ritalin adderall modafinil
Ritalin vs Adderall vs Modafinil
Uses & Mechanisms of Action


Ritalin, the brand name for methylphenidate, stimulates the Central Nervous System, affecting the prefrontal cortex of the brain associated with hyperactivity, attention and impulse control. Ritalin increases both dopamine and norepinephrine levels, which together work to improve attention span and motivation. This mechanism enables it to be an effective treatment for ADHD and ADD, in both children and adults.

Furthermore, Ritalin can be used to alleviate symptoms of narcolepsy. Increased neurotransmitter production, boosts alertness and lessens exhaustion and lethargy. In some cases, Ritalin may also be used as a weight loss aid in treating obesity. Ritalin is a general stimulant, meaning that it increases heart rate and basal metabolic rate. As mentioned earlier, Ritalin boosts production of the neurotransmitter Norepinephrine, which plays a vital role in speeding up metabolism. Thus Ritalin optimises the body’s natural fat burning system.


Adderall contains a combination of amphetamine salts and has recently become a popular prescription for the treating those with ADHD or ADD. Adderall works as a Central Nervous System stimulant, by increasing the release of Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Adrenaline. Higher levels of these key neurotransmitters in the CNS will increase heart rate and blood pressure, improve energy levels, attention span, concentration and awareness.

Moreover, owing to the release of dopamine and serotonin, mood is elevated and motivation levels are also improved, encouraging productivity.


The best way is to compare Adderal vs Ritalin first, and then we go forward to Modafinil, due to a fact Adderal and Ritalin are the same type of drugs Modafinil is relatively newer with different mechanism of action.

Side Effects

ritalin side effectsRitalin is a highly potent drug that has a high potential of being addictive. User reports indicate a wide range of possible side effects. Some individuals have experienced things like chest pain, fever, rashes joint ache and loss of appetite

Adderall users have also reported side effects such as a loss of appetite, a dry mouth, mild insomnia and anxiety. Therefore, those with overactive thyroid, glaucoma, epilepsy, severe anxiety or who have used MAO inhibitors within the past 2 weeks, are advised not to use Adderall.

A fast heart rate is a side effect commonly associated with Adderall and Ritalin, due to both products having a stimulatory effect on the Central Nervous System. Therefore, it is not recommended that those who have any present heart problems use either medication.

Abuse potential

Both Adderall and Ritalin are listed as Schedule II controlled-substances in the United States. This means that there is a high probability that users may develop drug dependency towards either substance, leading to drug abuse. The high abuse potential is mainly due to tolerance being built up easily. This puts students, who have become dependent on either drug to achieve academically, at risk of abusing administration in order to maintain their grades. Ritalin has also raised health concerns regarding drug dependency and addiction as it has been shown to have a similar chemical structure to that of Cocaine.

In addition, both substances induce the release of high concentrations of dopamine into the body. Thus, users may increase the recommended dosage in order to achieve the euphoria associated with being “high.’’

The body may also take several days to renormalize the levels of the neurotransmitters that were affected by either medication. Too high levels of these excitatory chemicals in the brain can be dangerous.

Format & Dosage

Ritalin is available in 3 formats: Instant Release (IR), Sustained Release (SR) and Long Acting Release (LA). Whereas, Adderall has only two formats: Instant Release (IR) and Extended Release (XR).

The IR format of Ritalin lasts 3-4 hours whereas the IR format of Adderall can last up to 4-6 hours. Thus, 10 mg of Ritalin is almost equal to 5 mg of Adderall in terms of the duration of the effect.

The IR version of Adderall has many options and is available in 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, and 30 mg.  This broad range of administration options allows patients to increase or lower their dosage with ease. Whereas, Instant-Release Ritalin is manufactured in only 5 mg, 10 mg, and 20 mg options.

To some individuals, Adderall may appear more desirable due to its various dosage options, while other may prefer the selection of formats for Ritalin.

Which drug is more expensive?

Generic versions of both Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts) and Ritalin (methylphenidate) are significantly cheaper than their brand name counterparts. However, the format of the drug also determines the price. For instance, a month’s supply of the generic sustained-release format of Ritalin is a minimum of $50 and its’ generic long-lasting format is $70. Whereas, the generic extended-release format of Adderall is slightly more expensive at $75.

Although the brand name versions are both quite costly, instant-release Ritalin can be bought for $95 which is a third of the price of instant-release Adderall at $300. The long-acting release version of Ritalin and extended release version of Adderall are both approximately $220. Modafinil price varies from 50 to 70$ for 1 month supply.

Which product is more effective?

Both Adderall and Ritalin have been approved as clinically effective treatments for ADHD and Narcolepsy. Even so, various studies have since then been carried out to find out which of the two medications is the most effective.

According to a 1999 publication, 25 children, who were diagnosed with ADHD, took part in a study in which the efficacy of Adderall, Ritalin and a Placebo were compared. The children were given either 12.5 mg of Adderall, 10 mg or 17.5 mg of Ritalin, or a placebo. They were administered this dosage twice a day (morning and afternoon). Both Ritalin and Adderall proved to be considerably more effective in improving the children’s behavior and academic effort, than the placebo.

However, the researchers reported that Adderall functioned better at the given doses than Ritalin. The children who were administered Adderall, had shown greater progress in some areas, than the children who had used Ritalin.

In a different study that was also published in 1999, researchers investigated how the effects of one dose of Adderall would compare to the effects of two doses of Ritalin. 84 children took part in the study, with half of them being given adderall and the other half receiving Ritalin.  At the end of the study, it was concluded that all the participants had exhibited relatively similar effects, despite the respective treatment they had received. This showed that the one dose of Adderall was equal in efficiency to the 2 doses of Ritalin.

The effects of 12.5 mg of Adderall and 25 mg of Ritalin among 58 children were compared, in a study that was published in 2000. Adderall, despite being distributed in a lesser dosage than that of Ritalin, was shown to produce longer-lasting progress in the behavior of the children it was given to.

Therefore, it can be said with reference to the above studies, that while both medications prove efficient in treating ADHD, Adderall may have a slightly higher efficacy.

Modafinil is relatively new drug if to compare with Adderall and Ritalin. While Adderal and Ritalin are almost 100% contains amphetamine salts and possibly are the strongest stimulants with worst side effects and strong addiction factor, modafinil appears to be a lot safer with a novel mechanism of action, see below:

Modafinil (Provigil)

Modafinil, sold under the name Provigil in the U.S., is a Eugeroic drug that was approved in 1998 as a treatment for excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). Since then, it has been recognized by the United States Food and Drug Administration as a safe treatment for symptoms of narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder and obstructive sleep apnea. The drug also exhibits mood, performance and other cognitive enhancing effects.

Benefits & Uses


Modafinil users tend to display superior learning capacity than non-modafinil users. User reports report the ability to work and/or study throughout the day or night, without needing any breaks. This supports research in which the mental performance of sleep deprived individuals in clinical trials was found to improve significantly.

Mood and Motivation

In some cases, Modafinil has been prescribed to assist with symptoms of major depression and seasonal affective disorder, alongside the usual medications used to treat these disorders. As mentioned previously, Modafinil is a Eugeroic drug, meaning that it acts as a wakefulness-enhancer. Increased wakefulness will ease symptoms of fatigue associated with depression and will supply the user with the drive they need to be more productive.

Management of sleep disorder symptoms

Modafinil is most commonly used to treat excessive tiredness caused by narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, or shift work sleep disorder. These conditions can negatively affect an individual’s sleep cycle, leading to lethargy and consequently poor cognitive function. Modafinil increases alertness in these individuals allowing them to be productive despite their disorder. However, it is important to note that Modafinil will not cure these sleep disorders but will only help ease symptoms. This wakefulness-promoting agent may also be used to boost alertness during night shifts or to ease fatigue from sleep deprivation. One should take into consideration that frequent Modafinil use is not a substitute for sleep and that a regular and healthy sleep cycle is needed in order to achieve the full benefits of the supplement.

Mental clarity

Many users have reported that they experience a lift in “brain fog’’ following intake of Modafinil. This increase in self-awareness has been shown to help people realize and correct the environmental or behavioural causes of their previous ‘brain fog. These causes may be a poor diet, lack of exercise or sleep deprivation, which the Modafinil user will now have the attentiveness to notice.

Neuroprotective Function

Modafinil has been shown to decrease levels of oxidative stress and bring out cytoprotective effects. This could mean that frequent administration of Modafinil may be beneficial for preserving neural function in the long-term.

How it Works

ritalin benefitsDespite its mechanisms of action not yet being fully understood if to compare to Adderall of Ritalin, Modafinil is said to generally work by affecting the following neurotransmitters.

One of the main ways by which Modafinil works is by elevating dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that acts as a stimulant by increasing communication between neurons. Modafinil slows down the functioning of the dopamine transporter, which is responsible for removing dopamine from synapses. This results in higher dopamine levels in the brain which would lead to enhanced focus and concentration.

Histamine levels in the hypothalamus of the brain are also increased by Modafinil. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in regulating sleep/wake patterns while the hypothalamus is responsible for the secretion of hormones that control hunger, circadian rhythm and sleep. This may also explain why some users claim to have a loss of appetite following administration of Modafinil.

Serotonin levels have also been shown to increase. Serotonin can stimulate neurogenesis, which is the forming of new neurons. Higher levels of serotonin will enhance brain plasticity and allow for new connections to be made faster, aiding the learning process.

In addition, Glutamate, the main excitatory neurotransmitter is elevated when using Modafinil. Glutamate is involved in a number of cognitive processes, primarily, attention and memory, and plays a significant role in long term potentiation, which is the forming of associations between neurons. For that reason, a higher amount of Glutamate in the brain would enhance brain plasticity and the learning process.

It is thought that Modafinil may also influence Orexins which are brain peptides. The neurons that interact with Orexin are found within the hypothalamus but project to several other areas that are implicated in regulating wakefulness. Dopamine and Norepinephrine are increased in these areas when the neurons are activated by Orexin.

Side Effects

As with all supplementation courses, it is important that you consult a doctor before embarking on a Modafinil course as your medical history or current prescription may not suit the substance. Those who have high blood pressure; have liver or kidney trouble; have a history of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction; are pregnant or planning to become pregnant; or are breastfeeding, are also advised to consult a medical professional, prior to a Modafinil course.

Although Modafinil is deemed safe by the FDA, its affect may vary depending on an individual and their medical history.

Common Modafinil side effects may include:

  •     Headache (similar side effect from Adderall or Ritalin)
  •     feeling nervous or anxious
  •     back pain (similar side effect from Adderall or Ritalin)
  •     nausea, upset stomach
  •     insomnia
Modafinil users are strongly advised to immediately consult a medical professional if they experience any of the following allergic reactions:
  •     hives
  •     difficulty breathing
  •     Swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat. (similar side effect from Adderall or Ritalin)
A rash or allergic reaction, symptoms of a heart problem, psychiatric symptoms, including depression; anxiety; hallucinations and other mental problems, should all be brought to a medical professional, immediately.

Although eventual tolerance to the drug or drug dependency is unlikely, owing to limited long-term studies, Modafinil users should still apply caution while using the substance.

Dosage Guidelines

Modafinil affects the central nervous system and as a result it may impair your thinking or reactions. Therefore, it is strongly advised that you avoid driving and consuming alcohol until you are familiar and comfortable with the effects of the medication.

The following are the recommended daily dosages for an adult using Modafinil to treat a disorder.


200 mg orally in the morning

Obstructive Sleep Apnea/Hypopnea Syndrome:

200 mg orally in the morning

Shift Work Sleep Disorder:

200 mg orally one hour prior to the start of the work shift

Adderall, Ritalin and Modafinil are increasingly being used in the schools, universities, workplaces to enhance mental performance, productivity.  Both Adderal and Ritalin are addictive if to compare to Modafinil. Even Modafinil has rare adverse effects it should be considered as much safer. Side effects from Modafinil are much weaker than from Ritalin and Adderall.