Adderall is a prescription-only medication which is licensed to treat ADHD and the sleep disorder narcolepsy. In the case of ADHD, the drug can help to calm people down and increase their ability to focus and pay attention, and in the case of narcolepsy, it can help to prevent daytime sleepiness. The drug is made up of 2 stimulants, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It is classed as a nervous system stimulant, and it works by increasing the levels of the chemical dopamine in the brain.
Adderall is quite widely used. There are more prescriptions written for cases of ADHD, but there is also widespread abuse of the drug. Due to the effect it has on dopamine levels, it can make a user feel euphoric. This is obviously desirable for a lot of people, and it’s the reason why the drug has such a high potential to become addictive.
In addition to obtaining a high, the drug’s ability to boost focus and attention, while reducing fatigue has led to it being classed as a ‘smart drug,’ and many students use it when they need to write a paper or study for long periods for exams.
Adderall also suppresses appetite, which has led to some people using it to help them lose weight. However, the drug is not without its side effects, and there are some pretty serious side effects on the list. Users can experience psychosis, addiction, and cardiac problems.
Because of the drug’s effect on brain chemistry, withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant when a user discontinues use of the medication. Symptoms can include depression, insomnia, irritability, and fatigue.
General side effects of the drug include dizziness, restlessness, headache, Trouble sleeping, nausea, dry mouth, and stomach complaints. Obviously, you should discuss side effects with your doctor and decide whether your side effects are a tolerable compromise for an improvement in the symptoms of your health condition.
What Is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a condition that presents as impulsive behaviour, the inability to pay attention, and hyperactivity. It’s most commonly diagnosed in childhood, between the ages of 6 and 12, but symptoms of ADHD can continue through into adolescence and adulthood. There is no cure but symptoms can be managed with the appropriate treatment. Children with ADHD often have problems at school, or when they are put into social situations. There is no definitive cause, but there appears to be factors which make ADHD more likely to develop, including use of alcohol or tobacco in pregnancy, brain injury, or even a genetic link.
How is ADHD treated?
Medication is a first line treatment, though counselling and other therapies are often used alongside medication to help children and their parents make sense of their condition, and to help them learn how to manage symptoms.
Making changes to lifestyle can sometimes reduce the symptoms of ADHD. These can include things like keeping a bedtime and mealtime routine, using appropriate disciplinary methods for undesirable behaviour, and getting children involved in extracurricular activities to boost their self-esteem.
There is some evidence to suggest that dietary changes might help too, and reducing sugar and food additive intake might make a difference. Researchers are currently looking into whether increasing the intake of omega 3 fatty acids might help to reduce symptoms.
What is narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a brain disorder that affects the functioning of the normal sleep/wake cycle. Sufferers often feel drowsy through the day, and the condition can have a huge impact on daily life. The condition is usually diagnosed in the teenage years, but children can also be affected. Narcolepsy is the second most common sleep disorder after sleep apnoea.
The condition is most often caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Sufferers do not have sufficient levels of a chemical called hypocretin, which is responsible for wakefulness. Sometimes the chemical imbalance is caused by a genetic defect, or an autoimmune disorder, where the body’s own immune system attacks the cells that are responsible for producing hypocretin. Some cases can be caused by brain injury, stress, or hormonal changes.
The symptoms of narcolepsy include excessive daytime sleepiness, hallucinations, loss of muscle control, and sometimes, sleep paralysis can occur. Daytime sleepiness is the most common symptom, and this can cause a lack of energy, and a low mood. This can occur no matter how good you feel that your sleep was the night before. Sleepiness can affect concentration at school or at work.
Even more worryingly, you can have ‘micro sleeps,’ where you fall asleep for a very brief period of time. This can obviously be very dangerous if you are driving.
Sleep paralysis and hallucinations are less common symptoms, which occur in only 10 to 25 percent of people with narcolepsy.
How is narcolepsy treated?
There is no cure, but medication can help you to manage symptoms. Most commonly prescribed drugs are stimulants, which stimulate the nervous system so users stay awake through the day. Some of these medications can contain amphetamine.
Amphetamines are effective at treating excessive daytime sleepiness, but they often cause side effects like nervousness and heart palpitations, they can be addictive, and they are often abused by people who have no medical need for them. Lifestyle modifications can work too, and some sufferers can benefit from avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol, exercising regularly, setting a sleep schedule, and taking regular naps.
Why might people want an alternative to a drug like Adderall?
Though Adderall is a very popular choice for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy, there are some factors which lead to some people choosing to find an alternative drug that they can better tolerate. Here’s why some people turn their back on Adderall.
The effects of long-term stimulant use are not known
As with any stimulant, there is always the risk of them causing cardiovascular problems such as an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure. Other issues, such as insomnia, muscle tremors, and a loss of appetite are also common.
Adderall is highly addictive
Adderall increases the level of dopamine in the brain. An increase in dopamine can bring about feelings of euphoria, so it makes sense that this can give the drug a high potential for becoming addictive. The potential for abuse is considerable too, as the drug can aid weight loss, increase focus and concentration, and reduce fatigue. Students studying for exams and people who want to lose weight quickly commonly abuse this drug and take it when there is no medical need.
Some existing health conditions can make taking Adderall a very dangerous choice
People with any form of heart problem should avoid Adderall because of the increased risk of cardiovascular effects. More than a dozen people in Canada have had strokes due to taking Adderall.
Like any drug, the risks and benefits should be weighed up carefully and discussed with your doctor.
The top alternatives to Adderall
No drug is likely to replace Adderall completely, but there are alternatives, should you be looking for a drug that stimulates you, but without the long-term potential for addiction and cardiovascular problems.
Nootropics are drugs that enhance cognitive function, improve memory, concentration, motivation, and mood, but they tend to have little or no side effects and they don’t have the potential for addiction. Like Adderall, they do change the levels of chemicals in the brain, but they do so in a way that is positive, and which supports the needs of the user.
Enhancing cognitive function with substances is nothing new. It has been common practice in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. But the term nootropics was given to such substances in the 1970’s by a Romanian scientist. He determined that to be classed as a nootropic, a drug had to be able to enhance memory and learning capacity, and that it should possess few, if any side effects.
This is why a drug like Adderall would not be considered a nootropic. It has side effects, and long-term, addiction can develop as the user needs to take more to get the desired effects.
Here are some top alternatives to Adderall
This is the closest nootropic drug to a stimulant. This drug is often touted as being Adderall without the side effects. It does not compromise the immune system at all, and it benefits your mental and physical endurance.
Unifiram is a newly developed nootropic drug, and the marketing calls 1,000+ times stronger than piracetam. Again, the drug doesn’t have the side effects of Adderall, but in terms of the increase in mental focus and motivation it can give you, it definitely compares to Adderall. There is no risk of addiction with this one either.
This is similar to Unifiram, and it is one of the strongest nootropics available. It is known as an ampakine nootropic, meaning that it acts on dopamine and glutamate levels in the brain. It does so in a positive way however, so that when you discontinue use, you don’t end up with the horrible side effects you can get from Adderall.
Sunifiram is another ampakine nootropic and it was recently developed alongside unifiram. It is similar in its chemical makeup, and it also acts on the brain neurotransmitter glutamate. It’s cheaper than unifiram, but it lacks some of the potency of unifiram. It is still a good alternative to Adderall though, especially if you’re on a budget.
This drug is very similar to Adderall in that it has a stimulant like effect, but its effects are much shorter lasting. It has minimal side effects though, and it is most useful as a study aid when you’re preparing for an exam.
Aniracetam is a known anxiolytic, which means that it calms anxiety. It also produces a euphoric effect at certain levels, and is commonly used in ‘stacks’. Stacking is a method of combining nootropic drugs to enhance their effects. Aniracetam is commonly stacked with phenylpiracetam or unifiram.
If you have ever seen the movie “Limitless,” you may know that it was based on noopept, a small clear tablet that is taken orally or placed under the tongue. It produces similar effects to the drug taken in the movie, though obviously, the movie is made in Hollywood and so everything is a little embellished. Noopept has neuroprotective benefits if taken for a long period of time, and unlike Adderall, it has minimal side effects.
Oxiracetam is another stimulant like drug, and it’s basically a stronger version of piracetam. It is a good nootropic for stacking with others, or for use as a cognitive enhancer.
Vasopressin is known as the anti-diuretic hormone, is and it used off label as a nootropic for its ability to increase memory in the short term. It can be stacked with phenylpiracetam or any of the other racetams or ampakines to increase the overall effect.
Guarana is a natural stimulant, which contains a relatively small dose of caffeine. If you’re using medications to give you a lift, try this natural aid instead. It’s known to reduce brain fog, and helps to reduce fatigue. It can be stacked with racetams and ampakines to give more of a stimulating effect, that’s similar to Adderall.
Focalin is a prescription medication that is used to treat ADHD. The drug is a stimulant, and it is abused frequently, so the rules for prescribing it are a little stricter.
Although Focalin is a stimulant, it produces effects that are the opposite of what you would expect from a stimulant. Stimulants like caffeine are known to cause jitters, but Focalin has a calming effect. The way in which the drug produces the calming effect is not known for certain, however, it is thought to be down to how the drug affects chemicals in the brain.
Ritalin is prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. The medication acts on the chemicals in the brain to produce a calming effect, so it is effective in treating the hyperactivity associated with ADHD. It can also help children to focus and pay attention, however, the drug is not licensed for use in the case of adult ADHD. The drug’s stimulating effect helps those with narcolepsy to overcome daytime sleepiness. Ritalin usually needs to be taken 2-3 times per day to be effective. Ritalin is a stimulant, and it is commonly abused, so the rules on prescribing it are a little tighter than other drugs.
ADHD is a condition which is often diagnosed in childhood, and presents as a set of behavioural symptoms, including the inability to pay attention, an inability to focus, and impulsivity. The nature of the symptoms mean that a child will often have problems at school, where it is expected that they will be able to focus and adhere to certain behavioural norms. Teenagers and adults can have ADHD, but as it develops in childhood, they may have not been so aware of it until their later years, or it might have been misdiagnosed as something else. There is no cure for ADHD, however, appropriate medication, counselling, and other therapies can help to control the symptoms, and help families make sense of the condition and how they can best manage it.
Narcolepsy is a rare condition, characterised by the sufferer falling asleep suddenly at inappropriate times, and experiencing extreme daytime sleepiness. This can impact significantly on everyday life, and it can be quite distressing. There is no cure, however medication and lifestyle changes can help control the symptoms.
The drug of choice for both of these conditions is usually one known as a stimulant. It stimulates the central nervous system and affects the chemicals in the brain. In ADHD, stimulants can increase the ability to pay attention, and in narcolepsy, they can combat daytime sleepiness. The most commonly prescribed prescription stimulant is Adderall. Adderall changes the levels of dopamine in the brain and also produces effects such as weight loss, increased focus, and reduced fatigue. It is for this reason that Adderall has a high potential for abuse and addiction. From the student who wants to cram for an exam, to the user who wants to lose weight fast, to the user who simply wants to feel euphoric, it is easily to see why Adderall has become an unlicensed drug of choice. However, it is not without side effects and some of these are pretty undesirable. Adderall can increase the risk of cardiac side effects such as an irregular heartbeat or high blood pressure. There have been recorded cases of people having strokes due to taking Adderall. So, all things considered, it’s easy to see why people might want to consider an alternative. They want the effects of Adderall without the side effects, or the jitters, or the awful withdrawals, and they might just find it if they look at the nootropics.