Provigil vs Nuvigil and Other Modafinil Alternatives

Last Updated: October 12, 2021

Authored by Roger Weiss, MD

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Presently, over 70 million Americans suffer from some type of sleep disorder, and a majority of this number are not even aware of the dire condition that ails them.
Prolonged negligence of a healthy sleep routine can result in various sleeping disorders. These include sleep apnea, leg cramps, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, and narcolepsy.
On that note, drugs such as Provigil and Nuvigil are being prescribed as a solution to these disorders – especially narcolepsy. In this text, we review and compare Provigil vs Nuvigil, providing details about how they function as wakefulness stimulants.

Provigil and Nuvigil: What are They?

Both of these drugs have a similar sounding name, even when generic versions are compared (modafinil vs armodafinil). However, this is not where the similarities end.

These are both stimulants that treat excessive sleepiness caused by narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, or shift work sleep disorder.

Both drugs are approved for use by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The former was approved in 1998 while the latter was approved in 2007.

Provigil and Nuvigil are classified as Schedule IV controlled substances under the United States Controlled Substances Act.

From the get-go, it is clear that these two share a lot of similarities. Some of these are listed below, and the differences between both are also discussed further on.

Elderly Woman is Checking 2 Medicines

Provigil vs Nuvigil: What are the Similarities?

Firstly, both Provigil (modafinil) and Nuvigil (armodafinil) are sleep-promoting prescription medications used to treat various sleeping disorders such as narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), etc. Their main function is to boost brain activity in order to maintain wakefulness.

Incidentally, the same pharmaceutical company, Cephalon, makes both drugs. They will exude the same effects in the body. This includes an increased release of catecholamines norepinephrine and dopamine from synaptic terminals.

At the same time, the effects also include the elevation of hypothalamic histamine levels.

As a Result, Comparing Provigil vs Nuvigil Shows the Following Similarities:

  • Both Nuvigil and Provigil are stimulants
  • Both are labeled as Schedule IV controlled substances
  • Both drugs are available as oral tablets
  • They are off-limits to persons under the age of 17
  • They both carry addictive properties
  • Nuvigil and Provigil are both exclusively prescription drugs

Provigil vs Nuvigil: What are the Differences?

Despite their close similarities in many ways, comparing Provigil and Nuvigil shows a number of striking differences.

Metric Provigil Nuvigil
Active Ingredient/Generic Name Modafinil Armodafinil
Approval Date December 1998 June 2007
Standard Dosage 200mg once a day 150mg per day
Differing Side Effects Back pain, nasal congestion
Half-life Shorter half-life (about 15 hours) Longer half-life on same dosage (up to 20 hours)

Taking Provigil vs Nuvigil

When taking either one of these drugs, it is important to follow the strict guides and prescriptions given by the doctor.

While Getting That Prescription, These Are Some Things to Note about Using Provigil:

  • One can take the drug with or without food
  • Patients are not allowed to share the drug with anyone
  • Anyone younger than the age of 19, should not be taking the drug
  • One should store the drug at room temperature and away from heat and moisture
  • It is vital to tell a doctor if one is pregnant or planning to become pregnant

Additionally, the doctor might recommend some precautions to be followed, or things to avoid when taking these medications.

They are:

  • Avoid drinking alcohol with Provigil
  • Avoid driving or any other tasks that require alertness
  • Limit excessive caffeine intake
  • Avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice
  • Avoid using marijuana

Some side effects can be severe – in cases of allergic reactions, for instance.

However, One Must Stop the Medication and Consult a Doctor Straight Away If Any of the following Symptoms Persist:

  • Swelling of the leg, face, eyes, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Skin rash, hives, sores in the mouth, or skin blisters and peels
  • Trouble swallowing or breathing
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes
  • Dark urine
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden mood/mental changes
  • Irregular heartbeat
Man Suffers from Sore Throat

Modafinil Compared to Other Stimulants

Since the discovery of Modafinil and its uses, medicine has continued to look for ways by which the potency of the drug can be fully maximized and side effects/risks can be reduced simultaneously.

This has birthed the need for analogs that are structurally similar to modafinil, but function in a slightly different manner or present slightly different risks/effects in a bid to provide a healthy variety of options that people with different specific needs can choose from.

Some of These Similar Medications are Compared Below:

Modafinil vs Adderall

In a Modafinil vs Adderall comparison, we find that both are central nervous system stimulant medications, which means that they both have stimulant effects. Just like Modafinil, Adderall can also be used in the medical treatment of narcolepsy.

Another significant difference between Modafinil vs Adderall is found in the occurrence of side effects and risk for abuse or dependence. Adderall side effects tend to be more severe with a higher chance of occurrence in comparison to Modafinil.

Also, where Modafinil is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance with a low risk of abuse, Adderall is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance with a significant risk for abuse and dependence.

Provigil vs Vyvanse

In a Provigil vs Vyvanse comparison, we find that these two drugs share similar side effects such as headache, nausea, dizziness, nervousness, diarrhea, dry mouth, anxiety, and insomnia. However, the key functions of Provigil vs Vyvanse are different.

The major uses of Vyvanse are the medical treatment of ADHD and moderate to severe binge eating disorders. However, both of these drugs are used off-label increasing focus and concentration.

Similar to Adderall, Vyvanse is also an amphetamine, so it comes with the same risks of tolerance and addiction. This makes it altogether a riskier option than Provigil, although the recommendation of a medical doctor is most important.

Ritalin vs Modafinil

Ritalin is another drug that works for boosting alertness. It is available in immediate-release and extended-release tablets, and it is the preferred medication for the treatment of ADHD or narcolepsy in elderly people.

In a Ritalin vs Modafinil comparison, we find that side effects such as headache, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, and agitation are common.

A significant difference between Ritalin vs Modafinil is the dosage regularity. Ritalin is usually prescribed to be taken two to three times daily, which is more frequent than the typical modafinil dosage.

Modafinil vs Adrafinil

In a Modafinil vs Adrafinil comparison, we find that both are quite similar, even down to chemical structure. However, taking the latter is basically a roundabout way of getting modafinil into the body, because that is what the drug metabolizes to in the system.

Additionally, comparing Modafinil vs Adrafinil shows that the latter is generally considered to be less potent because it requires a higher dose in comparison for a similar effect.

An agreed-upon reason for the use of Adrafinil despite this fact is attributed to the relatively easy accessibility of the drug, as it is unregulated in the United States whereas Modafinil is officially a controlled substance.

Elderly Woman and Pharmacist

Modafinil Over-the-Counter Alternatives

The best way to completely avoid the risk of tolerance or dependence on Provigil is to consider Modafinil over-the-counter alternatives, especially if the plan was to use the medication off-label.
There are Modafinil over-the-counter and natural alternatives that are deemed effective, and these are listed below.

Modafinil Over-the-Counter Alternatives are:

  • Adrafinil
  • Noopept
  • Sulbutiamine
  • Phenylpiracetam
  • Semax

Natural Alternatives to Provigil are:

  • Tryptophan supplement (can be gotten from V-8 juice, eggs, and milk)
  • Melatonin supplements (can be found in a diet containing tart cherries, eggs, milk, fruits and vegetables, fish, grains, olives, walnuts, rice, and barley)
  • Caffeine (in moderation)
  • Panax ginseng
  • Acetyl L-Carnitine (found in asparagus)
Natural Food Alternatives

Finding What Works Best

It is important to note that the information provided about Provigil vs Nuvigil in this text is purely for research purposes. The best way to decide which is right, or to find what alternative would work best, is to consult with a doctor and explain the situation.

This will help to ensure that any prescription is given under supervision, and the risks involved can be monitored and controlled to an extent. Do not self-medicate, stay safe!

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Page Sources

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Published on: May 5th, 2017

Updated on: October 12th, 2021

About Author

Roger Weiss, MD

Dr. Roger Weiss is a practicing mental health specialist at the hospital. Dr. Weiss combines his clinical practice and medical writing career since 2009. Apart from these activities, Dr. Weiss also delivers lectures for youth, former addicts, and everyone interested in topics such as substance abuse and treatment.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.