Adrafinil vs Adderall – What’s Best?
Their names sound the same but the compounds are completely different. So…Adrafinil vs Adderall?
What are they, how can they help you feel and perform better, and ultimately which is the better Nootropic?
Some Basics On How Your Brain Works
The neurons within your brain communicate through synapses. Although it is useful to think of the communication between neurons as electricity — different neurons lighting up at different times, this does not happen exactly as you think it does.
The charges do not move as they do through a wire. Rather, they are the result of different ions (charged particles) leaving or entering the cell. This changes the cell’s potential. When the change of potential moves from one cell to another, synapses are necessary.
There is some space between the cell membranes in the synapse. The excited cell excretes a neurotransmitter in that space. The neurotransmitter is what causes a change of potential in the next cell.
There are different neurotransmitters and neuromodulators (compounds that modify the activity of neurotransmitters). Different pathways in your brain that are responsible for certain functions often use one particular neurotransmitter.
Dopamine Transporters Blocking
The trouble is, your brain does not want neurotransmitters to stay outside the cell.
This could make the synapse virtually useless or at least harder to control. Besides, some neurotransmitters are harmful to the cells if they are left out for too long. For that reason, neurons have transporters which bring the neurotransmitter back into the cell.
The neurotransmitter that interests us when it comes to focus, motivation, and wakefulness is dopamine. It would be an oversimplification to say that only dopamine pathways are involved in these processes. It does play a very important role, however.
When it comes to Adrafinil vs Adderall, they both work on the transporters that are supposed to suck dopamine back into the cell.
This increases the dopamine levels in your brain (outside of neurons) and affects all of the functions related to dopamine-controlled pathways.
Adrafinil vs Adderall have different ways of increasing the dopamine, though. Consequently, their main effects and the possible side effects are quite different.
Adderall: Mechanism Of Action
Adderall is an amphetamine.
It contains the two enantiomers of amphetamine (the right and left one) in a 3:1 ratio. When it enters your system it will get absorbed through your gut. There is a catch here — how much gets absorbed depends on your gut pH level or on whether your gut is more acidic or more alkaline.
Amphetamine is a weak base. In a basic gut, it will stay in this free base form that is soluble in fat. If your gut pH is acidic, amphetamine will turn into a positively charged ion, soluble in water. The fat soluble form passes through the cell membranes of cells that cover your gut much more efficiently. Hence, when your gut is alkaline the amphetamine will get absorbed faster and better.
It is not exactly easy to predict when and how exactly Adderall will hit you. This makes planning your intake (if you are using it as a Nootropic) a bit tricky.
Adderall In Your Brain
But let’s say it has found it’s way into your blood and to the brain.
What happens there? It enters your neurons. There it will act on two membrane transporters. One of them usually pumps dopamine (and other neurotransmitters) back into the cell. The amphetamine reverses it’s action and it starts pumping dopamine back out.
The other has a similar action — it pumps even more dopamine out of the cell.
You might look back at your day in the evening and think ‘Wow, I really did a lot today!’
Adderall is used to treat ADHD and sleep disorders like narcolepsy.
The Flip Side Of Adderall
It has probably crossed your mind already. Amphetamine. Isn’t that a drug? As in, recreational drug that causes addiction and damages the user’s mind and body?
Yes, amphetamine is an addictive substance.
Dopamine, put in the simplest way possible, is the chemical for wanting. When you first receive an unexpected reward (a reward for your brain is anything that brings pleasure), dopamine levels go up. The next time you find yourself in a similar situation, dopamine will rise before the reward. It is what propels you to do the action which brings pleasure.
Anything addictive, from Oreo cookies to cocaine uses that mechanism. If a substance raises your dopamine above it’s usual levels, your body will crave it. Not only that, but over time your neurons will become desensitized to the dopamine.
This happens by removing some of the receptors they had for it. This way, things that used to be pleasurable and raised dopamine enough for you to seek them are no longer enough.
You need more dopamine and you become addicted to the substance that gives you a big enough raise.
Will Adderall Make You A Junkie?
In therapeutic doses, Adderall’s addictive effect can be controlled. However, when you take it as a Nootropic, you might lack the medical experience to do that.
Not to mention that once you get used to the increased cognitive abilities, to being able to achieve so much in so little time it becomes more difficult to give it up. Over time, you can easily develop a psychological and then a chemical addiction to Adderall.
There are, of course, ways to prevent addiction.
You have to stick to low doses and under no circumstances increase them. Ideally, you should also use it only when you need it, not daily. Unless you do have ADHD, of course. Still, the risk of addiction remains as you will not have a medical professional to control your use.
It can be so deceptive to rely on your own judgement when it comes to Adderall as it makes you biochemically different. For that reason, doctors supervise their patients very closely when they are on Adderall as you really need that outside, unchanged by a substance expert opinion.
Adrafinil vs Adderall – Mechanism Of ActionAdrafinil is a precursor to Modafinil. It is not an active compound itself. Rather, when you ingest it Adrafinil will get metabolised into Modafinil.
Just like Adderall, it is a wakefulness-promoting agent (also known as a stimulant) and a cognitive enhancer.
Modafinil does not cause neurons to pump more dopamine out, nor does it change the action of transport proteins. Rather it binds to one of those transporters and prevents dopamine from binding and getting sucked back into the cell. Research has found that Modafinil is not addictive, mainly because it is a bit atypical in the way it blocks dopamine transporters.
It is worth noting that Adrafinil (or Modafinil, to which it transforms after metabolizing) still produces most of the effects of the dopamine rise. This includes reducing fatigue, making you dramatically more productive, supercharging your motivation etc. In terms of side effects and risk of addiction, however, these are both much smaller.
The difference between Adrafinil and Modafinil is much more subtle. For instance, because Adrafinil has to be metabolised before it can become active, it will take longer to feel the effects. What is more, the liver damage is a bit higher.
Since every drug you take puts some level of strain on your liver, this can really add up. Taking medications and drinking are a bad idea just in general. Even though alcohol does not affect Adrafinil’s action directly, it is a good idea to stay sober while taking it.
Besides, alcohol impairs cognition anyways.
That kind of defeats the purpose of taking cognitive enhancers.
In terms of side effects, Adrafinil is significantly less scary than Adderall. Stomach pain and skin irritation are two of the most common ones, along with increased risk of developing anxiety. Compare that to the hallucinations, addiction, and psychosis amphetamine can cause and it is not exactly hard to decide which is worse.
Most importantly, although I don’t recommend you take that as a challenge, overdosing on Adrafinil is difficult if not impossible.
Adderall, on the other hand, should be taken in low doses only. The higher doses are toxic. They are fun at parties, I guess, but so is cocaine.
Don’t do either. It will not be fun in the long run.
Adrafinil vs Adderall: The Verdict
Adderall is what we traditionally understand by a stimulant. It makes you more energetic, happier, more focused, it gives you great motivation and an almost superhuman power of avoiding distractions and procrastination.
Adrafinil might not have as magical of an effect.
This will entirely depend on your personal biochemical makeup. As a rule of thumb, though, Adrafinil might prove to be a little more subtle as it does not come in an active form.
When it comes to better Nootropic for the short term, Adderall would probably win. However, Nootropics are about value:risk.
The risks associated with using Adderall are infinitely more and more serious than those of Adrafinil. Adderall might be ok for a one-time use.
Personally, I would not use it even once as I am put off by the possible psychological dependence. If you do decide to try it, please stick to low doses and only use it when you have no other choice (make sure you get an Rx from your doctor.
Any questions about Adrafinil vs Adderall? Leave them in the comments below.
Stay safe and be smart!