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Modafinil vs. Adderall: What Is the Difference?

Updated: May 3


Looking for a suitable ADHD medication can be difficult, as there are many options that won’t always fit an individual’s specific needs. Two of the most frequently prescribed drugs for ADHD are Modafinil and Adderall, but each drug works differently and could have differing effects. Understanding the differences between the two medications is the first step towards finding the right one.


Modafinil and Adderall both work as central nervous system (CNS) stimulants that affect neurotransmitters in the brain. They can increase a person’s level of alertness or focus, and help them maintain a general feeling of wakefulness. Being unable to maintain focus and having trouble sleeping are a few of the many symptoms of ADHD, so these medications can have a significant effect on those with the disorder.


Both Modafinil and Adderall have stimulant qualities, but Adderall contains amphetamines while Modafinil does not. The neurotransmitters that are targeted by these medications are also unique, as Modafinil targets dopamine and Adderall targets serotonin and norepinephrine.


Individuals with high blood pressure or other heart conditions need to exercise caution when taking any kind of stimulant, including Modafinil and Adderall. Both medications can raise blood pressure and be potentially harmful to an individual with such ailments. If, after taking either of these drugs, you experience a severe headache, chest pain, uneven heartbeat, or shortness of breath, stop taking them and contact your doctor immediately.


Because of Modafinil’s lack of amphetamines, it is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). This gives it a lower addictive quality than Adderall, which is classified as a Schedule II narcotic, but both should still be used responsibly. These medications are restricted on a varying basis in each state.


Some studies have shown that Adderall is a more effective medication for directly treating ADHD. This is one of the reasons why it may be the first recommendation made by your doctor.


If you believe you have ADHD, proper medication could be the answer. Schedule a call with Klarity to discuss your situation with an experienced doctor who can help you with ADHD treatment online.



Modafinil


Forms and Dosages


Modafinil is available in 100mg and 200mg oral tablets.



Indications and Conditions Treated


Modafinil is primarily used to treat excessive sleepiness caused by sleep apnea, shift work sleep disorder, or narcolepsy (falling asleep during the day). Its stimulant qualities also make it an effective treatment for ADHD.



Costs


The cost of the most common form of Modafinil ranges from as low as $15 for 30 days of the 100mg tablets with discount coupons to the average retail price of $294.79.. Most insurances cover generic Modafinil–contact your provider for your exact cost.


We at Klarity are dedicated to helping you. Your medical provider may be able to help you find coupons and will consider medication costs while developing your treatment plan.



Side Effects


Some of the side effects of taking Modafinil include:


  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Nervousness

  • Dizziness

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Dry mouth

  • Heartburn

  • Muscle stiffness

  • Stomach pain

  • Diarrhea


More serious side effects include


  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Changes in mood

  • Confusion

  • Depression

  • Hallucinations

  • Thoughts of suicide


In cases of a severe allergic reaction, fever, swollen lymph nodes, rash, swelling, severe dizziness, or trouble breathing may occur. If you experience these or other serious side effects contact your doctor immediately.



Warnings for Use


Modafinil can be habit-forming, and should only be taken at the discretion of a doctor. This medication can also have adverse effects on those with any heart or blood pressure conditions, and should be taken with necessary caution. Modafinil should not be taken while pregnant, as it may harm an unborn baby, nor should it be taken with hormonal birth control as it could render such medication ineffective.



Adderall


Forms and Dosages


Adderall can range from a 5mg to a 30mg tablet, and it is available in an immediate-release and extended-release form. The Adderall XR brand is the most common extended-release form of the medication and only needs to be taken once a day.



Indications and Conditions Treated


Adderall is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, but it also has many other uses. It can also be used to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.



Costs


Because of its status as one of the primary medications for ADHD and narcolepsy, Adderall can be affordable with or without insurance. Without insurance, brand-name Adderall can cost about $8 per 5 mg tablet, with a 30 day supply costing as much as $237.


The generic form of Adderall can cost much less, with a 30 day supply of 5 mg tablets averaging, with discount coupon, about $13. A maximum dose of the extended-release tablets can cost up to $85 for 30 days, as extended-release medications tend to cost more than immediate-release medications.


Many insurances cover Adderall—contact your provider to learn your exact cost. In addition, your medical provider may be able to help you find coupons to help alleviate your cost.



Side Effects


The most common side effects of Adderall are the following:


  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Dry mouth

  • Stomach pain

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Diarrhea

  • Fever

  • Nervousness

  • Trouble sleeping


This medication may raise blood pressure, and other serious side effects include


  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest/jaw/left arm pain

  • Fainting

  • Severe headache

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Swelling of the ankles or feet

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Blurred vision

  • Trouble speaking

  • Confusion


If you experience any of these seek medical care immediately.



Warnings for Use


Also, like Modafinil, Adderall can be habit-forming and can lead to substance abuse. If Adderall stops working, the dosage may need to be increased.



Which ADHD Medication Will Best Treat You?


It is important to speak to your doctor about your medical history and any medications you take to avoid any severe side effects or drug interactions. You should also review the list of foods to avoid when taking Modafinil or Adderall.


There are additional side effects from what has been listed which, while rare, are still important to know about. Take all necessary precautions before using of either of these medications.


While Modafinil and Adderall work similarly for individuals with ADHD, there are subtle differences that make them unique. It is critical to complete a full evaluation with a physician who specializes in ADHD treatment before taking either of these medications. Experienced in treating ADHD, licensed and certified providers on Klarity will develop the best treatment plan for you, and if indicated, prescribe a medication.