Adrafinil and armodafinil are two similar compounds with potential nootropic—or cognition-enhancing—effects that many researchers are interested in.
Although they are structurally quite similar, there are some key differences that researchers and research subjects should be aware of, not only in structure but also in half-life, cost, and legal status around the world.
Depending on research aims, one may be a better fit than the other for certain studies. It is important to understand the differences in how these compounds are classified legally so that researchers can purchase with confidence from a reputable source for their studies.
This article is intended for nootropics researchers and provides a comparison between adrafinil and armodafinil.
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What Is Adrafinil?
Adrafinil, also known by the brand name Olmifon, is a wakefulness agent that was first isolated and used as a prescription drug in France to treat sleep disorders.
It is a prodrug form of modafinil, meaning it is converted into modafinil during metabolism. After modafinil was put to market, the prescription form of adrafinil—Olmifon—was removed from the prescription drug market.
However, adrafinil is still unregulated in many countries and remains available as a research chemical.
Much of the research on adrafinil has been completed in animals, particularly beagle dogs, monkeys, and mice. However, these and other studies reveal three potential adrafinil effects that may be of interest to researchers:
- Boosted energy. As a wakefulness agent, adrafinil can enhance energy levels and provide a stimulant effect .
- Increased activity. In animal studies, adrafinil caused an increase in locomotion (activity and movement). In humans, this may translate to increased productivity—although more research is needed [2, 3, 4].
- Enhanced learning. A beagle study noted that beagles who were given adrafinil had fewer mistakes in a trial and faster learning compared to counterparts who did not receive adrafinil .
On the other hand, human subjects have reported mixed results from adrafinil—with some stating that the nootropic effects seem fairly strong, while others state there seem to be no effects at all.
Adrafinil Side Effects and Safety
Because adrafinil is a prodrug of modafinil, it may have similar side effects.
As a result, side effects would include headache and insomnia, but the U.S. National Library of Medicine also lists a myriad of other potential side effects for modafinil—including more severe ones like “uncontrollable shaking of a part of your body” .
Insomnia typically results from adrafinil being administered too late in the day, so it should be given to subjects early in the morning to help prevent this side effect.
Complications may also arise from combining adrafinil with other stimulants, including drugs or high doses of caffeine.
Subjects with underlying medical issues, who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or who are taking other prescription drugs should not participate in research on adrafinil.
What Is Armodafinil?
Armodafinil, on the other hand, is a prescription drug that is prescribed for the treatment of narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders. It is also commonly referred to by the brand name Nuvigil.
The drug has been approved for this use since 2007, and generic versions were made available in the United States in 2016.
In 2010, the FDA declined to allow armodafinil to be approved for jet lag and schizophrenia treatment—although the drug does appear to show some promise at reducing the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Armodafinil appears to offer some cognition-enhancing effects, and has been used off-label to help treat bipolar depression. It may also help improve performance in high-stress jobs, like air traffic control [7, 8, 9].
Other potential armodafinil effects include:
- Improved memory. Armodafinil may help improve long-term memory, according to one high quality randomized controlled trial .
- Enhanced focus and concentration. Several studies in humans have also noted that armodafinil is associated with increased alertness, focus, and concentration [9, 11, 12].
Armodafinil may affect the brain in other ways that are still being investigated as well. For instance, one human study found that armodafinil markedly decreased obsessive-compulsive tendencies in people with binge eating disorder—leading to a decrease in binge eating episodes .
Armodafinil Side Effects and Safety
The most common reported side effects of armodafinil are headache, dizziness/nausea, and insomnia. Because it is designed to promote wakefulness, it should be administered in the morning to help reduce the risk of insomnia. However, people who have a prescription for armodafinil for shift work sleep disorder are typically directed to take it one hour before their shift begins.
Other side effects may occur as well, including some serious side effects, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine .
For example, armodafinil use may cause Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS), a serious skin disorder. Although this side effect appears to be very rare, there is at least one known instance of SJS caused by armodafinil .
Adrafinil vs. Armodafinil | Similarities
Adrafinil and armodafinil have some similarities—as suggested by their names. Structurally, there are few differences between the two. Adrafinil is a prodrug of modafinil, meaning that it is metabolized into modafinil after administration.
Armodafinil, on the other hand, is an isomer of modafinil—meaning it has the same chemical formula but the individual atoms are arranged differently. Particularly, it is the R-enantiomer of modafinil—making it essentially a “mirror image” of modafinil.
Both adrafinil and armodafinil also share some similar effects. Namely, they’re both wakefulness agents used to help promote alertness in people with sleep disorders—although adrafinil is no longer generally available by prescription, while armodafinil is.
Adrafinil and armodafinil both may have other nootropic effects as well, particularly relating to memory and learning.
Adrafinil and armodafinil are both banned from use in competitive sports by the World Anti-Doping Agency—so they should be avoided by subjects who participate in competitive athletics at any level .
Finally, their side effects also appear to be remarkably similar, with headache, dizziness, and insomnia being the most commonly reported for each.
While their structures are remarkably similar, there are key differences in them. Armodafinil is a R-enantiomer of modafinil with the exact same chemical makeup.
There are also big differences in the legal status of these compounds as well.
In the United States and Australia, armodafinil is a prescription drug. On the other hand, while adrafinil was formerly a prescription drug in France, it never really took off in other countries before being removed from the market (mostly due to being pushed out by prescription modafinil). It is, however, a prescription drug in Australia.
In most other countries, adrafinil is a research chemical. It does not require a prescription to purchase and can be possessed and used for research purposes like laboratory experimentation.
Additionally, there are differences in the drugs’ half-lives and the way they are metabolized. Adrafinil is first metabolized into modafinil, which has a half-life of approximately 13 hours. However, adrafinil has a slower onset of effects because it takes time for this metabolism to occur. While armodafinil also has a half-life of approximately 13 hours, one study has shown that armodafinil levels remain higher later in the day—so armodafinil may have a more extended effect .
For these reasons, adrafinil dosage may also vary from armodafinil dosage.
Adrafinil also tends to be less expensive than armodafinil, with the exception of bulk purchases of armodafinil—which of course will result in a higher out-of-pocket price at one time despite the lower unit price.
The quality of research between the two is also quite different. Published research on adrafinil is mostly animal-based and has, for the most part, slowed down to a trickle as most researchers have moved on to studying other compounds that are similar, but more effective and efficient.
On the other hand, research is still ongoing for armodafinil. There are a number of published human trials investigating the effects of the drug on a variety of medical issues, disease states, and careers. Armodafinil was only just approved to be available as a generic in 2016, so there is still a great deal of interest surrounding the drug.
Where To Buy Online?
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Adrafinil vs. Armodafinil | Verdict
Adrafinil and armodafinil—while similar in structure—have many differences.
Both are compounds that possess stimulant properties and were originally used to help treat sleep disorders. However, adrafinil has mostly fallen out of use as a prescription drug, while armodafinil was only just approved by the FDA in 2007 and made available as a generic in 2016. Both adrafinil and armodafinil are banned from use in sports by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Adrafinil is a prodrug form of modafinil, while armodafinil is an R-enantiomer of modafinil. Armodafinil also seems to have longer-lasting effects according to some research.
There is also a broader body of research for armodafinil compared to adrafinil. Most adrafinil research has been done in animals, while there are several recent, high quality human trials of armodafinil.
Finally, adrafinil is less expensive than armodafinil. We trust Buy Moda for generic armodafinil, and recommend Nootropics Depot or Science.bio for adrafinil purchases. However, researchers who are interested in purchasing either of these should be fully aware of their legal status in the country where they reside.