Adrafinil: Liver Toxicity and Alternatives

Drowsiness, sleepiness, or mental fatigue—this state of being has many names, and none of them are very appealing. Nearly everyone wants more energy and a sharper focus but there are only so many caffeine supplements a person can consume before they build a tolerance or experience side effects like headaches and jitters. Eventually, these people begin to look for alternate solutions and discover adrafinil, a seemingly wondrous supplement.

What is Adrafinil? 

Adrafinil Pros and Cons

  • Pros: Promotes wakefulness without the jitters or hyperactivity, improves focus and cognition
  • Cons: Causes liver toxicity over time, potential facial movement disorders, as well as blood pressure and heart issues
  • Read more below for side effects management and alternatives.

Adrafinil is a nootropic stimulant that metabolizes in the body to produce modafinil. Both of these energizing brain boosters have energizing benefits. However, unlike many energy supplements, adrafinil does not cause hyperactivity, and helps to fight off drowsiness instead. While most nootropics are safe to use and adrafinil has gotten rave reviews from fans, it may come with a hefty cost to your liver. 

How Does Adrafinil Work?

Adrafinil is metabolized into modafinil by way of your liver. This is a problem as adrafinil increases liver enzymes which can lead to problems and eventually toxicity within the organ, particularly if you already have liver issues. Adrafinil has also been tentatively linked to orofacial dyskinesia, which is the involuntary repetitive movement of the mouth and face. These dyskinesias occur frequently and are often irreversible [1]. This side effect is rare, and more common in the elderly. Other less severe facial movement disorders have also been linked to adrafinil [2].  

So why do people take it? Because it is easier to obtain than modafinil and many are unaware of the potential liver damage. 

Mitigating Adrafinil Liver Damage

There are some individuals who will still opt to take adrafinil for a variety of reasons. Many of those on adrafinil suffer from narcolepsy, or have jobs that require them to stay awake for hours on end, such as truck drivers. Assuming you and your doctor have weighed the benefits and the side effects and you still want to take adrafinil, there is a way to protect your liver. 

Milk thistle supplementation is an excellent way to restore your liver's health. Milk thistle helps to detoxify your liver and scavenges free radicals. However, milk thistle should be taken after a adrafinil cycle. Unfortunately, you cannot prevent the liver damage, you can only manage it after the fact [3]. Even so, if you properly cycle your adrafinil use with milk thistle you should be able to achieve the benefits while suffering minimal side effects. 

Other adrafinil side effects include increased blood pressure and heart health problems. Unlike most nootropics, adrafinil has some worrisome side effects that should be closely monitored. 

To avoid long-term liver damage, individuals should not supplement more than 600mg-1.2g of adrafinil three times a week for a maximum of five months. Milk thistle has a much wider range of dosages. A standard starting dosage is 150mg, but dosages as high as 600mg are common.

Adrafinil Alternatives

phenylpiracetam does not cause jitters like caffeine
Modafinil Alternative: Phenylpiracetam Phenylpiracetam boosts energy without the jitters common to caffeine.

If after doing your research you don't want to contend with adrafinil's liver damaging side effects, there are still alternatives for you. The world is not split into alert, liver-damaged people and drowsy, liver-healthy people. 

Phenylpiracetam is an excellent alternative to both adrafinil and modafinil. It provides a major boost in energy as well as cognition without the liver damage and other side effects. It also will not make you jittery as higher caffeine dosages are likely to do. Anecdotal evidence suggests phenylpiracetam is actually stronger than adrafinil, but this has not been scientifically tested. 

Individuals should take 100-200mg of Phenylpiracetam 2-3 times per day. Phenylpiracetam works best when taken only when needed (such as before a major exam or when you absolutely must stay awake for an extended period in time) rather than daily.

Modafinil is a more liver-friendly alternative to Adrafinil; however, it requires a prescription, which is why many people turn to adrafinil in the first place. 

Adrafinil VS Modafinil Nootropic

Adrafinil and Modafinil were developed for similar purposes – promoting wakefulness and alertness. Both of these nootropics work in similar ways, however; Modafinil is faster reacting and longer lasting. Each is often used as an auxiliary energy supplement for sleep disorders and fatigue while also providing beneficial cognitive effects.

The distinctive differences between Adrafinil and Modafinil are the nature of the potential side effects and the rate at which these substances become active in the body. While Adrafinil is legal in the U.S. without a prescription, long term Adrafinil users run the risk of hepatoxicity (liver damage). As a stimulant, it doesn't last as long as Modafinil.

Adrafinil Dosage vs. Modafinil Dosage

However, it's sister substance, Modafinil, is not available over the counter and requires a prescription from a doctor. Although it was approved as a narcolepsy drug, it is classified as a schedule IV substance under the Controlled Substances Act. It requires a lower dose than Adrafinil, is faster reacting and longer lasting, and doesn't need to be metabolized by the liver, making it a better option for long term supplementation. This does not mean it's not risky. Long term users are susceptible to cardiotoxicity (heart damage) due to drastic increases in blood pressure. Both of these drugs should be used sparingly while taking the recommended dosage and NOT as part of your daily nootropics stack.

Sources

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15300665
  2. http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=102777
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17213517

About Samantha Bookwalter

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Samantha Bookwalter is freelance writer and social media specialist. She specializes in web editing, copy editing, copy writing, social media management, HTML, CSS, and other web-related acronyms. Samantha has an affinity for health and fitness; in her free time she enjoys working out with her husband and researching recipes that are not only healthy but delicious too.

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Scientific studies cited are not conclusive and have limitations, due to of their closed environment nature. Referenced studies will not necessarily determine your experience with a supplement, since there are many unaccounted variables, which fall outside the scope of the studies.

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