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Modafinil vs Adderall: Are the best smart drugs too good to be true?


Acing your exams is one of the best feelings in the world. Whether you are a university student or a budding professional, achieving top grades can be a major priority. Knowing that your hard work, late night study sessions, and perseverance has paid off is a rewarding feeling. Exams can be demanding, and some students turn to medications to push themselves further. Use of medications like Adderall and Modafinil for studying during exam season is on the rise. 54% of respondents in a 2016 online survey among university students reported taking Modafinil [1]. In a 2018 poll, 24% of university students admitted to using Adderall for academic enhancement, out of which less than 9% had a medical prescription [2]. In the UK, it is illegal to buy Adderall. UK law also prohibits the sale of Modafinil to those without prescription. These medications alter your dopamine system to produce effects.

How does dopamine help you study?

Dopamine is your reward and pleasure brain chemical. It is also involved in motivation, which makes it a powerful tool that can help you achieve your goals. Dopamine is released even before you experience the feeling of reward to motivate you to continue putting in the effort [4]. The brain has a fine-tuned system to regulate the production and availability of dopamine within balanced levels. When you spend hours studying, it is the drive to excel and get good grades that keeps you going. This is your dopamine urging you to stay focused and keep studying. One way of increasing dopamine safely is through adequate intake of its building block, tyrosine. It is found in protein rich foods and supplements like the world’s 1st natural 800mg tyrosine. Read more here.

How does Adderall work?

Adderall is a medication prescribed to those with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), to improve their focus and decrease impulsivity [3]. It is also prescribed for narcolepsy (sleep condition with excessive daytime sleepiness) to promote wakefulness [3]. Students use it to stay alert for long periods [6]. Once consumed, Adderall enters the brain and forcefully prolongs the action of dopamine [5]. Brain scans also show the increased release of dopamine upon taking Adderall [5]. When it is taken for exam prep, it targets the dopamine system to push you to keep studying because the feeling of achieving good grades is rewarding. Though it may seem like a magic pill, it is far from being one. Adderall side effects could be serious because depending on the dose, it can increase dopamine excessively which can lead to addiction [5]. 

How does Modafinil work?

Modafinil is a medication prescribed as a waking aid for narcolepsy. It is misused by those who want to pull all-nighters and decrease fatigue [7], with 84% of those who took it did so to improve attention/focus [1]. It works like Adderall and increases the activity of dopamine above normal ranges. It also decreases the relaxing brain chemical, GABA to prolong alertness [8]. Modafinil side effects are similar to Adderall’s due to it being a serious drug. 

 Is Alpha GPC the best natural alternatives to Adderall & Modafinil?

Enhancing learning and memory is more beneficial than merely staying awake for longer to cram exam materials. Your brain’s learning and memory brain chemical is acetylcholine. To commit something to memory, different parts of the brain interact with your brain’s learning headquarter. Acetylcholine is needed for the proper functioning of this headquarter [9]. Increasing intake of its building block choline can help you increase acetylcholine levels. Choline is a nutrient found in beef, eggs, salmon, mushrooms.. It is also available as a supplement. A study involving 1000 people found that those who had a higher choline intake had a better memory [10]. 

How to supercharge your memory without drugs?

Your brain needs a steady supply of choline to make adequate acetylcholine to keep those A* grades coming. Intake of supplemental choline may be a good option during busy exam periods. One of the best forms of choline is Alpha GPC. It is 41% choline by weight and more efficient than other types of choline supplements. It increases acetylcholine levels in 1-3 hours [11], fast tracking your memory and learning chemical. The world’s 1st capsule containing 99% Alpha GPC (the purest form), provides 500 mg Alpha GPC dosage. Read more about it here. [product shot].

Are smart drugs worth the risks?

The intake of Adderall and Modafinil is widespread among those facing exam periods. Are the beneficial effects scientifically proven and worth the risk of side effects? A review of 5 studies found Modafinil’s lack of benefit in improving attention [14]. In fact, caffeine found in tea and coffee was found to be more beneficial. Participants taking Modafinil and caffeine in a study mimicking tests, found that compared to Modafinil, 200mg caffeine boosted attention [13]. Almost 80% of those who take these drugs get them online [1]. With safety risks and legality issues, do these drugs benefit scores? A study among healthy college students found that those taking Adderall performed 7% worse on memory recall tests [15] A study among almost 900 students found that those who did not take any drugs had better scores over 3 years than those who used drugs [12].

Choose the scientific way for better exam results

Alpha GPC is the legal, natural, and safe supplement that increases acetylcholine levels. An animal study found that those supplemented with choline had better attention span and long-term memory [16]. Going the natural, legal, and scientific way to improve your memory and learning seems like the right choice when choosing brain performance aids.


  1. Teodorini, R.D., Rycroft, N. and Smith-Spark, J.H. (2020). The off-prescription use of modafinil: An online survey of perceived risks and benefits. PLOS ONE, 15(2), p.e0227818.
  2. Norris, M. (2018). Survey finds that 24 percent of University students use Adderall. [online] The Michigan Daily.
  3. Martin, D. and Le, J.K. (2021). Amphetamine. [online] PubMed. 
  4. Bromberg-Martin, E. S. et al. (2010). Dopamine in motivational control: rewarding, aversive, and alerting. Neuron68(5), 815–834.
  5. Plumber, N. et al. (2021). Stimulant Usage by Medical Students for Cognitive Enhancement: A Systematic Review. Cureus13(5), e15163. 
  6. American Addiction Centers. (2019). Adderall vs. Modafinil: How Do They Compare? [online]
  7. Kim D. (2012). Practical use and risk of modafinil, a novel waking drug. Environmental health and toxicology27, e2012007.
  8. Pliszka, A.G. (2022). Modafinil: A Review and Its Potential Use in the Treatment of Long COVID Fatigue and Neurocognitive Deficits. American Journal of Psychiatry Residents’ Journal, 17(4), pp.5–7.
  9. Huang, Q., Liao, C., Ge, F., Ao, J. and Liu, T. (2022). Acetylcholine bidirectionally regulates learning and memory. Journal of Neurorestoratology, 10(2), p.100002.
  10. Poly, C. et al. (2011). The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [online] 94(6), pp.1584–1591.
  11. Frank, K. et al. (2022). Alpha-GPC Research Analysis. examine.com. [online]
  12. Arria, A.M., Caldeira, K.M., Vincent, K.B., O’Grady, K.E., Cimini, M.D., Geisner, I.M., Fossos-Wong, N., Kilmer, J.R. and Larimer, M.E. (2017). Do college students improve their grades by using prescription stimulants nonmedically? Addictive Behaviors, 65, pp.245–249.
  13. Repantis, D., Bovy, L., Ohla, K., Kühn, S., & Dresler, M. (2021). Cognitive enhancement effects of stimulants: a randomized controlled trial testing methylphenidate, modafinil, and caffeine. Psychopharmacology, 238(2), 441–451.
  14. Chamberlain, S. R., Robbins, T. W., Winder-Rhodes, S., Müller, U., Sahakian, B. J., Blackwell, A. D., & Barnett, J. H. (2011). Translational approaches to frontostriatal dysfunction in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder using a computerized neuropsychological battery. Biological psychiatry69(12), 1192–1203.
  15. Weyandt, L. L., White, T. L., Gudmundsdottir, B. G., Nitenson, A. Z., Rathkey, E. S., De Leon, K. A., & Bjorn, S. A. (2018). Neurocognitive, Autonomic, and Mood Effects of Adderall: A Pilot Study of Healthy College Students. Pharmacy (Basel, Switzerland)6(3), 58.
  16. ScienceDaily. (2013). Vitamin B: Choline intake improves memory and attention-holding capacity, experts say. [online] 
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