Mental performance and focus

Adrafinil – Benefits and side effects

What is Adrafinil?

Adrafinil was discovered in 1974 by a French pharmaceutical company. It is a synthetic nootropic compound, i.e. substances that improve cognitive function, memory and /or motivation.

Adrafinil is used worldwide for the following reasons:

Energy and stimulation

This is the drug’s primary function. It stimulates the nervous system to reduce fatigue and prevent falling asleep for extended periods of time. According to a few studies, adrafinil enhances attention and concentration by increasing levels of histamine in the brain.

Treating depression

Adrafinil  is seen to reduce symptoms of depression, but it had more to do with improving the psychomotor symptoms such as slowed movements and decreased energy and not with improving the mood.

Treatment of narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by sudden and uncontrollable attacks of deep sleep despite adequate sleep at night. Adrafinil  was used in the treatment of this disorder but was discontinued in 2011 as a higher dose was required compared to modafinil to reach a similar effect.

Benefits of adrafinil over other stimulants:

 Produces fewer side effects

Side effects such as irregularities in sleep-wake cycles, appetite, and mood were reported to be relatively lower than those of other nootropics. However, this is not conclusive as it could be on account of relatively little research done on adrafinil.

Low addiction potential

A study showed that adrafinil can be taken up to 3 years without causing any serious dependence. However, the safety of long term use is unknown.

In many countries, adrafinil can be purchased without a prescription. Considering adrafinil is not medically approved and the lack of legal regulations regarding it, it would be wise to take a look at the potential risks associated with the drug.

Side effects of adrafinil

Headaches and nausea

 These are the most frequently reported side effects.

 Effect on the liver

Ingested adrafinil is converted into its active form, modafinil, in the liver. Only about one-third of it is converted. Hence, intake of adrafinil over longer periods of time may lead to increased liver enzymes and liver toxicity.

This can be a cause of concern for individuals with pre-existing liver problems. In that case, intake of adrafinil should be limited to 300 mg per day or less. It should not be taken more than three days a week

Other side effects include

  • Stomach ache
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Rhinitis
  • Vertigo
  • Back pain
  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety

How to take adrafinil

Adrafinil should not be taken daily. Instead, it should be taken only when needed, i.e. if an individual is sleep-deprived or stressed. The drug should only be taken in the morning – most preferably an hour or so after waking up since there is a natural spike in cortisol levels after waking – so as to not disturb sleep at night.

It should not be taken during pregnancy or breastfeeding as it may alter normal hormone levels.

Neither should it be taken with alcohol as it can lead to more intense hangovers and even blackouts.


Adrafinil is an effective alternative to caffeine and other stimulants. It is a sure way to heighten concentration levels and reduce sleepiness. Since only one-third of ingested adrafinil is put to use, it puts a strain on the liver by comparison. It is an over-the-counter medicine, therefore caution should be exercised regarding its intake.

Overall, one can minimize the side effects and maximize the benefits if it is taken within the recommended dose.