinil vs adderall, that adderall is harsher on the body and not as “clean” as the modafinil.

Nicole Sanders

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