Modafinil vs Armodafinil - Which is better for you?

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Eugeroics are a modern group of drugs that mainly work as anti-sleep medications. Modafinil and Armodafinil are the two most popular eugeroics available to us as of now. Whatever the reason, eugeroics proved to be a wonderful way to stay awake and attentive during long hours, whether you are a student studying for an exam or a professional trying to stay active during the workday.

Additionally, Modafinil and Armodafinil also have nootropic capacities. They are capable of enhancing cognitive abilities in people. This has earned them the popular title of "smart drugs" or "study drugs." Naturally, this has resulted in increased off-label use of these pills for daily use. A large population of students and professionals also buy modafinil online to avoid the hassle of physically going to a pharmacy.

In this blog, we will understand how Modafinil and Armodafinil differ from each other and how they compare.

What is Modafinil

Modafinil is a eugeroic drug, the first of its kind. It was first developed in the 1970s in France as a potential treatment for sleeping disorders like narcolepsy. In the 1990s, the medication found worldwide usage as a treatment for several sleeping disorders, including narcolepsy, shift-work disorder (SWD), and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In 2004, the FDA approved Modafinil for everyday use. It is categorized as a Schedule IV drug in the USA with little to no risks of dependency and addiction.

Chemical Structure of Modafinil Molecules
Source: Wiki

The medication is a wakefulness promoter. It is a mild central stimulator that energizes the body and reduces drowsiness. For patients suffering from sleeping disorders, controlling the body's sleep-wake cycle is a significant struggle. Modafinil helps such individuals by stopping them from falling asleep at odd times. However, this effect was soon realized to be useful for healthy individuals looking for a solution to stay awake and focused during work.

Let us first briefly discuss how Modafinil works inside our bodies.

How does Modafinil work?

As I mentioned earlier, Modafinil is a CNS stimulator. It means the drug stimulates the brain, the main part of our CNS. How does Modafinil stimulate the brain? In simple terms, modafinil manipulates the dopaminergic pathway in the body. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, responsible for helping nerve stimuli travel from the brain to the rest of the body. Specifically, dopamine helps spread stimuli involved with wakefulness, alertness, motivation, pleasure, and focus. Modafinil acts as a DRI, or dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Whenever dopamine successfully transmits a message, the body has a natural mechanism for removing it from the nervous system through active dopamine reuptake. Modafinil binds to the reuptake receptors and slows down the process of dopamine reuptake. This makes dopamine remain in the nervous system for a longer time, which in turn prolongs its effects.

Modafinil Mechanism of Action
Source: PMC

What is Armodafinil

Armodafinil is an enantiopure form of Modafinil. Organic compounds in nature are normally found as enantiomers. Enantiomers are molecules that are nearly identical to each other except for one feature, they are arranged as mirror images of each other. The drug Modafinil is available as a mixture of both enantiomers of the Modafinil molecule. However, armodafinil is made of only pure R-enantiomer of Modafinil (R-modafinil, hence the name). Being an enantiopure form of modafinil affects how armodafinil is metabolized in the body. The drug was first developed by Cephalon Pharmaceuticals and was approved by the FDA in 2007.

Enantiomers of Modafinil

Armodafinil, like Modafinil, is a wakefulness promoter. It is a mild central stimulant that gives the body energy and fights fatigue. Since controlling the body's sleep-wake cycle is a significant struggle for patients with sleeping disorders, they benefit from armodafinil to a great extent because it keeps them from dozing off unexpectedly. As with Modafinil, it was quickly discovered, though, that this effect could be helpful for healthy people trying to find a way to stay alert and focused at work.

The similarity of chemical structure between armodafinil and modafinil also warrants that the mechanism of action of both drugs is nearly identical in the body. Let's quickly review how armodafinil behaves in our bodies.

How does Armodafinil work?

Armodafinil is a CNS stimulator, just like Modafinil. It suggests that the drug stimulates the brain, the main component of our CNS. The dopaminergic pathway in the body is manipulated by armodafinil. The neurotransmitter dopamine is in charge of facilitating the movement of nerve stimuli, specifically aiding in the dissemination of stimuli related to focus, motivation, pleasure, alertness, and focus. Again, identical to Modafinil, Armodafinil is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor (DRI). The body has an inherent mechanism for removing dopamine from the nervous system whenever it successfully transmits a message through active dopamine reuptake. Dopamine reuptake is slowed down by armodafinil because it binds to the receptors involved in the process. Dopamine's effects are prolonged as a result of its long stay in the nervous system.

Armodafinil Mechanism of Action

Modafinil vs. Armodafinil - Uses

Modafinil and Armodafinil have two primary uses, which are, to treat sleeping disorders and to reduce drowsiness when used off-label to remain focused. It is important to note here that modafinil and armodafinil are prescribed interchangeably for both uses.

Treating sleeping disorders

Both drugs are used to treat SWD, OSA, and narcolepsy. Because more dopamine has an antiproliferative effect on the sleep-inducing function of the brain, these drugs help keep people awake by simply enhancing the effect of dopamine in the body. This in turn makes it possible for people who struggle to control the sleep-wake rhythm of their bodies to proactively manage their sleep and wake periods.

Boosting Cognitive Capacity

Modafinil and armodafinil have long been suggested to have nootropic effects. Nootropics are drugs that stimulate our central nervous system to enhance cognitive capacities, and often memory. Although there is no proven instance of Modafinil or Armodafinil being responsible for improving memory, the drugs have been found to enhance the cognitive capacities of regular users. This involves enhanced focus, the ability to plan and make decisions, and being more motivated and energetic.

Enhancing focus and managing stress

Students and professionals both regularly take modafinil or armodafinil off-label to stay awake and concentrated throughout lengthy workdays. These drugs are also known to calm down the amygdala in human brains. The amygdala creates the emotion of fear in response to environmental stress. By relaxing the amygdala, modafinil or armodafinil helps people avoid panic episodes when they are under stress.

Here is a concise comparison list of the various uses of Modafinil and Armodafinil:

Use of Modafinil vs Armodafinil

Modafinil vs. Armodafinil - Side Effects

Modafinil and Armodafinil are both extremely popular for off-label use as well as among physicians due to the low risk of occurrence of side effects. These are rather safe drugs, especially for CNS stimulants, with negligible risk of addiction or dependency liability.

The following is a chart showing the most common side effects observed among users of these drugs along with the frequency at which they have been found.

frequency of common side effect of smart drugs
Data Source: DailyMed

Comparing the frequency of side-effects of Modafinil and Armodafinil from the above chart, it can be easily noted that Armodafinil shows much fewer reported side-effects than Modafinil, with zero cases of back pain and nasal congestion.
While this might indicate that Armodafinil is a safer drug than Modafinil, it is also possible that the data is slightly skewed in favor of Armodafinil due to the smaller number of individuals using this drug.

Modafinil vs. Armodafinil - Contraindications

There are some contraindications of modafinil and armodafinil that are common to both drugs. Neither drug has any unique contraindication in comparison to the other. Here is a list of all the drugs modafinil and armodafinil may react with adversely:

Contraindications of Modafinil and Armodafinil
Data Source: DailyMed

Brief Overview of Modafinil vs. Armodafinil

Here is a concise comparison of modafinil and armodafinil based on the most important parameters:

Comparison Table of Modafinil and Armodafinil

The Verdict - Which is better for you Modafinil or Armodafinil?

To compare apples with apples, Armodafinil is better for you. Armodafinil is a newer generation drug of modafinil and, therefore, comes with obvious improvements. When we compared the two drugs, it was discernible that the primary difference between modafinil and armodafinil lies in their chemical structure. This difference comes with a significant effect. Armodafinil is found to have a longer half-life in the body in comparison to modafinil. The half-life of modafinil in our bodies is about 12 hours, whereas that of armodafinil is 15 hours. A longer half-life ensures a prolonged effect of the drug. Naturally, most individuals require a lower dosage of armodafinil than modafinil.

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