Modafinil vs Adderall: Which One Is Most Addictive?

With today’s hectic lifestyle, the market for performance enhancing drugs has never been bigger. College students and business executives in particular naturally gravitate towards performance enhancing drugs, with Modafinil and Adderall being two of the more popular choices.

As performance enhancers, Modafinil and Adderall are very different drugs in terms of their intended treatment purposes. Since drugs in this category tend to carry risks for abuse and addiction, the chemical makeup of Modafinil vs. Adderall plays into their respective abuse/addiction potentials in significant ways.

If you need help overcoming an amphetamine abuse habit, we can help. Call our toll-free helpline at 800-816-1059(Who Answers?) to speak with one of our addiction counselors.

Modafinil vs. Adderall: How Do These Drugs Work?


Both Modafinil and Adderall have received federal approval for treating narcolepsy. Besides its secondary use as a treatment for shift work sleep disorder, Modafinil’s intended treatment purposes only include sleep-related disorders, according to the journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.

In terms of Modafinil vs. Adderall, Modafinil’s mechanism of action works completely different from that of Adderall. Modafinil works by:

  • Increasing dopamine neurotransmitter levels
  • Increasing histamine levels in the hypothalamus
  • Increasing norepinephrine and serotonin neurotransmitter levels
  • Activating orexin peptides

While Modafinil produces some of the same behavioral effects as Adderall, it does so in different ways. Consequently, Modafinil’s addiction potential runs considerable lower than Adderall.


Modafinil vs Adderall

Adderall has a higher addiction potential than Modafinil.

Adderall’s interactions specifically works to treat conditions involving ADHD, narcolepsy and obesity. In order to accomplish these ends, Adderall has a more powerful effect on brain and central nervous system functions than Modafinil.

According to the Journal of Neuroscience, Adderall has a two-fold effect on dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitter levels in that it blocks the mechanisms that prevent excess amounts of these chemicals from circulating in the brain. It also stimulates dopamine production processes.

Abuse Potential

Whereas Modafinil is a Schedule IV narcotic, Adderall belongs to the Schedule II class of drugs. This distinction alone speaks volumes about Modafinil vs. Adderall as far as abuse potential goes.

In effect, a drug’s abuse potential determines how quickly the brain’s chemical system becomes dependent on its effects to function normally. While any one drug’s “high effect” may drive drug abuse practices at the start, a drug’s ability to alter the brain’s chemical system ultimately determines its abuse potential.

Addiction Potential

Prescription amphetamines typically carry a high addiction potential overall because of how they interact with the brain’s dopamine levels. Dopamine plays a central role in regulating pain and pleasure sensations throughout the body as well as on an emotional level.

Dopamine also plays a primary role in regulating the brain reward system. This system ties into the brain’s cognitive and emotion-based centers and, for the most, part dictates a range of cognitive functions, including:

  • Thought content and thinking patterns
  • Emotional responses
  • Motivations
  • Daily priorities
  • Daily habits and routines

With Modafinil vs. Adderall, Adderall’s ongoing interactions with dopamine level outputs makes for a highly addictive agent compared to Modafinil. This means, someone who abuses Modafinil on an ongoing basis won’t likely experience a “high” effect, but remains at considerably lower risk for addiction than someone who abuses Adderall.

In spite of Modafinil’s low abuse potential, frequent and/or long-term use will ultimately tip the scales in terms of increasing the risk for abuse and addiction.

If you or someone you know struggles with an amphetamine abuse problem and are considering treatment help, call our helpline at 800-816-1059(Who Answers?) to ask about available treatment options.