Over the years, Adderall has become known as the “study drug”.
Visit any college library and you’re bound to encounter students with their heads buried in textbooks or ferociously typing away on their laptops. What’s keeping them motivated and productive? There’s a chance it’s Adderall. In fact, accord to the Partnership For Drug-Free Kids, 60% of the students surveyed were abusing some type of stimulant (Adderall, Ritalin, or Vyvanse) to help them study.
I’m no stranger to Adderall. In college, I was prescribed it for an inability to focus. While it initially gave me a boost of energy and motivation to focus, the negative side effects were too big to ignore.
Because of my own personal experience with Adderall and my fascination with optimizing focus, productivity, and mental energy, I went searching for the perfect Adderall alternatives. What I found has changed my life for the better.
Note: I am not a doctor and this article is not meant to provide any medical diagnosis or suggestions. If you have ADHD or are prescribed Adderall, please talk to your doctor before taking any new supplement or increasing, decreasing, or stopping your regular dosage. Never take illegally obtained drugs.
Okay, now that we have all the legal jargon out of the way. Let’s first start by digging into what Adderall is…
Table of contents
- An Overview Of Adderall
- Adderall Side Effects
- Adderall Addiction
- Nootropic Adderall Alternatives
- Natural Alternatives to Adderall
- Final Thoughts
An Overview Of Adderall
Adderall is a stimulant known as an amphetamine. Amphetamines have been around for decades and are traditionally used and abused by “tweakers” or “meth heads”. Most notably, amphetamines were used on both the Axis and Allies sides during World War 2 in order to keep the troops awake and stimulated.
Amphetamines, like Adderall, work by causing the release of dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals react in your brain by making you feel more alert and awake. For some, it can make them feel a rush of power, like they can achieve anything. It’s no wonder why it has been abused for so long — it gets users high, regardless of whether they’re taking it legally or illegally. And for students looking to illegally obtain it to cram for midterms or finals, it seems like a miracle drug. But is it?
Adderall Side Effects
Like all drugs or supplements available, there can always be negative side effects. And usually, the stronger the drug or supplement, the riskier the side effects. Adderall is no different.
Many Adderall or amphetamine users are familiar with the short-term side effects associated with its use.
- Trouble sleeping
- Cardiac issues (such as a racing heartbeat)
However, the long-term effects of heavy Adderall use are a bit more scary.
- Heart disease
- Heart palpitations
- Trouble breathing
These effects can have a domino effect by leading to even worse medical issues such as a weakened heart, changes in the brain, and seizures.
And we haven’t even touched the scariest part of Adderall abuse — addiction.
Amphetamines are one of the top ten most addictive drugs in the world. This is because the body can build up a tolerance relatively quickly and need more of it just to feel the same. This leads to increasing dosages and building up even higher tolerances… A never ending cycle.
Beyond the physical addiction, there is also a very strong mental addiction that can occur. Many addicts believe that they cannot perform or function without the drug. This has led to a lot of students who abused Adderall in school graduating and continuing to abuse it in the workplace. And since Adderall works by pumping out dopamine (the body’s “happy” chemical) long-term users and addicts often feel a level of depression when they aren’t on it since their dopamine levels have been skewed for so long.
Nootropic Adderall Alternatives
Having given up Adderall years ago when I became tired of all the negative side effects, I began researching alternatives that could help me in the same way. This led me down the rabbit hole of nootropics. If you’re unfamiliar with nootropics, they are supplements that provide their users with various cognitive benefits. Some use nootropics to help them think clearer, others use nootropics to help them be more extroverted in social settings. The end goal is always the same, to optimize the users mental state.
Because we’re talking about alternatives to Adderall, I’ve narrowed down my favorite nootropics that have similar effects as Adderall (increase focus, enhance concentration, and higher levels of mental energy) without such nasty side effects.
The best part about nootropics is that they’re legal, affordable, effective, and many are backed by research.
Note: These supplements are not meant to treat any medical diagnosis. If you are legally prescribed Adderall, please talk to your doctor before trying anything mentioned in this article.
OptiMind is a nootropic made by Alternascript, a company that has a long history with making great supplements. Funny enough, OptiMind used to be called “Alleradd”, which sounds an awful lot like “Adderall”. It has a combination of nootropic ingredients in it that increase focus and mood. Because OptiMind has caffeine in it, it still has decent stimulant effects too (increasing overall energy, not just mental energy). Although I personally like OptiMind, my one gripe is that they don’t put exactly how much caffeine is in each dose. Based on my experience, it didn’t seem like more than 80mg (around a small cup of coffee’s worth). However, I’m just estimating. OptiMind currently has a promotion going on where they are giving away a free sample. This is a great way to try it out and see if it’s a good option for your needs.
Alpha Brain and Coffee
Possibly one of the most popular nootropics around, Alpha Brain is made by Onnit. If you listen to podcasts, there’s a chance you’ve heard an advertisement for Onnit before. Alpha Brain is one of the few nootropics that have paid for an unbiased clinical study. The results were positive — users had significantly improved recent verbal memory when compared with controls. When I’m looking for that Adderall “effect” to help my get through a long day at work or study, sometimes I will take Alpha Brain and have a small cup of coffee. Since Alpha Brain doesn’t have any stimulants in it, I find have a cup to a cup and a half of coffee throughout the day enhances its positive cognitive effects.
Lumonol is one of the main nootropics I reach for in those semi-rare occasions where I need intense focus, mental clarity, and energy. Unlike the nootropics mentioned above, it has the added benefit of Noopept. In the world of mental optimization, Noopept may be one of the most talked about nootropics. Many users have incredible personal stories of reducing brain fog and increasing mental alertness. However, there isn’t a ton of research on how it works and truly how effective it is. I can say that it is very effective for helping me stay “in the zone” while working. After taking Lumonol, I often find myself working for hours on end and having to force myself to get up, eat, and drink water to stay hydrated.
Mind Lab Pro and Coffee
Mind Lab Pro is a nootropic that I take more frequently because it is more “middle of the road” for me in terms of its nootropic effects. Like Alpha Brain, it has no caffeine or stimulants in it, which means I can have a cup of coffee or two and it will only enhance its effects. Based on my experience, Mind Lab Pro is probably one of the best nootropics for beginners.
Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee
Mushroom coffee might sound crazy but, let me tell you, it works wonders. This is the first caffeinated drink I’ve ever had that had a lot of effects similar to Adderall (e.g. an increase in mental energy, focus, and concentration). One thing I really like about Four Sigmatic Mushroom coffee is that it has about half the caffeine of a regular cup of coffee. This makes it a good Adderall alternative for people who have a low tolerance for caffeine or those that get jittery from taking too much caffeine.
Qualia is a nootropic supplement stack from the folks over at Neurohacker Collective. To put it bluntly, Qualia is possibly the highest level of nootropic available. I would refer to it as the “Rolls Royce” of nootropics. If you’re new to the world of nootropics, you may not want to start with such a powerful one. That being said, I have found it to be incredibly effective in improving almost every aspect of my mental health. While it has a lot of ingredients, each and every one plays an important role in the cognitive benefit of its user.
TruBrain is a nootropic that is a little unlike the ones mentioned above. It comes in a pouch and can be drank. It doesn’t particularly taste great but I found its effects to be very similar to Adderall. Like Lumonol, it puts me into a zone state for hours at a time. This is probably because it has Noopept and caffeine in it. One of the main benefits of TruBrain, beyond the fact that it helps increase focus/concentration, is that you can take it with you anywhere. For example, I throw a few pouches of TruBrain in my backpack, briefcase, and gym bag. That way, no matter where I am, if I need an extra brain boost, I can grab TruBrain and get to work.
Final Thoughts on Nootropics as an Adderall Alternative
I’m a huge fan of nootropics in helping boost cognitive function, memory, focus, and energy. However, nootropics don’t work properly unless you already have a healthy lifestyle. That means you need to ensure that you’re giving your body the following:
- Enough Sleep: Regardless of your age or gender, you need to be getting at least seven hours of sleep each night. Sleep allows your body to flush out all of the waste and buildup in your brain that occurs throughout the day. Proper sleep also helps in forming long-term memories.
- Healthy Diet: You’ve heard it before but eating a healthy diet is key for helping your brain work as efficiently as possibly. While every diet differs, its important to eat food that isn’t processed and is as close to the “real thing” as possible. For example, chicken breasts instead of chicken nuggets.
- Exercise: One of the biggest ways I was able to improve my energy and focus throughout the day was by maintaining a regular exercise regime. Even if it’s only a fifteen minute run, getting your blood pumping and heart beating faster through exercise has a whole host of benefits (e.g. increasing dopamine to make you feel better and have more energy throughout the day).
Natural Alternatives to Adderall
If you’re looking to steer clear of drugs and supplements completely in an effort to find the right natural Adderall alternative, there are still many options. I have incorporated the following four strategies into my daily routine with much success, even when not combined with nootropics.
The Wim Hof Method
If you aren’t already familiar with Wim Hof, he is a man who has baffled scientists by his ability to resist cold and literally control his immune system. Thus, almost never getting sick. His ability to perform these modern day miracles can be boiled down to a set of three steps:
- He performs a breathing exercise to expel as much carbon dioxide from the body as possible and replace it with as much oxygen as possible.
- He performs a light exercise routine, such as push ups, to get his blood pumping and move the new oxygen around his body and into red blood cells.
- He takes a cold shower to help release adrenaline, dopamine, and reduce inflammation in the body.
Doing all three of these things in succession may seem crazy to someone who is new to the Wim Hof Method. I certainly thought it was crazy the first time I heard of it. But then I tried it. Within ten to fifteen minutes after finishing the last step, I could feel the effects literally change how I felt both mentally and physically.
How does it work? It’s pretty simple, actually. Because we sit for the majority of our days, our body isn’t taking in as much oxygen as is needed to function optimally. When we don’t get enough oxygen, we start to feel fatigued. This can lead to not being able to focus properly, exhaustion, and brain fog.
If one of the reasons you’re looking for an Adderall alternative is because you’re having trouble with mental fatigue, I definitely recommend trying the Wim Hof Method. Read my full review here.
Eat Anti-Inflammation Foods
One of the leading causes of mental fatigue and the dreaded “brain fog” is inflammation. We are fed so much processed food, sugar, and gluten in our day-to-day diets that causes our body and mind to become inflamed. What’s scary is that I estimate upwards of 70% of the food in a grocery store causes inflammation (e.g. most cereals, breads, pastas, candy, and frozen foods).
I have battled with brain fog my entire life. Only recently have I been able to identify one of the main culprits being my diet. Once I stopped eating foods that caused inflammation and added in foods to my diet that were anti-inflammatories, I was finally able to reclaim my brain.
Here are ten great anti-inflammatory foods you can start incorporating into your diet:
- Green Leafy Vegetables
- Flax Seeds
- Bone Broth
Most people hear the word “meditation” and instantly think of hippies crossing their legs, closing their eyes, and saying “ohm” over and over. Most people think meditating is nonsense but research says otherwise.
I practice Transcendental Meditation to calm and focus my mind during the day in order to get me over the mid-day hump. I believe this type of meditation is one of the easiest to learn and perform on a consistent basis. However, there are plenty of meditation apps out there.
For those looking for an Adderall alternative that will calm and focus their mind while also giving them natural energy, meditation is one of the best options. Just look at how much it helped when applied in a classroom setting…
The last natural Adderall alternative I have for you might be the simplest — keep yourself hydrated. Way too often when we’re overcome with fatigue, irritability, or mental exhaustion, its simply because we’re a bit dehydrated. Regardless of wether you’re at work, school, or out and about, you should always be carrying water around.
I suggest investing in a reusable water bottle that is easy to carry with you or fit in a bag and won’t break if dropped. Here are some favorites of mine:
Adderall is a powerful drug. It’s one that has a lot of positives for those who are prescribed it and truly need it. But it also has a lot of negatives for those who take it illegally. Finding an Adderall alternative doesn’t have to be hard. Whether you’re looking for a safer OTC alternative such as a nootropic or a natural strategy such as the Wim Hof Method, you have a lot of options.
If you have tried any of the above alternatives to Adderall or you you have suggestions of your own based on personal experience, please leave a comment below!