You read a lot about Modafinil. But then when you try to buy some, you only see Adrafinil. And then there’s some people talking about Armodafinil as well. Is that something else? What’s going on?
Adrafinil, Modafinil, and Armodafinil indeed all refer to different things.
So what exactly are they?
Modafinil is the one that has the active effects of increasing your wakefulness, energy, focus, and memory.
However, in many countries Modafinil is a prescription drug for narcolepsy — the disorder that makes you fall asleep during the day. Because it is registered and used as a medicine, it’s not possible to get it without a prescription for its nootropic effects.
Adrafinil gets converted to Modafinil in the body — but Adrafinil is not a prescription drug, which means that in most countries you can legally buy and take Adrafinil without any problems. Because it needs to get converted first, it takes a little longer to “kick in” than Modafinil, but after that it has the same effects.
Armodafinil is where things start to get complicated. The word “Armodafinil” is the phonetic pronunciation of its chemical name: “R-Modafinil”.
Modafinil actually consists of two different molecules: one is the mirror image of the other. R-Modafinil is only one of these two options, with the other being S-Modafinil. The S and R stand for “sinister” and “rectus”, which is Latin for “left” and “right”. In scientific terms, if a molecule is the mirror image of another, it’s called an enantiomer.
Why do the mirror images matter, though?
As it turns out, a lot of enzymes in the body act differently on S molecules than on R molecules. The reason is that the enzymes themselves are often only present in the body in either an S or an R variant, and an S molecule might simply not fit in an R enzyme.
In the case of Modafinil, both the R and the S variant produce a similar positive wakefulness effect — but your body is faster at processing the S variant. The result of this is that the R variant has a longer half-life. More specifically, R-Modafinil has a half-life of ~15 hours, whereas S-Modafinil has a half-life of only ~4 hours.
Regular Modafinil is a “racemate”, that’s a mixture with equal amounts of S-Modafinil and R-Modafinil. Since their half-lives are different, you’ll expect to get the strongest effects during the first 5 hours or so. After that, most of the S-Modafinil is filtered out of your body — but you still have the R-Modafinil left. So for another 7 to 10 hours, you’ll have roughly half of the initial dose in your bloodstream.
Armodafinil has been created to get the full effect for the full 12 to 15 hours, instead of having a strong peak and then a weaker tail. It is difficult to make only the R-Modafinil version though, so different chemical synthesis techniques have to be used — often somewhat more expensive methods.
That’s the reason that if you see Armodafinil for sale, it’s often more expensive than regular Modafinil.
S-Adrafinil, R-Adrafinil, and the breakdown process
Whew, with those technical details out of the way, let’s get back to Adrafinil.
Adrafinil actually also consists of S-Adrafinil and R-Adrafinil, but because no one has manufactured either of these separately, this is not often mentioned. But it’s important to note, because it does actually matter. As it turns out, Adrafinil has the strongest effects in the first 5 hours, slowly tapering down in the 5 hours after that.
But how can that be? Isn’t half of the Adrafinil converted to R-Modafinil, with a half-life of 12 to 15 hours?
Unfortunately there hasn’t been a lot of research on Adrafinil, nor on its conversion to Modafinil. However, with the understanding we have, we can make some educated guesses. We know that the body sometimes treats S molecules different from R molecules. We also know that S-Modafinil has a half-life of roughly 4 hours, and R-Modafinil has a half-life of 12 to 15 hours. And finally, Adrafinil seems to have an effect of 5 to 8 hours. With these bits of information, we can surmise that the body mainly converts S-Adrafinil, and doesn’t do much with the R-Adrafinil. Therefore, most of its effects come from S-Modafinil, which has a short half-life.
I have to stress here that there is no research supporting this. This is a tentative conclusion that seems to match the observations well enough, and would “make sense”. But plenty of things that “make sense” have been disproven by science. We can’t be sure about this until there has been actual research.
But assuming it’s true, what happens to the R-Adrafinil? Well, a part of Adrafinil is converted directly into Modafinilic Acid and Modafinil Sulfone. These don’t have the wakefulness effects, so they don’t act as a nootropic — although Modafinil Sulfone does act as an anticonvulsant. When Modafinil gets cleared from the body, it also gets converted into these molecules. It’s quite possible that most R-Adrafinil is converted directly into these “waste products”, whereas more of the S-Adrafinil is converted into S-Modafinil.
Adrafinil and the liver
Some people are worried about Adrafinil, because it is converted into Modafinil in the liver.
To process the Adrafinil, the liver generates extra enzymes. That in itself is no problem though. For example, Tylenol is also processed in the liver, and has the same effect. Modafinil itself is also broken down by the liver, by these same enzymes. Breaking down molecules from the bloodstream is in fact one of the purposes of the liver. It’s only when you get to very high doses, or take something every day for a long time, that this could cause problems — for Modafinil as well as for Tylenol.
That’s one of the reasons why we don’t recommend taking Adrafinil daily.
There are a few things to note here though. Of course, if you have liver problems, anything that uses your liver might make it worse. Additionally, if you already consistently take something that is processed by the liver, like daily Tylenol, then Modafinil would require liver processing power on top of that. In case of any health problems or concerns, it’s best to consult your doctor before taking nootropics.
Another thing to note, and any article about Modafinil would be remiss if it didn’t mention this word of caution: The liver enzymes that break down Adrafinil and Modafinil are the same enzymes that break down birth control hormones. Taking Adrafinil or Modafinil stimulates the production of these enzymes, which then results in a faster clearing of the hormones from the body. Therefore, if you’re on hormonal birth control, taking Adrafinil or Modafinil is disadvised — but if you do so anyway, be sure to use protection!
So which is the best -afinil?
The correct answer is that it depends on your lifestyle and what you’re looking for in a wakefulness agent.
Initially you might think it’s obviously Armodafinil. But as it turns out, the benefit of Armodafinil can be its drawback as well. With a half-life of 12 to 15 hours, imagine what happens when you take it at 10 AM in the morning. That evening, somewhere between 10 PM and 1 AM, you still have half of the Armodafinil in your bloodstream! As a nootropic designed to keep you awake and focused, that’s not going to do wonders for your sleep…
The ideal -afinil then depends on your situation. Do you need to have an entire day of vigorous work, possibly into the night, to get your essay done before the deadline tomorrow? Then you might want to wake up at 7 AM, take Armodafinil, and work the day away. Keep in mind though that because Armodafinil is a prescription drug, you might not have the option.
Is your life slightly less stressful? Then Adrafinil is a better choice, because you have more flexibility in when you take it. You can take it early in the morning, and then take another dose in the afternoon if you want, without it affecting your sleep, or you can just take a single dose in the late morning or in the afternoon, and boost your productivity in the later half of your day.
And what about Modafinil? Like Armodafinil, it’s a prescription drug and therefore not legal to buy over the counter. It also has the drawback of the long half-life of R-Modafinil, as well as the drawback that half of the dose is gone after 5 to 8 hours. The only advantage it has over Adrafinil is that it kicks in slightly faster, in roughly half an hour instead of an hour.
Hopefully, with this background information, you’ll be able to make a more informed choice about what you need and want, and have a better idea about what you can expect.
For a lot of the reasons mentioned above, we’re selling Adrafinil on our site here, so have a look if you want to boost your energy and focus.
Or click here to read some other articles about nootropics. And if anything remains unclear, we’d be happy to answer any questions via the chat or via email!