If you have ever taken Adderall, you know the impressive boost in energy and focus that it provides. It is thanks to these benefits that many students and professionals use it with the hopes of improving their productivity and learning potential.
Even though it is one of the most common drugs used to help increase brain power and focus, it comes with many downsides, such as addiction, withdrawal, and other unpleasant side effects. Additionally, it is not available without a prescription, leaving those who would like to use it as a study drug left in a difficult position.
Fortunately there are numerous safer, and legal, alternatives to Adderall. Whether you are looking for powerful nootropic drugs or natural supplements to help with concentration and study power, there are options that can provide the benefits that you are searching for.
Adderall is a prescription drug used for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. Chemically, Adderall is a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. (1) These compounds are stimulants that inhibit norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake in the brain.
Even though this drug is widely prescribed for children and adults alike with ADHD, much of the Adderall prescribed today is illegally used instead by healthy people in the hopes of improving their work ability, or even just for an enjoyable “high.” One study found that 34% of undergraduates reported using ADHD stimulant medications illegally. (2)
It is a commonly used study drug, or smart drug, however it is not legally available for these purposes. In fact, when used outside of a prescription, it is classified as a Schedule II stimulant in the USA.
Why Students and Professionals Take Adderall
Adderalls ability to stimulate and enhance focus has made it a favorite for students and busy professionals alike. Many consider this drug to be the closest they have found to a “Limitless” pill.
One survey of medical and health professional students found that 93.5% of those who reported using nonprescription stimulants did so for the boost in focus and concentration. (6)
Does Adderall Really Help Students and Professionals Perform Better?
While there is no question that this drug increases energy and attention, there is debate among the scientific community regarding whether or not these benefits actually increase learning and memory potential.
Most Adderall users assume that this increased ability to stay up and focus yields enhanced learning abilities, whether or not they have ADHD. While there have been plenty of studies examining the benefits of Adderall for those with ADHD, there have been fewer examining the effects of this drug on cognitive enhancement in healthy adults.
The studies out there that have examined this effect find contradictory results - roughly ⅓ of studies have shown no effect at all on learning, while others support mild learning improvements. (1) Of those studies that do find memory enhancement, those that find improvement tend to be low performers, with most studies finding no benefit in high performers. (1,3)
Downsides of Adderall
Non-prescription stimulant use is the second most common form of illegal drug use among college students, second only to marijuana. (3) The biggest problems with this revolve around the health and safety of those taking these drugs without the advice and guidance of medical professionals. Even those that take Adderall as a prescription for ADHD can experience negative side effects long term that may encourage them to look for a safer alternative.
Adderall abuse has a high prevalence, with 25% of college students who are prescribed prescription stimulants misusing their own medications for an enjoyable “high” experience. (4) When taken as prescribed by a doctor, the risk of addiction is small, but if taken in excess or for long periods of time, users can experience addiction.
This addiction is thanks to increased synaptic levels of dopamine, which leads to enjoyable feelings that can lead to addiction and abuse. (3) In animals studies, it has been found that laboratory animals will repeatedly administer Adderall much like they do cocaine. (5).
Common signs of addiction include needing to up Adderall dosage and feeling sluggish and tired when not using it.
When you stop taking Adderall, you may experience withdrawal. This is much more likely for those who have been taking Adderall in high doses or for long periods of time. Symptoms can include depression, Adderall cravings, fatigue, low motivation, insomnia, and increased appetite. (8)
This withdrawal is thanks to how Adderall works in the brain. Your brain responds to the increased dopamine levels caused by this drug by stripping down dopamine receptors. When you stop taking it, your dopamine levels will return to normal, however you will have fewer dopamine receptors. This leads low efficacy of circulating dopamine and related fatigue and mood problems.
So what can you do to help with these withdrawal symptoms?
Unfortunately, taking other drugs that increase dopamine levels will only provide temporary and moderate relief. Other than simply waiting for your symptoms to improve, you can implement lifestyle changes that will boost other feel-good body chemicals, since your mind will not be receiving the same positive feels induced by dopamine.
Great options include frequent exercise to boost endorphins, and social activities to induce bonding neurotransmitters that will help you feel good.
The most common side effects from this drug include:
- Loss of appetite
- Irritability and anxiety
- Heart palpitations
Less common side effects occur typically when excessively large doses are taken. These can include psychosis, cardiovascular events, and seizures. (3).
Another concern is the lack of studies on the long-term impact of Adderall; most human studies end at 24 months. Of those that have been conducted, it appears that long term use may lead to changes in heart rate, which may be dangerous for those with heart conditions. (7)
Lastly, there are numerous drug interactions that users should be aware of. These can be particularly dangerous for those who are using this drug without the guidance of a doctor or pharmacist.
The last problem when it comes to Adderall is its efficacy for those who are taking it in hopes of enhancing their potential for memory and learning.
As discussed above, studies suggest that this drug helps those with ADHD and low performers when it comes to learning, but does not benefit high performers. (1,3) These findings suggest that the energy, focus, and positive feelings may not result in the learning benefits that most neurohackers would hope for. Fortunately, there are alternatives that are not only safer, but also more effective when it comes to overall cognitive function.
Finding A Legitimate Adderall Substitute
There are plenty of natural supplements on the market that are recommended by other students, professionals, and even doctors as a substitute for Adderall. These alternatives for Adderall are available on the market as Adderall replacements and most can be easily purchased online with a credit card.
Here are some of the alternatives to Adderall that can help you boost your memory, attention span, intellect and even brain health.
Focus Drugs Like Adderall
Modafinil and Armodafinil - The Closest Nootropics to Adderall
Modafinil and Armodafinil are the closest drugs that you will find to Adderall. Modafinil is a nootropic drug, and falls under the class of eugeroic compounds. The pharmaceutical purpose of this chemical was for the treatment of sleeplessness and narcolepsy. However, it’s also used as one of the treatment drugs for ADHD.
They provide similar improvements in energy and attention span with fewer side effects, and overall are considered safer than amphetamines. (9) They are both typically sold as prescription drugs, somewhat limiting their use in the nootropics community.
Modafinil works primarily through promoting wakefulness and is known to heighten one’s senses. While it does so through interacting with the same brain chemicals as Adderall, it is not strong enough to create the same level of addiction.
A high level of attention received as a result of this supplement allows the person to focus on detail-oriented work even for hours at a time. In one study, those in the military took this drug, Adderall, or placebo during 64 hour shifts without sleep. (9) Researchers concluded that both Modafinil and Adderall helped to improve memory, logical reasoning, fatigue, and mood when compared to placebo.
Modafinil is made up of R-Modafinil and S-Modafinil, which have similar effects in the body. The main difference is that the R- form has a longer half life than the S form. Because of this, Modafinil has the strongest effect in the first 5 hours, with a tapering effect for around 12 to 15 hours after supplementation.
Armodafinil is pure R-Modafinil, making it longer lasting than Modafinil. Rather than having a strong experience for 5 hours, users can expect to have this effect for 12 to 15 hours. Some users will find difficulties sleeping even when taken early in the morning. Armodafinil is more expensive than Modafinil thanks to a more difficult chemical synthesis.
Modafinil is popular because it provides similar benefits as Adderall without any side effects. Modafinil won’t restrict the release of dopamine and your sleep cycles won’t be affected either. However, although without similar side effects, this medication can have negative side effects, so consulting a doctor is a must.
Adrafinil: Legal Modafinil
Adrafinil is the closest over the counter drug to Adderall, which works very similarly to Modafinil.
Adrafinil gets converted into Modafinil in the body, and is available without a prescription. The biggest difference that users will experience between these two is that Adrafinil will take just a bit more time to kick in - about 1 hour, versus 30 minutes with Modafinil.
Phenylpiracetam: Better than Adderall
If you are looking for legal Adderall, look no further than Phenylpiracetam. This newer member of the racetam family of nootropics is popular amongst neurohackers thanks to its powerful stimulatory, concentration, and mood boosting effects. Phenylpiracetam is such a powerful stimulant that is has been banned by the Olympic World Anti-Doping Agency. (10)
Outside of user reviews, not much is known about this drug thanks to limited studies. Even though there have been few studies on this specific racetam, this family of nootropic compounds is widely used thanks to their safety and impressive benefits on cognition.
While the exact mechanism of action is still up for debate, it appears to act largely through increasing cerebral blood flow and increasing neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. This is far safer than the increased dopamine levels caused by Adderall.
Phenylpiracetam is a very strong racetam, so it is important to start at a low dose of around 100 mg/day, and work up to find your ideal dosage.
Aniracetam, a highly concentrated form of piracetam which works by activating nicotinic acetylchlorine receptors, is a great option if you are looking for a more sustainable alternative to Adderall.
This drug helps in neuron growth, rapidly increases memory, and is one of the alternatives that provide the fastest effects. The brain stimulating properties of this drug is also effective for ADHD patients.
Although is not nearly as stimulating, it does act as a mild stimulant that reduces anxiety, boosts creativity, and offers strong cognitive benefits. These include increased learning, memory, and focus. Also, aniracetam consists of a mood and energy boosting component which helps to fight symptoms of depression and cuts down chaotic thoughts linked to anxiety.
This racetam is much safer for long term use, with many users taking it daily with very few side effects. Remember to supplement with a quality source of choline, such as Alpha GPC or Citicoline.
Noopept is a neuropeptide that is highly concentrated and provides a wide range of benefits such as heightened concentration, improved memory, neural tissue support, and the likes, at much lower doses than other similar medications.
It is known as one of the most effective and safest nootropics on the market today. You may start to feel benefits in as little as 15 minutes following sublingual supplementation. These benefits include enhanced concentration, focus, memory, mood, anxiety, and learning abilities.
Noopept does not provide the same level of stimulation or focus as Adderall does, but it is more effective at providing memory, learning, and creativity improvements. It is also much safer than Adderall, and even touts neuroprotective benefits.
This chemical helps to preserve brain cells, so it’s used when a person suffers from conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, ADD and ADHD. One major reason for its popularity is the nerve growth factor. It also has mood-enhancing effects. Because of its all-around cognitive support and neural protection, Noopept supplements can be used by people of all ages.
If you are looking for a study drug, Noopept is typically a better option than Adderall, although the way these two drugs feel is quite different.
L-Theanine + Caffeine: Homemade Adderall Substitute
L-theanine is an amino acid that is found in green tea. It is this compound that is to thank for the calming effects of green tea, in spite of the caffeine content. On its own, many will use L-theanine for its anxiolytic effects, although these tend to be subtle.
L-theanine and caffeine work together synergistically. The stimulatory effects of caffeine and the calming effects of L-theanine create enhanced focus, memory, and mood without any of the negative effects of Adderall.
In one study on L-theanine and caffeine, human participants were given either 50 mg caffeine, 50 mg caffeine and 100 mg L-theanine, or placebo, and were then given tests to measure their cognition and mood. (11) It was found that participants who took both experienced greater improvements in memory and focus than caffeine alone, and that both caffeine and caffeine + L-theanine improved speed and accuracy performance on tests along with overall energy.
While the stimulation and focus are less than that of Adderall, this combination has the added benefit of an extremely good safety profile, easy accessibility, and greater improvements in memory for healthy adults when compared to Adderall.
Piracetam is considered one of the most effective alternatives for Adderall because of its ability to enter the nervous system and enhance brain power. This chemical affects different levels of neurotransmitters in order to boost one’s ability to learn, form memories, increase attention span, and concentration.
This chemical is also known for its counteractive effects on ADHD. Also, it’s less toxic than Adderall in terms of side effects, and helps in better neuron maintenance.
As the name suggests, it’s related to piracetam and its major benefits are a high level of concentration and an increase in memory. Pramiracetam activates various receptors in the brain to enhance the cognitive processes. As a result, the effect of the drug includes heightened concentration and focus, fast and fluid thoughts, and increase in logical reasoning abilities.
It’s 30 times more powerful than piracetam and is mostly recommended for its effect on memory formation and recall. This racetam is considered to be best for memory, especially when compared to Adderall as this drug has a lasting impact on memory. Other benefits include an increase in motivation and promotion of goal-oriented behavior.
AddTabz (No longer recommended)
AddTabz is one supplement that has been marketed as an alternative for Adderall. Users of this supplement have claimed this product to be effective at increasing concentration, focus, attention span, improving energy and productivity. It also helps the individual to fight stress and maintain productivity.
This supplement is composed of different kinds of herbs and other natural stimulants. Its components activate neurotransmitters and thus help to increase memory, learning capacity and other different cognitive functions. Reports show that while effective, best results of this supplement can be seen when taken with other alternatives like Aniracetam or piracetam. While it sounds cool and tempting to buy, we recommend avoiding this product.
Best Energy and Focus Pills
NooCube is an all-natural nootropic supplement that is made up of antioxidants and herbs. This formulation is designed with the purpose of helping to improve memory, mental speed, and concentration.
Its ingredients include:
- Alpha GPC: highly bioavailable source of choline that can cross over the blood-brain barrier
- Huperzine A: an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (reduces breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine)
- Cat’s claw: powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that may help with cognition
- Bacopa monnieri: an herb known to boost memory through cholinergic function
- Oat straw: promotes relaxation and focus through increasing alpha brainwaves and increasing cerebral blood flow
- L-theanine: an amino acid found in green tea that works as an anxiolytic
- L-tyrosine: an amino acid involved in neurotransmitter production. Helps boost performance under high-stress circumstances
Overall this is a quality supplement that can help to offer a mild cognitive, focus, and mood boost. The downside is that not all of the ingredients are in their best form, such as Bacopa monnieri, which is in powder rather than extract form.
If you are looking for an all-natural nootropic blend for concentration, Qualia Mind is a great option. It is the best overall concentration pill, with caffeine, taurine, choline, B vitamins, Ashwagandha, L-theanine, and much more. Its 42 ingredients are designed to improve brain health while enhancing cognitive function, memory, and focus.
This is definitely one of the best natural alternatives to Adderall. You can use Qualia Mind long term, but it is important to cycle this drug. One recommended schedule is 5 days on and 2 days off.
Mind Lab Pro
If what you are searching for is a study pill to help you perform better when it comes to memory, learning, and other tasks associated with intelligence, Mind Lab Pro is one of the best products available.
It is made up of 11 all-natural nootropics in quality forms and clinically effective dosages. This separates it from many of the other all-in-one nootropic supplements that often contain low levels of individual nootropics or source less than ideal ingredients.
In comparison to Adderall, you will find much less stimulation, but what it lacks in stimulatory effects, it makes up for in improved overall brainpower and health.
TruBrain is a company that has a line of premade nootropic stack products including drinks, bars, and capsules. These compilations are centered around racetam nootropics with additional compounds to help enhance or balance the blend.
Some of the ingredients include Piracetam, Oxiracetam, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, N-Acetyl Tyrosine, CDP-Choline, Magnesium, L-Theanine, and caffeine.
When compared to Adderall, these products come with fewer side effects and cleaner energy. They are formulated to enhance cholinergic function, meaning that they are more likely to help with memory and learning than Adderall.
If you are considering purchasing TruBrain, the capsules seem to be slightly better formulated than the drinks, with closer to the recommended dosages of the nootropics contained within.
Kimera Koffee is a unique and valuable product that is made up of high-quality coffee combined with natural nootropics to help increase focus and boost overall cognitive function. These include Alpha-GPC, DMAE, L-Theanine, Taurine, Ginkgo Biloba, and L-Glutamine.
Kimera Koffee can help to boost overall brain health while increasing focus and brain power. It may not be quite as powerful when it comes to stimulation and focus as Adderall, but it is a great product that can offer noticeable benefits.
Best Adderall Alternative?
So what is the best Adderall alternative? Our four top picks include Armodafinil, Adrafinil, Qualia Mind, and Mind Lab Pro.
If you are looking for something similar in effects, your best options are Armodafinil or Adrafinil. They work through similar mechanisms and will provide very noticeable improvements in focus and energy. Pick Adrafinil if you are looking for a shorter boost of about 5 hours, and Armodafinil if you need to pull an all-nighter or work hard for 12 hours or more.
When it comes to natural alternatives to help enhance your cognition, Qualia Mind and Mind Lab Pro are truly quality formulations. Qualia Mind is best for concentration, while Mind Lab Pro is an ideal study drug that will help to boost memory and learning potential. If you are a healthy adult, it is likely that these two nootropic blends will offer you more benefit when it comes to enhancing actual memory and learning abilities.
Our Top Brain Enhancement Supplements
- Mitigating risks of students use of study drugs through understanding motivations for sure and applying harm reduction theory: a literature review https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-8uaEVOAt-qRklreuCNqybQb2qQDAJ2GjsjA1WQ7afU/edit
- Illicit use of prescription ADHD medications on a college campus: a multimethodological approach https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18980888
- Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3489818/
- ADHD, medication treatment, and substance use patterns among adolescents and young adults https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16262596/
- Comparing the abuse potential of methylphenidate versus other stimulants: a review of available evidence and relevance to the ADHD patient https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14529325/
- The use of prescription stimulants to enhance academic performance among college students in health care programs https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22308929/
- Blood pressure and heart rate over 10 years in the multimodal treatment study of children with ADHD https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21890793/
- Treatment for amphetamine withdrawal https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003021.pub2/full
- Modafinil, d-amphetamine and placebo during 64 hours of sustained mental work. I. Effects on mood, fatigue, cognitive performance, and body temperature https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10607161
- What is Prohibited https://www.wada-ama.org/en/content/what-is-prohibited#/
- The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18681988