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What is Adrafinil?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Adrafinil is a pharmaceutical product that increases alertness without leading patients to develop tension and stress. It is part of a class of drugs known as eugeroics or “good arousers,” which are drugs that have stimulating effects with less of the harmful side effects associated with stimulants. A closely related drug is modafinil, which is actually a metabolite of adrafinil. When people take adrafinil, the drug is metabolized into modafinil in the body.

The drug is often marketed under the brand name Olmifon. This compound was discovered in the 1970s by pharmaceutical researchers at Group Lafon, a French pharmaceutical company. It has been approved for use in Europe and as of 2010, was not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. People in the U.S. can order the drug in small amounts for personal use.

This drug is approved for use in older patients who experience fatigue and sleepiness. It is also used by people with narcolepsy, shift workers, and other people who experience daytime sleepiness. People may also use the drug as a mood brightener or elevator. Adrafinil takes time to act in the body because it must be metabolized into an active form, and it can take several weeks for people to start to experience the full effect of the drug. It helps people stay alert and aroused, but is not associated with symptoms like tremors, stress, and increased heart rate.

Adrafinil does have liver-related side effects. It can cause liver enzymes to rise and may cause damage to the liver if a patient has an existing liver condition or takes the drug for an extended period of time without being monitored. It can also cause skin and stomach irritation. Because it acts by stimulating the central nervous system, people with existing central nervous system conditions may experience additional side effects.

People taking adrafinil should be aware that the drug will cause them to fail anti-doping tests administered at sports events. This stimulant has been deemed a performance enhancing drug and its use is not permitted at drug-free events. For drug tests administered in connection with employment, adrafinil should not cause problems, but people may want to disclose that they are using it in case there are questions about drug test results. It is also important to make sure that doctors and pharmacists know when a patient is on the drug so that they can look out for harmful drug interactions.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon349397 — On Sep 25, 2013

I found about adrafinil a month ago, and have been using it since. Because of the liver risk I plan to do one month on, and one month off, just for a while.

So, how do I feel? Well, I have never been very good at making conversation with people. I like to be left alone, which suits me fine. After a month of using adrafinil, I can think up all kinds of interesting things to talk about. I have found answers to many questions about myself, my writer’s block is a thing of the past (electronic music producer on small net labels). Even things as trivial as playing Call of Duty online I find beating people a whole lot easier.

My full time job has suffered ever so slightly. I’m a second chef in a busy pub, and under pressure I have found multitasking a little more challenging as my brain seems more focused on one thing very well, rather than on a number of things at once.

I haven't noticed being more aware of my surroundings as I were already well keyed in.

Overall though, it seems to be making a big difference to my life. I’m even going out on a date this Friday! I’d forgotten how to speak to women and now all of a sudden, I’m talking to one on the phone for up to four hours a night! I understand things in a way I didn't before, or at least that's how I feel.

One major downside: number ones and number twos both smell very strange! I have also noticed a huge boost in appetite. I recommend drinking a lot more water too, as all this extra focus will be burning more calories in your brain for sure, so keeping hydrated is important.

By orangey03 — On Dec 28, 2011

I did not like what adrafinil did to my boyfriend. He had always been so gentle and caring, though he did have trouble staying awake.

After a couple of weeks of taking the drug, he began to become irritable and aggressive. He snapped at me a couple of times. I left his house crying because of it.

He also seemed kind of confused. I think that is what made him irritable.

I talked him out of taking it anymore. Seeing me hurt was motivation enough for him to quit.

By kylee07drg — On Dec 28, 2011

@shell4life - I don’t think you have to have a prescription. I was able to order adrafinil online without one.

I also dislike doctor visits, and I found out about adrafinil while searching for something over-the-counter to keep me alert. It has made a big difference in my job performance.

Before I started taking it, I felt miserable at work. I actually caught myself nodding off a few times. All I wanted to do was lie down, but I knew I couldn’t.

Adrafinil has made me feel like a normal human being again. It is so nice to be aware of my surroundings and be able to function well.

By shell4life — On Dec 27, 2011

Does anyone know if you need a prescription to take adrafinil? I would like to try it, but I hate going to the doctor.

I struggle to stay awake at my desk job. I’m on the computer all day, and while my work is not necessarily boring, I have trouble focusing because my body just wants to go to sleep.

I don’t know why. I get plenty of sleep at night. I guess my brain just needs to be told to stay awake.

It sounds like adrafinil would be perfect for me. I don’t have any serious conditions, so I’m not worried about side effects too much.

By seag47 — On Dec 27, 2011

My husband started taking adrafinil after he got a job working from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. It was so hard for him to get up at 2:30 a.m. and get going, and he needed something other than an energy drink to sustain him throughout the day.

He was amazed at the results. Although strong coffee, two energy drinks, and three caffeinated sodas could not keep him alert all day, this medicine alone kept him going.

Now, he has totally laid off the caffeine. I am so happy about this, because adrafinil has to be better for him than consuming so much caffeine!

By bear78 — On Dec 27, 2011

@simrin-- When I took adrafinil (Olmifon), I had blurred vision, stomach cramps, heart palpitations, the works! I never took it after that. Maybe I'm really sensitive to it because I took the recommended dose and nothing more. But I think that other more common stimulants are much better than adrafinil.

I have heard that the metabolite form- modafinil- has less short-term and long-term side effects than adrafinil. It's supposed to have less chances of causing liver damage and could be used regularly unlike adrafinil. I haven't seen any proof of these claims though and I never tried modafinil so I couldn't say for sure.

If you prefer to take one of these, it might be a good idea to find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of each.

By burcidi — On Dec 26, 2011

@simrin-- I used to buy adrafinil online and use it in college during finals and sometimes while working to stay up to finish projects. It definitely works much better than caffeine. I wouldn't really say that it's a replacement because adrafinil is a drug and you can't consume it like you can caffeine. But it certainly helped me concentrate and stay awake when I needed to.

I do remember getting headaches and a really dry mouth when I used it for like a week. I think I used to take something like 100 milligrams and up to 200 if I really needed to. This was enough for me. I didn't want to push it more than this because I know 200 up to 400 mg is what is used to treat narcolepsy. The least amount you can take that's still effective is best.

By SteamLouis — On Dec 26, 2011

I didn't even know that there are medications which can boost energy and alertness without immediate side effects and sudden drops in energy and mood. That's good news for me!

I'm unable to sleep at nights but have to wake up early and go to work which is so difficult for me. I have caffeine and energy drinks all day to keep me going until I get home.

The bad part is not just the jitters and nervousness, but that I keep having to have more and more caffeine because my body is adapting to it. I used to be fine with a couple of cups of black tea and maybe a soda throughout the day. Now I have tea, coffee and soda multiple times a day to get the same results which is not good.

Has anyone tried replacing their need for caffeine with adrafinil and if you did, how did that work out? I know long-term use is not recommended but does adrafinil also require higher amounts over time to show the same results?

Were there any other adrafinil side effects you experienced not mentioned by the article? I would like to hear people's experiences with this drug.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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