Adderall Alternatives: 3 Simple Phases (and 1 Mistake to Avoid)

Adderall Alternatives At a Glance

Adderall is a prescription drug primarily used to treat ADHD and is one of the most-used off-label stimulants in the world.

Scientists combined mixed amphetamine salts (yes, Adderall is an amphetamine), which are stimulatory in regions of the brain that modulate focus, attention, and mood.

Nearly 11% of children ages 4 – 17 are currently using Adderall or some form of amphetamine, which is higher than in 2003 when it was 7.8% [1].

According to Alan Schwarz, author of ADHD Nation, the percentage of Adderall users is closer to 15% nationwide and 20% for boys specifically [2].

Unlike the opiate epidemic, Adderall and stimulants do not have the same stigma because they improve performance and professional success, which are valued in modern America.

Read through to the end of this article and we’ll explore why you currently take this substance, the reason you may want to quit, and several alternatives to Adderall.

The Truth About Adderall

Before we dive too deeply into the truth about Adderall, we must address an important caveat.

We do believe Adderall can be a valuable tool for people who have a cognitive deficit and have been diagnosed with ADHD or a relevant disorder.

For people who are using Adderall off-label, those who intentionally “game” the system, or simply people who no longer feel the need to use Adderall, it’s probably a good idea to stop. Why?

Adderall may impair already high-performing individuals on complex cognitive tasks.

Yes, you read that correctly. In one Neuropharmacology study published in 2013, participants took Adderall and then a series of cognitive tasks.

The participants saw no cognitive enhancement, yet “participants nevertheless believed their performance was more enhanced…” [3]

Another study published in Psychopharmacology showed that above-average individuals who took Adderall had worse cognitive performance using Adderall [4].

It turns out, Adderall (and all amphetamines) function on a specific system in the brain called the dopamine system. Dopamine is associated with motivation and positive feelings.

Due to the increase in dopamine (Adderall provides an unnatural amount), many people feel like they are performing better when really they have increased motivation through stimulation.

In fact, one friend of mine was diagnosed with suicidal depression and prescribed Adderall as a way to overcome the mood disorder. This drug is powerful, which leads me to…

Why Are You Taking Adderall?

If Adderall can create such a significant change to mood (such as depression) or improve a person’s motivation so much they don’t comprehend their own capabilities, it must be powerful.

On an old YouTube video I produced, one eager viewer wrote:

I am planning to go to med school and become a doctor, but I have no interest in studying medicine. How can I focus and concentrate during so many long hours of studying?

I’ve paraphrased his question, but my answer was the same: why are you spending years of your life working on something that you hate or dislike?

This is emblematic of how many people approach Adderall. Instead of seeking greater focus and concentration, it may be worth asking yourself certain questions.

  • Are you working on the projects that really excite you?
  • Are you being over-extended at work?
  • Is the “rat race” preventing you from hobbies that change your mood and motivation?

For some people, a lack of community and social isolation can be the greatest cause of sadness or lack of motivation. Answer some of these questions above and decide for yourself.

3 Phases to Stop Taking Adderall

For those who desire to stop taking Adderall, there are numerous methods of doing so. I broke it up into three simple phases.

  • Phase #1: Research and preparation
  • Phase #2: Withdrawal and weaning
  • Phase #3: Replacement with alternatives to Adderall

Phase #1: Research and preparation

Many people do not realize that their lack of concentration and focus could be caused by any number of things. These include:

  • Micronutrient deficiencies
  • Genetic factors (blocked pathways)

There are other issues as well, but for the purpose of research and preparation, we will focus on these two because they are actionable.

The first step is to buy 23andme (both Health and Ancestry) to collect genetic data if you haven’t done so already. It will cost $200, but it is well worth it for actionable advice.

Once you receive the data, run the raw report through any one of the following services:

This might seem a little bit overwhelming, but if you have 8 minutes to listen to the video below, you’ll understand why it is worthwhile to do so. I’ll summarize:

These genetic tests give you an understanding of your unique brain and body, which allows you to identify weak spots and address them specifically as they relate to your performance.

If you don’t have the funding (or the patience) for this, don’t worry. I’ll explain some alternatives below.

For people who want to skip the whole genetic data gathering phase, here are some actionable steps that I recommend, which may be “easy wins” as Adderall alternatives:

  • Magnesium Glycinate – 400 mg per day (usually at night before bed)
  • Vitamin D – 2000 IU per day
  • Methylfolate – minimal dose
  • Any kind of mitochondrial support nootropic
  • Ensure adequate sleep, remove excess sugar, gluten, dairy, and alcohol

Phase #2: Withdrawal and weaning

One of the biggest challenges finding alternatives to Adderall is the pain and discomfort often associated with leaving the drug.

In one feedback survey, I asked thousands of readers their biggest problem and one responded “I’ve been taking Adderall since the 8th grade (now 30) and really struggle…

The reason Adderall can be such a damaging habit to kick is because of the dependency that it creates.

Adderall releases dopamine, as we described earlier. It creates so much dopamine that our dopamine receptors (parts of the brain that receive dopamine from one place to another) drop off.

As the dopamine receptors drop off, we become reliant upon Adderall to provide the goods because there are few other chemical compounds that can do as well.

Weaning from Adderall (taking a small dose until it is no longer needed) will depend on the current dose that you’re taking. Feel free to reduce doses by small increments as you need to.

There are other nootropics that can help:

Uridine

This nootropic can repair and upregulate dopamine receptors (exactly what you need after Adderall usage).

One study showed uridine could maintain sensitivity to cocaine in animals [5]. Cocaine functions with dopamine similar to amphetamine (and Adderall).

This is theoretical, but one reason the nootropics community has developed the “Mr Happy Stack” with uridine as the core ingredient [6]. Anecdotes indicate it works reliably.

N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT)

The tyrosine amino acid in this specific form has numerous advantages for increasing dopamine within the brain and can be helpful for that purpose.

Rhodiola Rosea

The body and brain undergo “stress” when something like Adderall is replaced.

While rhodiola rosea will probably not be an Adderall alternative, it can help your body to adapt to the stress.

Rhodiola is classified as an “adaptogen” for this reason and it is included in our ELEVATE nootropic stack.

adderall alternatives

In addition to these nootropics, you are going to want to participate in two specific practices.

  • Sweating – challenging or strenuous exercise of any kind will release chemicals called endorphins, which are particularly helpful when dopamine is down-regulated in the brain.
  • Social Engagements – another chemical hard to replicate from drug interventions is oxytocin. This is the “love drug” and one you can find in social engagements. One of the reasons we love cacao ceremonies and similar gatherings is because of the value of connecting with other humans.

Phase #3: Replacement with alternatives to Adderall

The final phase is the one many of you have been waiting for. This is where you find stimulating compounds that can aid in concentration, focus, etc…

…but don’t allow any of these to become abused just as you might abuse Adderall

With that warning out of the way, let’s dive in.

Phenylpiracetam

The first “nootropic” ever discovered (and the source of the term nootropic) was piracetam.

As scientists continued working on piracetam, they developed new versions such as phenylpiracetam.

The added phenyl group has a big difference on the effects it has on the brain.

According to neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Hill, phenylpiracetam interacts with regions of the brain similar to cocaine.

This is a very powerful compound. When I had QEEG brain scans of myself using phenylpiracetam, we found that it upregulated many aspects of cognition.

According to Dr. Hill I had improved focus (signs of ADHD were gone), I dropped into a flow state (increased creativity), and my cognition went up across the board.

The scientific literature is pretty clear too. Phenylpiracetam can improve mood [7], focus and concentration [8].

mansal phenylpiracetam

Nicotine

There are many problems with smoking cigarettes and tobacco, but precise, low-dose usage of nicotine alone can be a powerful cognitive enhancer.

Almost all the research suggests nicotine is addictive when combined with an MAOI (such as in the case of tobacco) [9][10].

Nicotine is technically considered a “wakefulness enhancer” similar to Modafinil (see below).

Studies show nicotine has efficacy for concentration and focus [11], but also for learning ability and memory [12].

I recommend taking nicotine only 1-2 times per week and using low doses of 0.5 – 1 mg (using the gum for example).

This is the best way to see stimulating benefits without the side effects.

Nectar

My favorite Adderall alternative is one that I formulated myself because it has the fewest risks and side effects, but a similar cognitive effect as Adderall (at least subjectively).

Nootropics + Calories

This might seem simple, but it is one of the most effective combinations if it is done with the right timing and ingredients.

The nootropic side is self-explanatory and has been the subject of this post. Nectar has the well-researched caffeine and L-theanine combination, which improves concentration and provides smooth focus.

It also has green tea extract (stimulating and antioxidant value), but the real addition that few people take advantage of is FAT.

Nectar includes 1 tbsp of MCT oil per serving, coconut milk powder, and altogether about 200 calories of almost pure fat.

If you haven’t heard, using fat (and especially MCT oil) for calories is one of the most efficient sources for your brain.

This is the reason Bulletproof coffee has become so popular. You can buy Nectar here.

nectar image

Modafinil

My final Adderall alternative is modafinil though I am not as excited about the drug as I used to be. It is a powerful wakefulness enhancer that has been compared to Adderall in scientific studies [13], but the risks are higher than I’d like.

First, there is the risk of what you are buying. Because this is a prescription drug, it is impossible to buy as a mere “supplement”, but has to come from overseas. Who knows what they’re doing?

On top of that, it is highly stimulating… alarmingly so for some people. One writer and influencer by the name of “Gwern” provides more advice on how to use it [14], but it can be easily abused.

My suggestion, if you are going to use modafinil, is to make sure that you do so only 1 or 2 times per week maximum. Preferably once every 2 weeks.

Alternatives to Adderall: Thinking Deeper

The list of alternatives can be helpful especially when combined with the research and weaning phases. However, I do not recommend simply replacing Adderall with another drug.

First, consider the questions I have posed above. What is compelling you to take Adderall in the first place? Perhaps you are justified with a medical condition. Perhaps not.

It will benefit you far more to consider the bigger picture and how these substances alter not only your brain, but also the course of your life.

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/side-effects/201609/how-we-became-adhd-nation
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22884611
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23314393
  5. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3181/00379727-204-43633
  6. http://www.longecity.org/forum/topic/51802-gpc-choline-uridine-dha/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21689376
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20166767
  9. https://www.jneurosci.org/content/25/38/8593
  10. https://www.nature.com/npp/journal/v31/n8/full/1300987a.html
  11. https://www.springerlink.com/content/f6gxhlj63peeytlr
  12. https://www.springerlink.com/content/mrn6232427w6269q/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20653641
  14. https://www.gwern.net/Modafinil