As we learn more about ADHD, multiple treatment modalities for the disorder have emerged. Learn more about just how common ADHD is and how one new treatment option could lead to major breakthroughs.
How Prevalent Is ADHD?
The current prevalence of ADHD is alarming, with recent statistics from the CDC’s website showing that approximately 6 million children aged 3-17 years were diagnosed with the condition between 2016-2019. Additionally, a recent study revealed that the average prevalence of ADHD in adults across twenty countries was 2.8%, with higher rates in developed nations. In the US alone, the ADHD prevalence rate was estimated at 5.2%.
The high prevalence of ADHD points to the need to understand the potential causes, risk factors, and treatment options to address it.
Nootropic ADHD Therapy
Most people are already familiar with common ADHD treatment options, including stimulant medications and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). There are many different types of treatments available through complementary and alternative medicine, including nootropics.
Nootropics, also referred to as cognitive enhancers (CEs), characterize a group of supplements and nutraceuticals that have gained attention because of their potential in enhancing cognitive function. Clinical trials have established that the supplements have memory-enhancing properties, with some being used to enhance digit span recall, pattern recognition memory, and mental digit manipulation.
Nootropics are gaining traction in ADHD therapy because of their memory-enhancing properties. In fact, certain types of ADHD medication, such as Ritalin and Adderall, are already categorized as nootropics.
Types of Nootropics
Nootropics can be either prescription or non-prescription drugs. Prescription nootropics are medications prescribed by healthcare professionals that have stimulant effects. Some common examples of prescription nootropics include amphetamine, modafinil, and methylphenidate. They suppress the symptoms of various illnesses, such as ADHD and other neurological disorders.
On the other hand, non-prescription nootropics are substances that can enhance brain performance but are typically used for non-medical purposes. They include caffeine and L-Theanine. Although they are not used to treat illnesses, they may have some positive impacts on memory, thinking, and overall cognitive functioning. However, the increasing use of these medications has raised various ethical concerns.
How Nootropics Work
Nootropics do not affect neurotransmission or receptor ligands. Rather, they protect the brain from neurotoxicity and hypoxic effects and improve the supply of oxygen and glucose to the brain. In addition, they affect the synthesis of nucleic acid and proteins in the neurons and stimulate the metabolism of phospholipids in the neurohormonal membranes.
Other nootropics have been found to have anti-aggregation effects, affect elimination of oxygen free radicals, and improve erythrocyte plasticity. The compounds have a range of pharmacodynamics effects. For example, nootropics such as tacrine and ravistigmine can act as acetylcholinesterase (AChE) or butylylcholinesterase (BChE) inhibitors that increase ACh levels at central synapses.
Since nootropics are metabolically inactive without immediate single dose effect, they require an extended period of administration to experience the intended effect. Generally, experts advise that nootropics should be used as adjunct treatment alongside other treatments.
Backed by a significant amount of research, the use of nootropics for cognitive enhancement is justified. However, the ethical concerns mentioned above are largely related to the potential side effects of prolonged use of these substances, which can be devastating. Some of the possible outcomes of long-term use include neurologic, cardiovascular, and psychological disorders.
Nootropics also have a risk of leading to addiction and dependence problems. However, it’s important to note that most stimulant medications for ADHD also come with this risk. But when administered properly, the benefits these drugs offer in terms of managing the disorder are thought to outweigh those risks in most cases.
Have Questions About Nootropic Use?
Curious about whether nootropics are safe to use to help treat your ADHD? Reach out to our licensed clinicians at Done. We’re here to help you understand all your treatment options, and we can streamline the process of filling your ADHD prescriptions. Our convenient telehealth platform is designed to make quality ADHD care more convenient and accessible.
1. CDC. (2022). What is ADHD? https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html
2. Sayal, K., Prasad, V., Daley, D., Ford, T., & Coghill, D. (2018). ADHD in children and young people: Prevalence, care pathways, and service provision. The Lancet Psychiatry, 5(2), 175-186. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2215-0366(17)30167-0
3. CDC. (2022). Data and statistics about ADHD.
4. Ricci, G. (2020). Pharmacological human enhancement: An overview of the looming bioethical and regulatory challenges. Frontiers in psychiatry, 11(53). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00053
5. Sharma, A., Gerbarg, P. L., & Brown, R. P. (2018). Non-Pharmacological Treatments for ADHD in Youth. Adolescent psychiatry (Hilversum, Netherlands), 5(2), 84–95. https://doi.org/10.2174/221067660502150430154937
6. Napoletano, F., Schifano, F., Corkery, J. M., Guirguis, A., Arillotta, D., Zangani, C., & Vento, A. (2020). The Psychonauts' World of Cognitive Enhancers. Frontiers in psychiatry, 11, 546796. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.546796
7. Malík, M., & Tlustoš, P. (2022). Nootropics as Cognitive Enhancers: Types, Dosage and Side Effects of Smart Drugs. Nutrients, 14(16), 3367. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14163367
8. Daubner, J., Arshaad, M. I., Henseler, C., Hescheler, J., Ehninger, D., Broich, K., Rawashdeh, O., Papazoglou, A., & Weiergräber, M. (2021). Pharmacological Neuroenhancement: Current Aspects of Categorization, Epidemiology, Pharmacology, Drug Development, Ethics, and Future Perspectives. Neural plasticity, 2021, 8823383. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/8823383