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Modafinil Vs. Ritalin

Modafinil Vs. Ritalin

Last updated on 30 Apr, 2024

Modafinil and Ritalin are effective stimulants that are used for promoting wakefulness and treating the symptoms of ADHD.

However, many people choose Modafinil over Ritalin because of its multiple on-label and off-label uses, safety, and lower risk of abuse and dependence.

Ritalin is one of the most popular and common smart drugs on the market, but over the past decade, Modafinil has exploded in popularity, pushing it to be at the forefront of the smart drug community.

In this context, Modafinil vs. Ritalin, we discuss what makes these two drugs similar, what makes them different, and which is the best option for you.

Modafinil And Ritalin: An Overview Of Both The Medications

Modafinil is a wakefulness-promoting agent that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat Narcolepsy, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and Shift Work Sleep Disorder. This medicine was developed by Lafon Laboratories and French Neuroscientist Michel Jouvet and is manufactured by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries [1].

Modafinil is available under various brand names, such as Modalert, Provigil, and Modvigil. Methylphenidate, available under various brand names such as Ritalin and Concerta, is a central nervous system stimulant used medically to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Mechanism Of Actions: Ritalin Vs. Modafinil

Ritalin works by increasing the circulating levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the synaptic cleft, which in turn makes you more alert and speeds up the activity of the brain. The working mechanism of Modafinil includes elevation of the secretion of certain neurotransmitters of the brain, such as glutamate, orexin, histamine, dopamine, and serotonin, resulting in its wakefulness property.

Modafinil Vs. Methylphenidate: Similarities


Below are some of the similarities between Modafinil and Ritalin:

Drug Class - 

Both Ritalin and Modafinil are brain stimulants that helps promote wakefulness.

Availability - 

In the United States, Modafinil and Ritalin require a prescription.

Common Uses - 

Both Modafinil and Ritalin are used to treat excessive daytime sleepiness associated with certain sleep disorders and are also used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Nootropic Effects - 

Nootropic are various natural, semi-synthetic, and synthetic substances that activate cognitive functions [3].

Both Modafinil and Ritalin have some nootropic effects in addition to their stimulating effects. Both these stimulants help increase concentration and focus, improve test-taking and task performance, and increase alertness.

Provigil Vs. Ritalin: Differences 

Some of the notable differences between Provigil and Ritalin are given below - 

Dosage - 

Modafinil is available in a dosage strength of 100-200 mg, and the standard dosage of this popular nootropic is 200 mg.

On the other hand, Ritalin is available in dosage strengths of 5mg, 10 mg, and 20mg. Whereas its extended-release capsule is available in the dosage strength of 10mg-85 mg [4] [5].

Habit Forming - 

Ritalin is a schedule II controlled substance (substance with a high risk of abuse) that is more likely to be abused and has the potential for addiction.

On the other hand, Modafinil is a schedule IV controlled substance (substances with a lower risk of abuse); therefore, the chances of abuse and addiction of Modafinil are very low. Modafinil is a well-tolerated medicine and has a low probability or chance of addiction, states Dongsoo Kim in a study that was published in 2012 [6].

Cost - 

The cost of Ritalin 20 mg (pack of 60 tablets) at Walgreens online pharmacy is $ 0.44 per pill, whereas the discounted price of Modafinil 200 mg (pack of 100 pills) at Healthmatter online pharmacy is $ 1.37 per pill.

It is important to note that the prices of Modafinil and Ritalin may vary based on online stores, brands, packaging, and Country.

Some of the other differences between Modafinil and Ritalin are given below in the table - 




FDA approval 

Yes, 1998 [1] 

Yes, 2002 [7]

Generic name 



Chemical name 


Acetamide [8]. 

Methyl-alpha-phenyl-2-piperidine-acetate-hydrochloride [2]. 


Active compound 


Inactive compound

Povidone,  microcrystalline cellulose, magnesium stearate, pregalatinized starch, croscarmellose sodium [9]. 

Active Compound 

Methylphenidate Hydrochloride

Inactive Compounds

Talc, microcrystalline cellulose, lactose monohydrate, and magnesium stearate. 

Legal status

Canada- Prescription only 

USA - Schedule IV

Australia - S4 (Prescription only)

UK - Prescription only. 

Canada - Schedule III

Australia - S8 (Controlled drug)

UN - Psychotropic Schedule II

DE (Germany) -Anlage III (special prescription required). 


12-15 hours 

1-4 hours

Modafinil Vs. Concerta - Medical Uses


Modafinil And Ritalin For Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that impacts a person’s sleeping and waking cycles. Ritalin is a second-line treatment option for Narcolepsy in adults. Doctors may prescribe Ritalin to patients to treat the symptoms of Narcolepsy if other drug options have been unsuccessful.

The typical dose of Ritalin for Narcolepsy ranges between 5 mg to 10 mg [10]. Modafinil was approved by the U.S. Food And Drug Administration for the treatment of excessive sleepiness associated with Narcolepsy in 1998.

Modafinil reduces excessive daytime sleepiness and increases daytime sleep latency compared with placebo in patients with Narcolepsy, says K J McClellan in a study published in the year 1998 [11].

The typical dosage of Modafinil for Narcolepsy is 200 mg per day [12].

Modafinil And Ritalin For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a clinical condition consisting of prolonged fatigue in which concentration disturbances are very frequent.

Ritalin at a dose of 2 x 10 mg per day is found to be significantly better than placebo in relieving concentration and fatigue disturbances in a minority of patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, says Daniel Blockmans et al. in a 2006 clinical study [13].

The prolonged intake of Ritalin for fatigue by Patients with difficulties in concentration has a positive effect in about one out of three patients, according to a study by Philippe Persoons et al. in 2016 [14].

The recovery from refractory chronic fatigue syndrome with CBT ( Cognitive-behavioral therapy and Modafinil study by Himanshu Garg suggests that Modafinil could be considered for CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) patients with chronic disabilities when other evidence-based treatment options have failed [15].

Ritalin And Modafinil for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADHD is a medical condition in which a person has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control [16].

Ritalin was first approved by the FDA in the mid-1950s to treat ADHD in adults. This drug has proven effective and safe and is considered the first-line drug for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

In patients with ADHD, Ritalin decreases restlessness, improves concentration, and increases attention span.

Modafinil is not approved for the treatment of ADHD. However, this nootropic may be prescribed off-label for this purpose.

A review of the year 2006 for ADHD states that Modafinil is more powerful than a placebo in treating the symptoms of ADHD, particularly in children and adolescents [17] [18].

Methylphenidate Vs. Modafinil: Side Effects


Some of the common side effects of Ritalin and Modafinil are given below in the table [19] [20] -






Weight loss,


Stomach pain,

Loss of appetite,


Dry mouth,

Dry mouth, 


Back pain, 

Back pain,





Muscle tightness,

Difficulty staying or falling asleep,


Excessive thirst.


Some of the severe side effects that require medical attention are -




Chest pain,

Chest pain,

Shortness of breath,


Weakness or numbness of a leg or an arm,



Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat,



Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat. 

Other adverse events that are not listed in the table above may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other unwanted effects after taking Modafinil or Ritalian, check with your doctor.

Pros And Cons - Modafinil Vs. Ritalin

Five pros of Modafinil

  • It can help with fatigue as well as attention.

  • It can promote wakefulness without overstimulation.

  • Doesn’t interfere with the normal sleep cycle when taken as recommended.

  • Available as a lower-priced generic version.

  • Convenient once-daily dosing.

Four cons of Modafinil 

  • Interacts with a variety of medications such as hormonal birth control, omeprazole, and warfarin.

  • People with kidney, heart, and liver disease might need a lower dose of the nootropic.

  • Not known its safety for children use.

  • Not recommended to pregnant and lactating women. 

Five pros of Ritalin 

  • First-line treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

  • Lower price.

  • It can be used in children (as young as 6 years).

  • Available in oral solution, tablet, and chewable tablet form.

  • For treating the symptoms of ADHD, it is available as extended-release and immediate-release pills, liquid, and chewable tablets.

Five cons of Ritalin 

  • Ritalin has a higher risk of abuse and dependence because it is a Schedule IV controlled substance.

  • One cannot stop taking this medicine without consulting their doctor.

  • Taking a drug test for this stimulant will result in a positive for methylphenidate.

  • Not a good option for people who normally feel agitated, anxious, or tense.

  • Ritalin can affect the growth of children and teens.

Can You Take Modafinil And Ritalin Together? 

Although it is not clear how Modafinil and Ritalin interact with one another when taken together, taking both medications brings more serious side effects than using either medication alone. There is also an increased risk of overdose as well as addiction or dependence [22].

Modafinil Vs. Ritalin: Our Final Thoughts

Which is the best medicine for your desired purpose? Based on our findings, we prefer Modafinil over Ritalin because it doesn’t appear to be habit-forming like methylphenidate and lasts way longer. It also offers similar cognitive benefits in addition to being used as a treatment for both Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and sleep disorders.


One of the many side effects of Modafinil is decreased appetite, as a result of which some people taking this nootropic can lose weight.

Yes, Ritalin can make you tired, particularly people with ADHD.

Yes, Modafinil is better than Ritalin.

Modafinil is not approved for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder because of a lack of long-term studies of the nootropic for treating ADHD.

Modafinil takes around 30-60 minutes to show its effects.

No, Modafinil doesn’t drain dopamine. In fact, it increases the levels of dopamine in the brain.


  1. Modafinil, Wikipedia

  2. Methylphenidate, Wikipedia

  3. Nootropic, Wikipedia. 
  4. Modafinil dosage, 

  5. Methylphenidate (Oral Route), Mayoclinic.

  6. Practical Use and Risk of Modafinil, a Novel Waking Drug, NCBI

  7. Ritalin (methylphenidate HCl); Ritalin LA, Ritalin SR, centerwatch

  8. PROVIGIL® (modafinil) Tablets [C-IV] Rx Only DESCRIPTION,

  9. Modafinil tablet, dailymed

  10. What are the side effects and risks of Ritalin? medicalnewstoday.

  11. Modafinil: A Review of its Pharmacology and Clinical Efficacy in the Management of Narcolepsy, NCBI
  12. Modafinil (Oral Route), Mayoclinic. 

  13.  Does methylphenidate reduce the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?, NCBI

  14. Does methylphenidate reduce the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?, NCBI

  15. Recovery from refractory chronic fatigue syndrome with CBT and modafinil, NCBI
  16. ADHD, kidshealth

  17. A comparison of once-daily and divided doses of modafinil in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled study, NCBI 

  18. A review of the use of modafinil for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, NCBI

  19. Modafinil, medlineplus

  20. Methylphenidate, medlineplus

  21. Can You Take Modafinil and Ritalin Together?evokewaltham


Disclaimer: We do not provide any medical advice.

The contents of HealthMatter are for informational purpose only and is taken by a thorough evaluation of research papers and Journals. We do not provide professional medical advice, treatment, or diagnosis. We advise all readers to consult a physician before consuming any medication mentioned on the website.