3 MIN READ | General

Adrafinil: A Pick-Me-Up Nootropic with Benefits and Cautions

Peter Wallace

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We all enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the morning to kick-start our day. The caffeine in coffee is one of the most effective and proven stimulant substances, and that’s the main reason why coffee is such a popular drink. Caffeine also belongs to a group of cognitive-enhancing substances known as nootropics.

Consisting of age-old herbal remedies, dietary supplements and drugs, nootropics have become a hot topic recently, and more and more people are getting curious about these supplements that claim to improve cognitive and mental performance

Nootropics have various uses and they include stimulants as well as depressant substances. Besides caffeine, adrafinil is another stimulant nootropic that has been increasing in popularity.


Adrafinil is a type of nootropic agent which aids in enhancing alertness and deterring sleepiness. It is used to boost concentration, increase energy and support cognitive abilities. It is a mild stimulant drug that assists in fighting exhaustion and fatigue for a prolonged period of time.

Owing to its awakening characteristics, adrafinil is very beneficial for night shift workers and generally anyone who needs to stay awake and alert for long or odd hours.

Background

Adrafinil was discovered in the early 1970s by chemists working for Lafon Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company based in France, who were searching for analgesics.

During animal tests, pharmacological studies of adrafinil showed psychostimulant effects including hyperactivity and wakefulness. It was then studied in humans for the treatment of narcolepsy and other sleep disorders.

Adrafinil was first approved in France and marketed under the brand name Olmifon. By the mid-1980s, it was widely used in Europe for the treatment of narcolepsy and other related disorders. Lafon was later acquired by Cephalon who decided to discontinue the production of Olmifon in September 2011.

Nonetheless, generic adrafinil still continued to be produced and sold worldwide. Since it is not an approved medication in most countries, it can only be sold for non-medical or research purposes and it is generally treated as a non-prescription supplement. In most Western countries, adrafinil is legal to buy over-the-counter given that it is not sold for medical purposes: treating a disease.

Benefits

Adrafinil has mild yet notable stimulant and antidepressant effects. The exact pharmacological activity of adrafinil, and its main metabolite modafinil, has not been fully understood and established yet.

Some studies noted that modafinil; adrafinil’s active metabolite, interacts with different neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain, and that it enhanced the function of excitatory neurotransmitters associated with wakefulness, alertness and mood.

The following are some of the general benefits that have been observed by adrafinil users:

  • It boosts overall energy levels, concentration and endurance. This has greatly increased its popularity among students, truck drivers and workers enduring night shift work.
  • It boosts productivity, which is largely due to increased energy and excitement. This has proven to be of considerable value for those working in competitive environments.
  • Some cognitive benefits can be achieved, such as improved learning ability and memory. This could make it helpful for students looking to improve their thinking and recall ability during exams, however, there is no clinical evidence to back up this claim.

Who should take it?

Adrafinil can prove to be of great use for individuals in the following categories:

  • People engaged in creative activities, such as artists and writers
  • Students preparing for examinations
  • People desiring to develop their social skills
  • Computer/gaming addicts
  • Employees with long working hours or night shift workers.

Side effects

To date, there are no known serious side effects or risks associated with proper usage of adrafinil. The following are some of the more common, although generally rare, side effects that may be noticeable in some users:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Agitation
  • Digestive problems
  • High blood pressure

Taking a high dose of adrafinil can lead to a potential fall in the amount of urine production. Overdosing can also lead to other side effects and in the long run may result in damage to the liver, where adrafinil is metabolised and converted into modafinil.

It is not advised to take adrafinil every single day. Many experts recommend taking it three times a week or less. If you are looking for a nootropic supplement that can be taken every day and for a long period of time, you should look into natural or herbal cognitive enhancers. Synthetic nootropics, like adrafinil, are more suitable for short-term use and they should only be taken when needed.

It is also not advised to take adrafinil with caffeine or other stimulant drugs as that may worsen the side effects and increase excitement and nervousness to a point where it becomes counterproductive.

Adrafinil does have potential benefits for people working odd or prolonged hours. Nevertheless, it should be used with caution and administered with proper monitoring and moderation. Consulting with your doctor or pharmacist is always advised before taking any supplement or drug, and this is especially important if you suffer from any health conditions.


Peter Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.


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