Modafinil and Armodafinil are stimulating substances that enhance motivation and productivity. Despite their stimulating effects, they do not fall under the category of stimulants. Both are classified as eugeroics, or in other words - “wakefulness-promoting agents”. The compounds also have beneficial effects on cognition. For this reason, they belong to the category of smart drugs as well. They enhance cognition by increasing stimulatory neurotransmitter levels in the brain. In this way they mitigate fatigue like no other. Next to that, administering the substances leads to improvements in memory, attention, alertness and motivation. Subjects in many studies have reported experiencing overall mental well-being. Also more enjoyment in executing cognitive tasks is a common effect. Additionally, Modafinil and Armodafinil are useful in the treatment of attention deficit disorders. Hence, supplementation with Modafinil or Armodafinil notably reduces symptoms of ADHD in both children and adults. This is investigated by many studies and the results are promising. On top of that, these compounds are much less harmful than Ritalin and provoke less undesirable side effects.
Like all drugs, they are sold under many different brand names - the so called generic variants of the original product. However, the active compound remains the same, namely Modafinil or Armodafinil.
History & Use
Modafinil was discovered in the early 1970s and was first prescribed in France since 1994 as Modiodal. It was later approved by the FDA in 1998 to help treat narcolepsy under the brand name Provigil (by Cephalon Inc). Nowadays, the most popular brands are the generic Modalert (Sun Pharma) and Modvigil (HAB Pharma). Narcolepsy has been treated for years with the compound, along with other disorders that lead to excessive daytime sleepiness. But besides showing successful results in patients, Modafinil also became popular as a "nootropic" among healthy individuals. This is because nootropics are substances that enhance cognitive performance. And Modafinil does not only have stimulating effects, it also improves cognitive function. This is why the interest in Modafinil has been on the rise ever since its discovery. The interest in the substance exists all over the world. Even the armed forces of several countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France and India are famous examples.
In 2007, the FDA approved a variant of Modafinil named Armodafinil. The drug was branded Nuvigil (Cephalon Inc.), and is likewise prescribed for the treatment of excessive daytime sleepiness in narcolepsy. Later on, more generic variants were brought on the market such as Waklert (Sun Pharma) and Artvigil (HAB Pharma). Modafinil and Armodafinil have similar effects on cognitive function, although Armodafinil is deemed more powerful by many. Armodafinil was rapidly embraced in the smart drug sector, being a longer-lasting, and thus more potent variant of Modafinil.
As mentioned before, Modafinil and Armodafinil are heavily related and seem to have similar effects on cognition. This is explicable by the molecular structure of the compounds.
Modafinil is a racemic mixture of two isomers, meaning it consists of an equal mix of two very similar molecules. The building blocks of both molecules are the same, although there is a difference in the structural organization between the two. The difference can be compared with your left and right hand. Just like both hands, the molecules in Modafinil are non-superposable mirror images from one another. In chemistry, such molecules are named "enantiomers", which are designated as right-handed (R) or left-handed (S). The molecular structures can be inspected below.
In a nutshell, Modafinil consists for 50% of R-Modafinil and for 50% of its S-enantiomer counterpart. Armodafinil on the other hand, is a purified form of Modafinil. It consists for 100% of isolated R-Modafinil.
The structural differences are important since molecules with a slightly different structure bind to the target receptors with varying affinity. To clarify, affinity is another word for "binding strength". What this means is that the shape of the compound determines its effect on the body and brain. And the higher the affinity of a molecule for a receptor, the harder it is for the body to eliminate the substance. Furthermore, the longer it takes to eliminate a drug, the longer will the effects last and the potency of the drug will be higher. This is indicated by the half-life of a drug, which expresses the time needed to eliminate a substance from the body. It is well-known that R-Modafinil has a longer half-life than S-modafinil, approximately 15 hours to 5 hours. Evidently, administration of the purified R-form of Modafinil, Armodafinil, will bring about longer-lasting effects.
But aside from the varying durations of effects, is there a difference between the effects of Armodafinil and Modafinil? Some believe the R-form is the more psychoactive form of the two. However, there is no hard evidence suggesting its superior efficacy. Studies show that both substances have very similar safety and efficacy in the administration of 150mg Armodafinil and 200mg Modafinil. Armodafinil just lasts a bit longer and requires lower dosage. Generally, preferences for one form over the other are explained to be the consequence of individual differences. For this reason we advise to try out both forms and decide for yourself which one suits you better.
Modafinil is a mixture of the R-modafinil and S-modafinil form, whereas Armodafinil contains R-modafinil exclusively. Since R-modafinil has a longer half-life in the body, its effects may last longer than those of Modafinil. Therefore, Armodafinil requires lower doses than Modafinil to acquire the same effects. Armodafinil comes in tablets of 150 mg and Modafinil is generally 200 mg per tablet. However, the effects and safety of both compounds do not significantly differ when ingested comparable doses. Due to individual differences, some may perceive one form to be more effective than the other or generate less side effects. It is recommended to test both forms and see which one is more suitable for one’s system.