Daily life is more go-go-go than ever and everyone is looking for a boost. Some seek physical aids to keep them going, with the notion that staying awake longer will increase productivity. Others seek a cognitive boost to improve their output and performance at work or school. In this latter case, Adderall, a medication prescribed to increase focus and alertness, seems a very attractive option. However, this drug is only legally available to those diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and has many of us asking what is a natural substitute for Adderall?
How To Find a Natural Alternative for Adderall
There is no shortage of products out there that claim to be an equally–if not more–effective natural alternative to Adderall. The key to finding real deal alternatives is to understand how Adderall itself works and find products that can emulate those effects.
Adderall & How It Works
Adderall is the brand name of the drug combination amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (this is the generic name of the medication) and is classified as an amphetamine and also a nootropic, a “smart drug” that improves brain performance.
Adderall’s capabilities are derived from its amphetamine base, a central nervous stimulant that works by increasing the activity of three of the body’s chemical messengers: norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine.
Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that is key to preparing the body for the fight-or-flight response. It narrows blood vessels thereby increasing blood pressure and heart rate. This increased blood pressure allows more oxygen to circulate in the body (and more quickly) enabling the muscles to perform better and for longer. Nonephinepheine can also lower pain sensitivity.
Epinephrine, better known as adrenaline, is the other half of the fight-or-flight response and affects the heart, lungs, and brain. It relaxes the airway to improve breathing, thus increasing breathing rate as well as oxygen intake; tells the heart to squeeze harder in its contractions to increase heart rate; and also increases blood sugar levels so that there’s more available energy for the muscles to use and thus exert themselves. Epinephrine also alters how our brain functions, increasing focus and processing speed. The result: heightened senses, faster reaction time, and better concentration.
Dopamine, the neurotransmitter best known for its role in the reward system does a lot more than simply make us feel good. It also is a major influence on mood regulation, motor function, cognitive ability, and attention span.
Most Popular Natural Substitutes for Adderall
Here are three natural replacements for Adderall that are the most sought after. In addition to having proven results with minimal negative side effects (if any at all), they all have been clinically proven to be effective as well. Adderall alternatives may have one or all of the following compounds and many are available over the counter.
One of the most popular natural substitutes for Adderall is probably the world’s most popular drug: caffeine, a naturally occurring stimulant found in the leaves, fruit, and beans of cacao, coffee, and Camellia sinensis (where tea comes from) plants. Like Adderall, caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. It offers many of the cognitive-boosting perks but does so in a different manner than the prescription stimulant. The primary mechanism of any cognitive improvement is methylxanthine which acts on serotonin neurons to influence alertness and fatigue. However, caffeine does stimulate norepinephrine and dopamine making it a fairly close imitation of Adderall’s effects.
L-theanine is an amino acid that’s found in black and green teas. It’s reported to increase mental alertness and is believed to boost cognitive performance when combined with caffeine.
Creatine is produced in muscle cells and improves energy production during high-intensity exercise or heavy weight lifting. Perhaps best known for its use as a substance to enhance exercise performance and increase strength and muscle mass, creatine can also benefit brain performance as well. Both muscles and the brain rely on ATP for energy and optimal performance. ATP is produced using stores of phosphocreatine in the muscles, and creatine increases phosphocreatine storage. One study found the effects of creatine to be improved memory, reduced mental fatigue, and increased brain energy capacity.
Ginkgo Biloba Extract (GBE)
Ginkgo is a common ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine (it’s one of the oldest living tree species in the world). This herbal supplement derived from the leaves of the tree is used for all sorts of conditions ranging from anxiety and allergies to peripheral artery disease. However, Ginkgo is renowned for its cognition-enhancing abilities, primarily working memory, the temporary information used for basic tasks and problem-solving. Ginkgo is also believed to slow cognitive decline and is often used as a natural treatment for dementia.
Struggling with Adderall Addiction?
Adderall may have the reputation of being a “smart drug” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous or potentially habit-forming. Find a drug rehab near you if you’re concerned that you may have developed a dependence on this or other amphetamines.