The 7 Best Nootropics For ADHD
ADHD is a disorder that usually results in being prescribed harsh stimulants like Adderall
There are numerous all-natural nootropic supplements that can increase focus and motivation without the nasty side effects
Many nootropics have clinical evidence indicating they can safely improve attention
Stacking multiple nootropics may have an even more powerful effect on treating ADHD symptoms
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a condition that affects tens of millions of people worldwide.
People suffering from this condition have trouble focusing, staying on task, and avoiding distractions.
It affects all ages, and it can be extremely distressing for the people who have it.
Fortunately, there are nootropic supplements that can help with ADHD.
Nothing can “cure” this condition, but some nootropics can help manage the symptoms for many people.
ADHD Can Be A Serious Mental Illness
It’s important to note that these numbers reflect only those kids who actually receive an official ADHD diagnosis.
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ADHD and Comorbidities
ADHD is infamous for being accompanied by many comorbidities.
It’s not uncommon to suffer from ADHD while also dealing with other mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.4Belén Roselló, Carmen Berenguer, Inmaculada Baixauli, Álvaro Mira, Jose Martinez-Raga & Ana Miranda. Empirical examination of executive functioning, ADHD associated behaviors, and functional impairments in adults with persistent ADHD, remittent ADHD, and without ADHD, BMC Psychiatry volume. 2020
In adults, especially, these comorbidities can lead to functional impairments in some life activities, including an affinity to risky behaviors, employment difficulties, relationship problems, emotional problems, and restlessness.
Traditional ADHD Treatments
There are several pharmaceutical treatments available for anyone diagnosed with ADHD. These include:
- Amphetamine (Adderall)
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta)
- Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
These drugs help boost dopamine in the brain, but with different courses of action to do so.
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Amphetamine is the fastest route to boosting dopamine levels in the brain, while methylphenidate acts more to slow dopamine uptake. This helps the brain preserve the levels of dopamine that are already there.
Lisdexamfetamine is a prodrug of amphetamine. This means your body metabolizes it into dextroamphetamine, which is an active ingredient in Adderall.
The advantage of Lisdexamfetamine is that because it acts slower in the body, it should be safer than traditional amphetamine.
All 3 of these drugs are classified as schedule 2 by the Drug Enforcement Administration/Food and Drug Administration (DEA/FDA) and come with a high potential for abuse.5Nazila Sharbaf Shoar; Raman Marwaha; Mohammed Molla.. Dextroamphetamine-Amphetamine, StatPearls. 2020
These drugs can do wonders and come with harmful side effects, including irritability, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart problems, lack of sleep, loss of appetite, and addiction.
As anyone who has suffered the dreaded Adderall crash can tell you, sometimes the benefit is not worth the pain.
How Nootropics Help Treat ADHD
Nootropics can be a powerful alternative to traditional ADHD medications.
The nootropics below are shown to boost brain function by more foundational means like boosting acetylcholine activity, supporting BDNF function, and optimizing ATP production.
Some nootropics can even directly boost dopamine production.
This is not to say that nootropics deliver the same, stimulating force that you get from something like Adderall or Ritalin.
These drugs are designed to manipulate dopamine production while nootropics take a more indirect, holistic approach.
While not as potent as traditional drugs, nootropics are highly effective, non-addictive, and core with little-to-no side-effects.
Nootropics also are a useful tool to help come off these harder stimulants while mitigating withdrawal symptoms.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some over the counter nootropics that can be used to help ADHD.
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The 7 Best Nootropics For ADHD
The Nootropic Multivitamin
- Mind Lab Pro is my top stack choice for combatting ADHD.
- It's 11 high-potency ingredients can improve your ability to focus and concentrate without overstimulating your nervous system.
- The nootropics in this formula boost focus and concentration by enhancing acetylcholine, dopamine, and GABA.
- Adaptogens like Rhodiola and Bacopa increase mental energy while lowering your stress response.
- Compared to ADHD drugs, this stack isn't addictive and won't leave you feeling overstimulated.
- The supplements themselves are 3rd party tested and free of excess fillers and toxic ingredients.
- I love this stack for nootropic newbies and experienced nootropic users alike.
Most advanced fully-loaded formula
- Combating ADHD is one of the top features of Qualia Mind's advanced formula.
- Ingredients like DL-Phenylalanine, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, and Mucuna Pruriens boost dopamine which leads to better focus and concentration.
- Vitamins B6 and C help the conversion of Dopamine to Norepinephrine which is important for helping your brain properly use these neurotransmitters.
- This powerful stack is great for anyone who needs a major boost in focus and concentration.
- Caffeinated and non-caffeinated versions are available
Highly stimulating vitamin B derivative
Sulbutiamine is an ADHD nootropic that some say is similar to Adderall. It has a noticeable stimulant “kick” when it takes effect, although far less than amphetamines. It also doesn't have nearly the side-effects.
This nootropic is just a synthetic form of the essential vitamin B1. The difference is that it can cross your blood-brain barrier faster than regular B1. It is also fat-soluble, so your brain can absorb it very quickly.
So, when you take sulbutiamine, your body gets a sudden jolt of vitamin B1. This boost can affect many different processes because B1 is necessary for your entire brain and nervous system.
You need B1 to produce ATP, which is the energy source of your cells.
One study found that after taking thiamine for two months, a large group of women reported a higher mood. Subjects reported feeling “more clear-headed, composed and energetic” in general.6Benton D, Griffiths R, Haller J. Thiamine supplementation mood and cognitive functioning, Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1997
By optimizing this process, sulbutiamine can have a nootropic effect on focus and energy that can help treat some of the symptoms of ADHD.
Although there have not been any clinical trials regarding sulbutiamine and ADHD specifically, some users swear by having this nootropic in their Adderall alternative ADHD stack.
Learn more about boosting your mood and memory with Sulbutiamine.
A legal over-the-counter version on Modafinil
Adrafinil is a prodrug of the “smart pill” modafinil. It is an OTC substance that your body metabolizes into modafinil, and you do not need a prescription to buy it.
First developed as a wakefulness-promoting drug to combat narcolepsy, Adrafinil helps with ADHD according to preliminary research.7Modafinil for cognitive neuroenhancement in healthy non-sleep-deprived subjects: A systematic review, Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2015 8Milgram NW, et al. Oral administration of adrafinil improves discrimination learning in aged beagle dogs, Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2000
This nootropic can help you stay awake and alert over long periods. It seems to modulate the dopamine system, which might help people living with ADHD stay on task.9Lindsay SE, Gudelsky GA, Heaton PC. Use of modafinil for the treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Ann Pharmacother. 2006
Learn more about adrafinil for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and more.
One of the most popular nootropics for focus and mood
Aniracetam is a very popular choice in the racetam class of nootropics with a ton of research to back it up. It can work for ADHD by improving overall focus and mood.10Ingvar M, et al. Enhancement by an ampakine of memory encoding in humans, Exp Neurol. 1997
This nootropic works on a more subtle pathway than drugs like Adderall or Ritalin. Instead of dumping large amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine, aniracetam works by modulating the glutamate system.
This process makes it a much more sustainable choice in the long run.
It seems to improve concentration by encouraging connections in the brain rather than by overstimulation.
It also has a reasonably low side-effects profile and can be taken every day.
Read more about Aniracetam for increasing focus and how it works.
Non-stimulating nootropic for ADHD and mood
DLPA (a combination of d- and l- phenylalanine) can help your body make the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which may be lacking if you have ADHD.
This nootropic could provide the building blocks to make up this deficit.
Some users take DLPA for this reason. However, there are not many high-quality studies to back this particular use up, so take it with a grain of salt.
Some initial trials saw improvements in patients; others did not.11Wood DR, Reimherr FW, Wender PH.Treatment of attention deficit disorder with DL-phenylalanine, Psychiatry Res. 1985 Sep
Read more about DLPAs potential for treating ADHD.
World's #1 selling nootropic (and for good reason)
Noopept is one of the most popular nootropics out there, and it can undoubtedly help with ADHD for some users.
It is similar to the racetams but is much more potent. Noopept use has plenty of anecdotal and clinical evidence.
Noopept has a mild stimulatory effect and can significantly improve focus and concentration while it is active.
It works by altering the glutamate system, as opposed to working on dopamine or norepinephrine.
It also has neuroprotective qualities. Noopept can increase neuroplasticity and create new, stronger connections in the brain as opposed to traditional ADHD drugs, which seem to reinforce old, possibly addictive pathways.
Effective doses are only 10-60mg. For all these reasons, many users use Noopept as a foundation of their ADHD stack.
Learn about the nootropic Noopept benefits, dosage, stacking and side effects.
Effective, natural way to support dopamine
NALT (n-acetyl l-tyrosine) is a derivative of tyrosine, a critical amino acid. This nootropic acts as a precursor to dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline. It is much more potent than healthy tyrosine and gets used by your body much faster.
Some people use NALT as an alternative to ADHD drugs, enjoying the energy and focus it brings. Others use it alongside their medication.
Because NALT provides the building blocks for the neurotransmitters that Adderall depletes, some people use it at the end of the day to replenish those stores.12Fernstrom JD, Fernstrom MH. Tyrosine, phenylalanine, and catecholamine synthesis and function in the brain, J Nutr. 2007 13Marty Hinz, et al. Treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with monoamine amino acid precursors and organic cation transporter assay interpretation, Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2011
Some people also find that this nootropic also increases their mood.
All natural ADHD remedy
Pine Bark Extract is a potentially powerful all-natural nootropic derived from the Pinus pinaster
French Maritime Pine Bark Extract (sometimes sold as Pycnogenol) has clinically proven benefits for ADHD.
Multiple studies show that it is effective for children with attention problems.
Although there have not been any studies done on adults, it is not unreasonable to assume these results could translate to older patients as well.14Dvoráková M, et al Urinary catecholamines in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): modulation by a polyphenolic extract from pine bark (pycnogenol), Nutr Neurosci. 2007 15Dvoráková M, et al. . The effect of polyphenolic extract from pine bark, Pycnogenol on the level of glutathione in children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Redox Rep. 2006 16Trebatická J, et al Treatment of ADHD with French maritime pine bark extract, Pycnogenol, Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006
Pine bark extract can help ADHD by increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.
ADHD is notorious for the low levels of these neurotransmitters. It can also lower inflammation, another possible factor in this condition.
So, there are several options if you are trying to treat your ADHD with nootropics.
Some people are wary of traditional medication’s drawbacks and are willing to try over the counter supplements.
Although research may be minimal for some of them, that does not necessarily mean they may or may not work for you.
As with anything, please be cautious and listen to your body. Stop taking any supplements if you feel an adverse reaction.
Hopefully, one (or a combination) of the nootropics above can help!
About the author:
Erik Levi is a co-founder of HolisticNootropics.com and a certified holistic nutritional therapy practitioner.
As an NTP Erik takes a nutrition first approach to health. He has worked with many different people to help them use nutrition to optimize their quality of life.
Erik believes that mental health is a physiological process and cognitive enhancement is not something that can be achieved by just taking some pills with good Amazon reviews.
Instead, true cognitive enhancement comes with the right balance of nutrients, movement, and gratitude. Erik continues to stay up to date with the most current nootropic and holistic health research and promises to deliver the best solutions possible.
You can check out his personal health blog/podcast/YouTube Channel all under the name Holistic A-Hole.