Adderall is a prescription medication FDA-approved to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. Adderall functions as a stimulant, increasing the activity of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. By increasing neurotransmitter activity, Adderall increases alertness, focus and energy. Despite its effectiveness as a prescription medication, Adderall can have several physical and mental side effects, including anxiety, headache, hallucinations, nausea and weakness. Adderall is also classified as a Schedule II substance by the DEA, indicating its high potential for abuse and addiction. Thus, many individuals are interested in learning more about natural alternatives to Adderall.
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What Is a Natural Stimulant?
Although no natural substance can exactly mimic the robust effects of prescription Adderall, several natural stimulants exist. Natural stimulants are substances derived from plants, roots or other natural sources that stimulate central nervous system activity. Like synthetic stimulants, natural stimulants can enhance focus and calmness, boost learning, stabilize mood and assist with impulse control. Although naturally derived, individuals should always discuss potential drug interactions and side effects of natural stimulants with a medical professional before use.
Natural Alternatives to Adderall By Benefit:
- For improved focus: Caffeine, whether in the form of coffee, tea or supplement products, can effectively improve focus and concentration, making it a legal Adderall alternative. Although caffeine is safe and easily accessible, consuming too much caffeine can cause jitters, restlessness, headache and insomnia.
- For calming: Magnesium supplements show promise for reducing stress and anxiety and may help calm individuals with ADHD. Common side effects of magnesium include upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. At high doses, magnesium may cause irregular heartbeat or low blood pressure.
- For memory retention & learning: Ginkgo biloba has shown promise as a natural treatment for alleviating ADHD symptoms in children. By improving attention span, ginkgo may be a natural alternative to Adderall for studying. Although generally safe, ginkgo may interact with other medications and cause bleeding, stomach problems, headache or heart palpitations at high doses.
- For mood stabilizing: L-tyrosine, a precursor of dopamine, shows promise in stabilizing mood and depressive symptoms, particularly in stressful situations. Although potentially helpful in ADHD, high doses of tyrosine may cause nausea, headache, fatigue, heartburn and joint pain.
- For impulse control: Ginseng shows promise for managing impulse control seen in individuals with ADHD. Clinical studies show that ginseng improves inattention and decreases impulsivity and hyperactivity in children with ADHD. Although a potentially effective OTC Adderall alternative, ginseng may interact with other medications and cause nervousness, insomnia, vomiting and blood pressure changes.
Can Natural & OTC Alternatives Be Addictive?
Natural Adderall alternatives are generally considered safe and non-addictive. Although natural stimulants may alter the level of brain chemicals such as dopamine, the effect is minor and not likely to cause severe side effects or lead to addiction. One example is caffeine. Although individuals may develop a physical dependence on caffeine, it does not cause a large enough increase in dopamine to unbalance the reward circuit in the brain and cause addiction.
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National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. “Is Caffeine Really Addictive?” May 10, 2016. Accessed January 17, 2020.