Fortunately, lifestyle changes and medication can bring you some relief from the effects of ADHD. However, not everyone who suffers from the symptoms of ADHD has an official diagnosis or wants to take effective stimulants like Adderall to treat their condition.
If you’re looking for Adderall alternatives that you can try before receiving a diagnosis or in place of medications that don’t work for you, you’re in the right place.
The Effects of Adderall
Adderall is a stimulant that helps with focus, hyperactivity, impulsivity, memory, and other cognitive impairments related to ADHD. It works by stimulating the central nervous system to produce additional dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and other neurotransmitters so that your brain can access all the chemicals it needs to work effectively.
The 18 Best Adderall Alternatives for ADHD
When finding an alternative to Adderall, you can try to address your symptoms in a few different ways.
You can attempt to mimic the stimulative effects of the drug to improve dopamine availability and the ability to focus.
You can also try to minimize the side effects of the condition and address comorbid conditions like anxiety that make ADHD worse through adaptogens and supplements that increase relaxation.
Certain supplements can even improve the ability of other medications or supplements to address your symptoms, allowing you to enjoy enhanced benefits by taking multiple synergistic supplements at a time.
From natural to pharmaceutical to over-the-counter (OTC), here are 21 of the best Adderall alternatives for you to consider:
Top 10 Natural Adderall Alternatives
Looking to stay away from prescriptions and experiment to see what works best? These natural alternative options give you the power to test your responses to build the ideal supplement regimen for you:
Caffeine is one of the most popular drugs in the world. It’s a stimulant that helps improve cognition, alertness, and focus so you can stay awake and improve reaction times.
Caffeine is available in natural and synthetic forms. For example, cacao beans, coffee beans, tea leaves, and other plants possess natural caffeine that you can extract for teas, coffee, and other beverages. Synthetic caffeine begins as ammonia and is produced through chemical synthesis with other chemicals to produce a drug that mimics the effects of natural caffeine.
Generally, up to 400mg of caffeine can be tolerated per day by grown adults, but its stimulating effects can cause unwanted side effects in those with sensitivities or taking another stimulant like Adderall.
How It Works
Caffeine works primarily in two ways: as a stimulant and as an adenosine antagonist.
Like Adderall, caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and impacts your heart, muscles, and brain. Your respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure will increase in response to the release of adrenaline caused by the stimulating effect, improving your focus and giving you an overall energy boost. The stimulation caused by ingesting caffeine also increases the concentration of norepinephrine and dopamine in your brain, two neurotransmitters that people with ADHD lack, giving your brain what it needs to function effectively for a few hours.
The other effect that caffeine has is on the adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine regulates sleepiness by binding to adenosine receptors in the brain. Over the course of the day, adenosine is released and binds to those receptors so that you begin to feel tired the longer you’re awake. However, caffeine can also attach to those same receptors, which blocks you from feeling tired and helps you maintain your level of cognition for extended periods.
Ginkgo biloba is a supplement from the leaves of the ginkgo tree with antioxidant and inflammation-reducing properties. It’s often found as part of multivitamins for its wide range of potential benefits, including helping with eye, heart, and brain health. Gingko can improve focus and cognition while also helping to reduce ADHD’s comorbid disorders like anxiety and depression at the same time.
How It Works
Ginkgo biloba is rich in antioxidants and contains terpenoids which improve circulation, lower oxidative stress, and reduce inflammation in the brain. It can also lower the expression of dopamine and norepinephrine transports, the system that leads to reduced dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, to help improve the bioavailability of the neurotransmitters.
L-theanine is an amino acid available naturally in green tea, multivitamins, and as a separate supplement. It’s a very well-tolerated medication used for relaxation, promoting healthy blood pressure, and even combating the stimulating effects of caffeine. However, if you take medicines for blood pressure, talk to your doctor to ensure no interactions.
How It Works
L-theanine increases alpha waves that promote relaxation, helping to address side effects of ADHD like anxiety, restlessness, and impulsivity. It also helps to stimulate the production of dopamine and serotonin, which helps to address the deficiency associated with ADHD.
Rhodiola Rosea is a plant with medicinal properties used to treat various mental conditions, including anxiety, depression, brain fog, and more. It’s an adaptogen that helps your body to better cope with stress so that you suffer from fewer side effects of the condition and can better maintain the balance of neurotransmitters in your brain.
How It Works
Rhodiola Rosea works by stimulating the reticular activating system, helping to improve attention and focus while also increasing serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels in the brain. Cortisol release is also modulated by the herb, helping to lessen the effects of stress so that it has a lesser impact on cognition.
Bacopa monnieri is a nootropic herb used extensively in traditional medicine for its cognition-boosting effects and antioxidant properties. It’s been found to improve memory, reduce hyperactivity, and reduce anxiety by lowering cortisol.
How It Works
Bacopa monnieri is an adaptogen that increases resilience to stress and allows the body to maintain homeostasis more efficiently by adjusting the production of essential neurotransmitters. Maintaining the correct levels of dopamine, serotonin, GABA, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine means your brain has what it needs to thrive, resulting in cognitive improvements like memory, focus, and stress tolerance.
Vitamin B6 and Magnesium
Vitamins are a vital part of your overall health. You require sufficient doses of all the major vitamins and minerals, and when it comes to ADHD, vitamin B6 should be a focus of yours. You can find vitamin B6 in supplements and foods like tuna, salmon, poultry, and other proteins.
Magnesium is essential for an extensive number of processes, including the regulation of stress and the production of essential neurotransmitters that you may lack. It works effectively with vitamin B6 to improve quality of life, lower stress, and help address attention issues relating to ADHD.
How It Works
Vitamin B6 plays a significant role in synthesizing neurotransmitters, working closely as a cofactor for magnesium, allowing the cells to use magnesium better to create more dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine.
Citicoline is a natural brain chemical used to treat neurological disorders and improve cognitive function. It’s taken as a supplement or found in livers, eggs, and various types of meat.
How It Works
Citicoline is absorbed into the intestines, crossing the blood-brain barrier to increase the levels of acetylcholine, a crucial chemical tied to memory and learning, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the brain so that focus can improve. It also enhances energy reserves to help fight against cognitive decline.
Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that calms your nervous system. It regulates hyperactivity in your brain by inhibiting the nerve transmission that can lead to anxiety, fidgeting, impulsivity, and other symptoms of ADHD. Research has found that people suffering from ADHD had lower GABA levels, potentially indicating that a supplement could help address the brain’s needs and improve symptoms.
How It Works
GABA balances glutamate, the primary excitatory neurotransmitter, to minimize stress and impulsivity caused by overexcitability associated with low GABA levels. Supplementation with GABA can help you stay calm and maintain the ability to focus with fewer cognitive impairments.
Zinc is a mineral that is essential in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. The human body requires continuous zinc supplementation because we cannot store it, so deficiencies can occur as part of a restrictive diet.
In a 2020 study, scientists discovered that children with ADHD were deficient in zinc levels at a higher rate than the neurotypical group. These results show that zinc level and ADHD are related, although the exact extent is unknown.
How It Works
Zinc regulates dopamine and increases the brain’s ability to use dopamine, helping to improve deficiencies while increasing the positive benefits of other supplements.
Taking supplements isn't the only thing you can do instead of taking Adderall.
Exercise is free, readily accessible, and incredibly beneficial for your body, helping to improve your mental and physical health while reducing the risk of cognitive decline, heart disease, mental health problems, and many other medical conditions.
Exercise has been shown to help increase circulation, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels while lowering cortisol to allow for improved focus without the annoying side effects of nervous system stimulation. It can also be used alongside any other natural alternative to Adderall for a synergistic effect that significantly improves symptoms.
5 Prescription Alternatives to Adderall
If you have a hard time filling your prescription or want to see if another prescription works for you, try these pharmaceutical alternatives:
Ritalin is another type of stimulant that is used to treat ADHD. It generally works within an hour, making it another short-term drug that has a higher potential for abuse. You could take it once to twice a day, depending on the severity of the side effects and your condition, but late doses may lead to sleep interference. Like Adderall, it stimulates the central nervous system to increase the availability of essential neurotransmitters in the brain. Ritalin is generally less potent than amphetamine-based medications like Adderall and therefore causes fewer side effects, which may make it more tolerable for some users.
Concerta (methylphenidate extended-release)
Concerta is an extended-release version of the drug methylphenidate that slowly delivers the drug to you over a 12-hour period. As a result, you’ll usually only take one pill in the morning. The effects will continue to grow more intense over time, helping to avoid intense side effects from the activation of the drug. Similar to Ritalin, it’s less potent than Adderall, but it allows for progressive treatment of the symptoms of ADHD
Focalin (dexmethylphenidate) and Focalin XR (dexmethylphenidate extended-release)
Focalin is a central nervous system stimulant that is similar to Ritalin and Concerta, but contains more of the potent isomer dexmethylphenidate and has a longer half-life as opposed to methylphenidate. With increased potency and a longer period duration of effects, both the short-acting and extended-release versions of Focalin provide the potential for smaller doses of the drug than their counterparts and fewer doses required to achieve the desired effect.
Strattera is the first prescription alternative for Adderall on our list that is not a stimulant. Instead of stimulating the nervous system to invoke increased production of neurotransmitters, Strattera instead decreases the uptake of norepinephrine in the brain so that there is more available to use. As a result, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of improved focus and reduced hyperactivity without the additional activating effects of a stimulant. However, it’s less potent than Adderall, so it may not work for everyone.
Vyvanse is a stimulant that’s used for ADHD treatments in both children and adults. Its primary active ingredient, lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, is a prodrug that is converted by the body into dextroamphetamine. Over a period of time, this conversion increases the concentration of dextroamphetamine in the system, making Vyvanse a delayed-release and extended-release drug that has a greater bioavailability than Adderall for dextroamphetamine for lower dose requirements.
3 Over-The-Counter (OTC) Adderall Alternatives
With the prevalence of ADHD-like symptoms and the constant desire to increase cognitive function, it’s no surprise that there are a number of nootropic “stacks”, or pre-mixed combinations of supplements that aim to improve your ADHD symptoms.
Here are 3 of the most popular options:
Noocube is a nootropic that can help improve focus, boost memory, reduce brain fog, and quicken reaction time for ideal cognitive functioning. Noocube’s primary distinguishing element is the inclusion of LUTEMAX® 2020, which is derived from marigold plants and contains carotenoids - essential nutrients for eye-brain information processing.
These effects can help to address some of the inattentive symptoms of ADHD, while additional elements like Bacopa monnieri help to reduce inflammation and protect your brain. L-theanine is included alongside oat straw concentrate to help reduce the impact of the stimulative effects that elements like Alpha GPC have for low-stress focus.
Vyvamind, sometimes referred to as “natural Vyvanse,” is a relatively simple nootropic that contains just 6 ingredients - 5 of which we’ve included above. The label includes l-tyrosine, Citicoline, l-theanine, caffeine anhydrous, and Vitamins B6 and B12.
Vyvamind aims to help improve the production of essential neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine with l-tyrosine and caffeine while the B vitamins help ensure that your brain has what it needs to produce these chemicals. The included l-theanine works to relax your brain and body from the stimulative effects and deliver a calmer experience overall.
Mind Lab Pro
Mind Lab Pro, now on its v4.0 formulation, is another option that includes many of our recommended natural Adderall alternatives. Perhaps most notable is the compound “PS”, a phospholipid derived from sunflower lecithin that helps improve energy production in the brain and supports the production and maintenance of brain cells for optimal functioning. The other ingredients include Citicoline to aid in improving focus, l-tyrosine to increase neurotransmitter concentrations, l-theanine and Rhodiola Rosea to minimize stress, and B vitamins to improve the efficiency of other supplements.
Find The Right Treatment For Your ADHD With Done
If you have ADHD, it’s essential that you get help as soon as possible so that you can effectively function daily without the limitations imposed by the disorder. Unfortunately, while the natural Adderall alternatives we’ve provided can help treat your symptoms, they might not be the optimal treatment plan for living your best life.
Done makes it easy to get an evaluation, diagnosis, and medication management for ADHD so that you can begin addressing your symptoms effectively. You can get a free assessment and schedule an appointment with one of their licensed physicians to learn more about your condition and get started on a treatment plan that works for you.
Don’t suffer from the cognitive impairments of ADHD - get the help you need today.