It’s been over five months since the FDA announced the Adderall shortage and things don’t seem to be clearing up anytime soon. The shortage, which was caused by the unprecedented 15.1% increase in ADHD prescriptions among adults during 2020, has since spread to other prescription medications used to treat the condition, including nearly 40 different Concerta formulations and Vyvanse.
Although interruptions to the drug supply chain aren’t apparent, there’s currently no light at the end of the tunnel for thousands of Americans who are seeking alternatives to help manage their ADHD symptoms. That is, of course, if you’re only considering prescription alternatives. But many adults are exploring new options–specifically herbal and nootropic supplements–with great success.
Potential Alternatives to Adderall for ADHD
Although there are plenty of snake oil remedies floating around the market, likely hoping to take advantage of the most severe Adderall shortage the nation has ever seen, there are also a few tried and true supplements to consider.
More specifically, Alpha-GPC, an amino acid that’s approved to treat dementia in some countries, as well as nootropic supplements like L-Theanine and L-Tyrosine, are gaining traction.
Although none of these supplements are currently FDA approved for treating ADHD, we do have some research to help shed some light on their potential benefits. Here’s what we know:
Alpha-GPC, (also known as L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine) is an essential lipid that helps to make up cell bodies. It plays an essential role in the regulation of various cellular processes, including the production of choline, which is necessary for nearly all neurological functions.
Research shows that Alpha-GPC can increase acetylcholine levels in the brain, a neurotransmitter that helps carry out all basic memory and learning functions.
Furthermore, new evidence suggests that choline, among other nutritional compounds, plays a larger role in ADHD than we initially realized.
One study evaluated the effects of choline supplements on cognitively delayed children suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a neurological condition that’s described as a leading cause of ADHD in children. At a four year follow up, the children who received choline supplements were reported to have “higher non-verbal intelligence, higher visual-spatial skill, higher working memory ability, better verbal memory, and fewer behavioral symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than the placebo group.”
Because of its positive impact on memory and working memory, research has found that alpha-GPC supplementation may be useful for improving the symptoms of dementia, which is why alpha-GPC-based medications are routinely prescribed to treat dementia in many parts of Asia.
However, one study found that increased choline intake may be linked to improved cognitive performance even outside of dementia. The research saw improvement in four areas in healthy adults: verbal memory, visual memory, verbal learning, and executive function.
For those ADHDers relying on caffeine to fuel their focus, Alpha-GPC may overwrite those benefits, too. One study comparing the impact of caffeine and alpha-GPC found that alpha-GPC supplementation was associated with an 18% increase in the performance speed of young adults carrying out various physical and mental tasks.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that is commonly found in tea leaves–another natural compound that’s been studied for its potential use in improving cognitive function. In recent years, there has been growing interest in using L-Theanine as a treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) because of its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and positively affect the brain's neurotransmitters.
More specifically, it may help to boost neurotransmitter levels, including dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. Dopamine is particularly relevant to ADHD as it is involved in the brain's reward system and plays a role in attention, motivation, and executive function.
In a small study conducted in 2011, L-Theanine was found to improve cognitive function and increase alpha brain wave activity in children with ADHD. Alpha brain waves are associated with a relaxed but focused state of mind and are thought to be beneficial for individuals with ADHD. The study also found that L-Theanine reduced symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity in the children.
A 2019 study found that L-Theanine supplementation improved attention and reduced hyperactivity in adults with ADHD. The study also found that L-Theanine reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is often elevated in individuals with ADHD.
While these studies are promising, it's important to note that they were small and conducted over a short period. More research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of L-Theanine for ADHD and to determine the optimal dosage and duration of treatment.
While there’s currently less data to link L-Tyrosine to ADHD treatment, there’s good reason to believe that it may positively impact cognitive performance.
The original sentiment behind L-Tyrosine for ADHD stemmed from the belief that children with ADHD had low levels of tyrosine in the brain. While this claim has only been substantiated in half of the research available, there’s definitely some interest surrounding L-Tyrosine’s potential ability to improve cognition, especially in cases of stress.
According to a review of 15 studies, taking tyrosine supplements may improve memory, particularly in challenging situations such as extreme weather or high cognitive load. Another 2015 study also found that tyrosine supplementation could enhance cognitive function in the short term during stressful or demanding circumstances.
Yet another study in 2015 revealed that taking tyrosine supplements may enhance cognitive flexibility in high cognitive demand situations. These studies involved healthy adults, however, and not adults with ADHD.
Nootropic Stacks May Be a Comprehensive Solution
While all of these supplements (and others) may have some potential benefits for managing ADHD related symptoms, the true benefits lie in the scope of their opportunity. In other words, there’s virtually no harm in giving them a shot, especially if you aren’t able to get your usual pharmaceutical solutions.
Natural supplements and nootropics notoriously carry fewer drawbacks than prescription drugs used to treat ADHD. Adderall and other stimulants are known for harsh side effects, including dependency and withdrawal symptoms. They also have restrictive drug interactions that may make it impossible to try other cognition enhancing routes.
On the other hand, many natural nootropic supplements, including Alpha-GPC, L-Tyrosine, and L-Theanine, can be taken together, and there are virtually no consequences to quitting them later if they don’t work for you.
In fact, it may be better to take them together since some nootropics have synergistic benefits–they each help in ways that others do not, offering more complete cognitive coverage.
It’s this sentiment that’s helped nootropic stacks–or curated nootropic supplements containing two or more cognition-boosting compounds–have taken off as a potential ADHD treatment alternative.
Lucid: The Nootropic Stack That’s Actually Your Morning Pick-Me-Up
Lucid is a nootropic stack like no other–a curated selection of functional mushrooms and proven nootropics wrapped up in an instant drink mix. Now, your morning cup of coffee, chai, or matcha is your brain-supporting nootropic stack that can help boost focus and cognitive endurance throughout the day.
The Lucid formula is complex, but surprisingly simple–using only natural and proven ingredients to help support well-being of the body and mind.
While some ingredients, like L-tyrosine, L-theanine, and moderate doses of caffeine, may provide instantaneous benefits, others have benefits that build over time. Functional mushrooms, like Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, and Maitake, may have long term benefits, like boosting the body’s ability to build and repair brain cells and bolstering the body’s immune system and gut health.
We’ve never proposed Lucid as an ADHD treatment–that’s a job for doctors and scientists. In fact, our scope has always been much broader. We created Lucid to help bring the mind and body into balance, with equal focus on both physical and mental health.
But many who have tried Lucid have raved about its benefits in place of their ADHD medications or for improving focus and energy. In fact, these are the most common kinds of reviews we receive:
Great for my ADHD -- like a natural adderall (without the adverse effects) Tried all of them and they are amazing -- the packaging is rad, and the taste is great. But best of all, it's really helped my ADHD without having to turn to something like Adderall or Ritalin (with all the adverse effects)
Love my Lucid - This stuff is amazing, having the boost without a crash and the ability to be laser focused has been my ultimate experience with all flavors.
Holy smokes! This stuff is fantastic. I went from 5 cups of coffee a day to just 1 cup of lucid matcha mix. My energy and focus went through the roof! But my favorite part is that it's not a jittery energy but rather a subtle lengthened energy the entire day. Amazing stuff.
What’s in Lucid?
Our Lucid stack contains Alpha-GPC, L-Theanine, and L-Tyrosine, plus other nootropics (Ginkgo Biloba and BCAA’s) and four powerful medicinal mushrooms (Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Maitake, and Tremella).
When it’s all said and done, this nootropic + mushroom super blend adds up to offer these benefits and more:
- Increases focus and cognitive endurance
- Improves athletic performance
- Helps to manage fatigue
- Boosts immunity
- Improves neurogenesis
- Enhances learning, and memory
- Supports a healthy stress response
- Promotes relaxation
- Supports a balanced mood
If you’re looking for a nootropic stack to help bring you back into focus, check out the Lucid Starter Kit.