The 4 Best Modafinil Alternatives in 2023
In this article, we will cover some of the alternative drugs that can be taken in place of Modafinil, known by the common brand name of Provigil.
Note: the article gets pretty technical, and explains the reasons why you should take each Modafinil alternative, and how they work. To sum things up, here are the top 3 alternatives to Modafinil (and Armodafinil):
- Adrafinil (duh). Cheaper. Legal. And converts to Modafinil in your liver. Said to be not nearly as effective as actual modafinil.
- Fluorenol. Another wakefulness-promoting agent, it targets similar receptors in the brain (histamine). The effects are shorter, so it’s less likely to disturb your sleep.
- Pitosolant. Another wakefulness drug, also targeting the histamine receptors. New research is very promising; it has the benefits of Modafinil, without the side effects.
- Qualia (honorable mention). Qualia is a popular nootropic stack that friends of mine take it about 2-3 times per week. With a long list of natural ingredients, it’s an effective alternative to Modafinil for a more natural brain health.
A suitable alternative to Modafinil maintains eugeroic characteristics while keeping side effects the same or milder, as well as avoiding legal and logistical complications.
What is Modafinil (and Why Do People Take It?)
We love Modafinil here at Corpina. The research surrounding it, the nootropic effects, and the sheer interest from the public.
To quickly recap on what Modafinil does, it’s primarily an effective eugeroic or wakefulness-enhancing drug.
This is highly useful when extra alertness is needed during the day, especially when you’re sleep-deprived.
In addition, Modafinil is known for giving its users extra motivation and focus on their tasks at hand.
Clearly, these effects are highly sought after by swarms of people, especially those who need to think and perform efficiently on a daily basis.
Recently we did a review of a well-known distributor of generic Modafinil, Duckdose, so hesitant buyers can feel more confident about trying it. (Note that DuckDose is out of business and the recommended modafinil vendor for buying online is BuyModa.org by far.)
Few people could argue about the attractiveness of Modafinil, with its great strength and reliability, to the ambitious folks of the world.
BUT, it’s not perfect!
It’s hard to accept it but Modafinil has a few noticeable drawbacks.
Not all people will care about them, but we must take these cons into consideration for our quest in exploring nootropics.
While it is certainly not the time to drop Modafinil as a nootropic for most of us, as it is still an incredibly effective drug, we want to shed some light on similar substances out there that act in a similar fashion.
Not only can we enable some users to avoid potential downsides, but we can experiment with substances that can effectively be an alternative to Modafinil for cognitive enhancement.
What are the downsides to using Modafinil?
First and foremost, there are the infamous legal restrictions on Modafinil, as well as its more potent brother substance, arModafinil.
Modafinil is generally not allowed to be purchased without a prescription in most countries and international trade has been greatly inhibited.
One example of trade restriction was back in 2015 when Sun Pharma, as well as other companies in India, were barred from shipping generic products into the United States, including their well-known Modafinil products.
To summarize – it can be difficult to access a supply of Modafinil.
There are services such as Duckdose and AfinilExpress, both of which ship in products from India to their countries, but some customs laws are harder to bypass than others, especially in many European and middle-eastern countries.
Currently, BuyModa sources its generic modafinil from India and sends it pretty much worldwide via India, Singapore, the UK, Hungary, Germany, or Poland. Yeah, they have that big of a logistical reach.
2. Long duration of effects
While the long-lasting power of Modafinil’s effects is considered beneficial to many, it can also be a serious drawback.
From what we’ve researched, both regular Modafinil and arModafinil have half-lives that are between 12 and 15 hours.
This means that a user may have to take a tablet of either substance at an early time of day in order to easily fall asleep in the evening.
Individuals that are sensitive to stimulation may especially suffer from insomnia, even beyond a typical day length after ingesting Modafinil.
To most people, this is nitpicking, to be honest. Long half-life is not often complained about with Modafinil. But it does offer room for improvement and opportunity to try alternative eugeroic substances.
Some people simply don’t respond to Modafinil. Even with a full dose, a person’s body chemistry might lead to a scenario where Modafinil is metabolized too quickly.
This doesn’t induce a response in the nervous system or produces tolerance too quickly. If this is the case, (again, a rare one), then other drugs need to be considered to achieve effects.
Modafinil tolerance could be linked to its mechanism of action involving the dopamine pathways of the brain, where downregulation of receptors should be avoided on a chronic basis.
What do we look for in alternatives?
Now that we’ve seen some of the drawbacks of Modafinil use, we can begin to explore the properties of alternative drugs that we want to see.
The most obvious traits we want to see are fewer hoops with legality and availability, with the optional traits of shorter half-life for sensitive sleepers and different mechanisms of action for non-responders.
NOT suitable: Ritalin, Adderall
Before talking about what IS suitable as a Modafinil alternative, we need to clarify what ISN’T.
AVOID: ADHD Medication
Common medications prescribed generally for ADHD, such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (Amphetamine salts) do provide extra wakefulness and focus to most people.
However, they also cause side effects such as heart palpitations, nervousness, and lack of appetite.
In addition, they are even more regulated by governments than Modafinil, being generally in higher schedules in drug control laws.
Don’t forget, we’re seeking LESS regulation and LESS side effects.
If you’re already taking Adderall, Modafinil is a great substitute. But here we’re trying to move farther away from ADHD meds, not towards them.
Adrafinil is what we call a metabolic precursor (or prodrug) to Modafinil, and is chemically very similar to it.
According to an article from BrainProTips, Adrafinil is taken orally, then it is neutralized by stomach acid, and given an extra hydrogen atom to its amide group in the liver, effectively converting it to Modafinil within the body.
Thus, it can be treated as a sort of bio-hack to a bio-hack.
Unlike its downstream sibling, Adrafinil is readily available online from supplement sellers.
There are much fewer legal restrictions associated with Adrafinil because it is technically a different drug and not commonly prescribed by doctors.
Most countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, legally permit anyone to possess and use Adrafinil.
Adrafinil has similar effects as Modafinil, but it has the drawback of a longer onset. Its effects originate from the Modafinil that is produced as the liver metabolizes it.
This means, it can take a much longer time to kick in and much higher doses are required to reach the desired effects. Sources to buy this substance include Star Nootropics (formally known as New Star Nootropics), AbsorbYourHealth, and Ceretropic.
Ceretropic may be unique in that they offer two forms of Adrafinil – light and dark, that they claim to work better for different people.
For instance, one person might metabolize and use dark Adrafinil better than light Adrafinil.
One of the ways Modafinil is thought to work is by increasing levels of histamine in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that among other things, influences the sleep-wake cycle.
This mechanism of action can notably be extended to other known substances.
Fluorenol, (or 9-hydroxyfluorene) is a molecule that does just that. It is a rather mysterious substance that was originally patented as an insecticide in 1939 and was later investigated as a successor to Modafinil by the biopharmaceutical company Cephalon.
According to the nootropic managing website TrackMyStack, Fluorenol both increases histamine levels and acts as a 5-HT6 antagonist.
The former helps the drugs work as a eugeroic, and the latter is serotonin-related, which is thought to give fluorenol a superior mood-boosting effect to Modafinil.
The major difference as a eugeroic is the duration of effect, which appears to be 4 hours versus 12-15 hours for Modafinil.
However, this shorter timeframe can be highly sought after for a person who wants to take a stimulant in the evening and still be able to sleep later that night, for instance.
In simpler terms, this could allow people to have more control when they want to experience wakefulness enhancement.
Fluorenol is available from Ceretropic, under their brand name of Hydrafinil, which is noticeably geared towards the purpose of substituting for Modafinil.
In Europe, the search for a post-Modafinil eugeroic may have already proven successful.
The purpose of the EMA’s approval was for the treatment of Narcolepsy, which is the on-label purpose of Modafinil in the medical community at the moment.
Similar to fluorenol (and Modafinil), pitolisant works by acting on the histamine systems of the brain.
However, it should be noted that while we’re not sure about the other two, pitolisant MAINLY works through this mechanism, specifically by acting on histamine H3 receptors as an inverse agonist, increasing histamine levels in the brain.
Now, how effective is pitolisant versus Modafinil for wakefulness?
According to the latest research, there are plenty!
In Europe, a double-blind study was conducted where Narcoleptic patients were given Pitolisant, Modafinil, or a placebo.
Both the Modafinil and pitolisant succeeded at promoting wakefulness compared to placebo, but the Pitolisant patients had a significantly lower incidence of side effects than those who had taken Modafinil.
It’s also worth noting that the Pitolisant was significantly more potent, requiring only a tenth of the dose compared to Modafinil. (For reference, the Pitolisant doses were 10, 20, or 40 milligrams versus 100, 200, or 400 milligrams of Modafinil).
Pitolisant research is still fairly young, and the substance seems to be on its way to the general prescription marketplace.
In the nootropic community, there is interest in experimenting with Pitolisant, but there have been setbacks such as lack of availability.
Reddit user MisterYouAreSoDumb, or Paul from Ceretropic, attempted to acquire Pitolisant to sell to no avail so far.
Honorable mention: Modafy
In a testament to the popularity of Modafinil, a nootropic stack has recently come out which appears to be a legitimate alternative to Modafinil (according to what I’ve read on nootropics forums). I reached out to Nooblend, the company behind Modafy, for a sample and they promptly sent me a bottle to try.
I’ve been using the product for about two and a half weeks now and wanted to share my thoughts with Corpina readers. First off, I just finished a long and difficult project at work so I wasn’t functioning at 100% when I started taking the stack. This could be classified as “brain fog” but it was more likely just stress and a perpetually poor mood.
As I mentioned above, I’m always looking for ways to get off synthetic nootropics and move toward natural stacks, so I decided to try Modafy in the hopes that it would help me bounce back without relying on Modafinil/Armodafinil. Further, the stack ingredients are what I consider to be the “foundation” of any good nootropic stack: Alpha GPC (focus and attention), L-Theanine (focus and relaxation), Phosphatidylserine (mood), Guarana, Lion’s Mane & COQ10 (brain health).
I started taking 3 capsules in the morning about 15 minutes after my first bite into breakfast, and the first day I quickly noticed the effects. I was able to continue to work and recover from the multi-week sprint to finish the client project. The feeling you get on Modafy is akin to Qualia, though a bit milder and without the caffeine-like stimulus (though it’s not an issue with Qualia, it’s still nice to take caffeine-free noots as I’m able to pinpoint the effects much more easily). I only take it 3-4 times per week, alternate days, and taking a 2-3 day break each week.
I’m not overly sensitive to choline nootropics, but many others are, so I suggest starting with a couple of days per week then increasing your frequency depending on how you feel. All in all, it’s another solid stack to add to your arsenal. I’ll be keeping an eye out for other “alternative-to-Modafinil” type stacks going forward and update this page if and when I find them.
Other Wakefulness Enhancers
While not strictly eugeroics, there are some alternative substances that can endow some of Modafinil’s other benefits, such as increased motivation and focus.
Phenylpiracetam is more strictly classified as a nootropic and is known for giving its users bursts of energy and motivation.
Semax is a relatively new nootropic from Russia that imparts motivational effects, as well as a reduction in anxiety and a creativity boost in some.
Micro-doses of LSD can have a life-altering effect similar to Modafinil, in that it enhances creativity and the drive to think differently and more innovatively than others.
While many will still view Modafinil as “the king of c” for some time, it’s good to consider that there are similar drugs out there.
As with other forms of technology, nootropics is a field of research that will improve over time, and become increasingly palatable to new users who want to avoid side effects.
Check out some of the alternatives we have highlighted, continue visiting us for new research about the topic, and more!
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