Last updated: October 22, 2018
Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher, poet, and critic who has a reputation for unfriendly and melancholy work. In his lifetime, he had many quotes, but one in particular relates to Adderall usage in young high performers across the western world.
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
Taking Adderall or similar drugs is both a philosophical and scientific question. Analyzing why you take Adderall, what you hope to gain from it, and how it affects you are all as important as finding a quick fix.
If you scroll to the end of this article, you will receive tangible Adderall alternatives and an Adderall substitute that you can buy to satiate your desire, but if you wait and stick with me, you might answer far more serious questions.
The “Why” Of Adderall
Despite the fact that millions of people across the globe consume Adderall, many people don’t know how it works or what it is. I’ve even had people who take the drug daily ask me “what is Adderall?” in the past.
Adderall is a combination of mixed amphetamine salts, which are psychostimulants that modulate regions of the brain regarding focus, attention, and mood.
The drug is primarily used to treat ADHD and approximately 11% of children age 4 – 17 are using Adderall or some form of amphetamine for this purpose. The number has grown from only 7.8% in 2003 and continues to spread to an ever wider audience .
We are finally starting to see people in corporate America who have used Adderall for the majority of their childhood and adult life. Many of whom (perhaps yourself included) are wondering why you are still taking the drug.
Adderall is an effective tool. It consistently improves concentration, focus, helps performance, and it makes people feel great.
Yet, in order to achieve all those Adderall benefits, you must sacrifice.
- Adderall tends to impair already mental high-performers (but helps low-performers)
- People on Adderall find it difficult to determine whether performance is better or worse
- Using Adderall leads to potentially significant withdrawal symptoms
- Reduces appetite and increases blood pressure, palpitations, poor sleep quality etc.
Despite the side effects and sacrifices one must make, plenty of people sign-up to buy Adderall whether it is illegally or through a prescription. Why make that sacrifice?
One friend has a phrase that he tells me often: “Show me a person who is running a marathon and I’ll show you a person who is running from something.”
Many people whom I’ve met that take Adderall are either doing so because they started at a young age and don’t know any better or their success and “getting ahead” means so much that they are willing to do anything to achieve it. Many are just trying to please their parents, girlfriends, bosses, and aren’t truly thinking about their own desires.
There are no simple or easy answers. I can only pose questions that help elicit the true answer for you. Consider these questions:
- Are you using Adderall to run away from something in yourself?
- Can you view and use Adderall purely as a tool and not become dependent on it?
These are beneficial questions to ask oneself no matter what substance you discuss, but even moreso with something so powerful and altering as Adderall.
Now that you have questioned why you take Adderall in the first place, let’s find some good Adderall alternatives to replace it.
Two Steps to Adderall Freedom
There are two main steps if you are seriously looking for Adderall alternatives. Adderall is a mixture of four amphetamine salts, which are powerful and modulate a brain chemical called dopamine in a potentially disruptive way.
The first step is to prevent a huge drop in your mood and happiness (i.e: withdrawal symptoms) and the second step is to find alternatives that can truly help.
Withdrawal and Adderall Side Effects
Many months ago we sent a feedback survey to thousands of readers asking about their biggest problems. One woman wrote back:
“I’ve been taking Adderall since the 8th grade (now 30) & really struggle…”
She struggled to maintain a high standard of work and productivity without the drug now that she has become dependent. Millions of people face the difficult challenge of Adderall withdrawal symptoms and the side effects of long term usage.
If you are thinking about stopping (or you already have stopped), then one piece of knowledge is going to smooth the transition for you:
Adderall creates a lot of dopamine (the happiness chemical) in the brain. Your brain stops receiving the dopamine because there is just too much. Your brain then undergoes a process called “down-regulation”. Here are some natural Adderall solutions for this problem:
- Mucuna Pruriens – after dopamine “down-regulation” by your brain, providing more and more dopamine isn’t going to make the problems go away, but it can help. This natural source of L-DOPA (and thus dopamine) can help to ease your burden when transitioning. UPDATE: In light of further inquiry and research, we suggest L-tyrosine or (better) N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT) to increase dopamine rather than mucuna pruriens because of certain enzymatic actions that may not be beneficial long-term.
- Rhodiola Rosea – there is no way around it, but you are probably going to feel some level of stress after stopping Adderall usage. Rhodiola rosea is an “adaptogen”, which means it helps the body adapt to stress.
Besides these two natural nootropic alternatives to Adderall, you can engage in two specific practices as well:
- Sweating – whether you like to run, do martial arts, or play basketball, sweating of some sort is going to help you maintain a healthy brain. Because physical exercise releases endorphins and brain chemicals that are particularly helpful when dopamine is down-regulated in the brain.
- Social Engagements – anecdotal evidence suggests that post-Adderall socializing and conversations can be highly stimulating and rewarding. The connection with other humans can create chemical changes in your brain so long as you feel 100% comfortable with the crowd you engage with. Otherwise it can be more of a burden / drain than support.
If your Adderall side effects are so bad that these suggestions do not help, consider seeing a doctor, but keep in mind that a doctor’s suggestions may have gotten you here in the first place.
Adderall Alternatives That Work
Assuming you have already taken care of your Adderall withdrawal symptoms, it is time to focus on getting your concentration, focus, and cognitive abilities to a similar place they once were. While the same philosophical questions apply to these drugs, these Adderall substitutes are mostly less destructive.
One thing holding people back from stopping Adderall is their job. Most believe they can’t maintain the quality of their work if they stop taking Adderall. An alternative, which is not as detrimental but similarly effective, is modafinil (also known as provigil).
It’s been recommended (with caution) by people like Tim Ferriss and Dave Asprey. It has been a major tool for improving brain power for decades, but only recently has it stepped into the limelight.
Technically, modafinil is supposed to be a wakefulness-promoting agent, which is not the same mechanism as Adderall or many other stimulants (see Modafinil vs. Adderall). There are a decent number of studies regarding modafinil including two that stood out for our purposes.
In one study, modafinil was given to people addicted to methamphetamine (worse than Adderall) and results showed that it could improve their cognition and working memory .
In another interesting study, modafinil was given daily to military personnel who were working for 64 hours straight (2 nights without sleep) and found that it could prevent mood and mental performance decline similar to higher doses of Adderall .
Modafinil is a prescription drug in many parts of the world and it is a powerful stimulant, which is not free from side effects. It can be abused like any other, but for those trying to find an Adderall substitute, it may be a useful tool.
There are online Modafinil pharmacies, such as Afinil Express, and you can also find “pro-drugs” (which are nootropics that convert one substance into modafinil within the body), such as Armodafinil and Adrafinil.
This racetam is one of the newest and most popular incarnations within this family of drugs. Although the research is scarce on phenylpiracetam (compared to Adderall or Modafinil), there is some evidence and anecdotal data to suggest it can be a powerful Adderall alternative. It is primarily useful for the following reasons:
- Potent stimulation – the Olympic anti-doping committee considers phenylpiracetam to be so stimulating, it is a banned substance … yet it is not a prescription drug so you can buy phenylpiracetam online.
- Mood enhancement – Considering Adderall users struggle with their mood, phenylpiracetam offers a great alternative for mood enhancement .
- Mechanism seems safer – the mechanism of action for phenylpiracetam is still yet unknown, but most suggest it is increased blood flow to the brain. This is far better than large dopamine blasts in the brain.
- Concentration – this may not be as high as some other alternatives, but this racetam derivative will have concentration and focus benefits for sure.
I had brain QEEG scans of phenylpiracetam that showed how effective it was for my brain. According to the neuroscientist, it was effective at reducing distractions and helping me to focus (similar to Adderall). While phenylpiracetam is the most stimulating, there are others (in descending order) within the family that are also stimulating:
- Fasoracetam – this drug was actually tested for use in ADHD so there is evidence fasoracetam is stimulating.
- Coluracetam – works via a mechanisms called high-affiinity choline uptake (HACU).
- Pramiracetam – not great tasting, but can be very stimulating.
- Oxiracetam / Aniracetam – less stimulating, but more sustainable (and can be taken in multiple doses daily)
- Piracetam – the racetam that started it all, but least stimulating.
Coffee and Ephedrine
This is most certainly NOT a recommendation for combining coffee and ephedrine, but some people anecdotally mention this as an alternative to Adderall. Do not underestimate the heavy toll both caffeine and ephedrine can have on the adrenal glands.
For most people caffeine is relatively safe and ubiquitous across the globe. However, one problem is the buildup of tolerance.
Ephedrine affects dopamine in the brain in a similar fashion as Adderall, which offers feeling of euphoria and happiness in addition to focus and stimulation.
If you try either of these, be extra cautious so as to prevent long term damage. Some highly experienced nootropics users recommend balancing out the stimulants with other elements to prevent stress and / or heart issues.
One might look like this:
Doses will depend on your individual body type, but this is one example of a stimulating nootropic stack that (theoretically) combats the negative side effects.
Also, be conscious of the nutrients that you have in your diet. For many people with a western diet, getting enough micronutrients is a huge problem and it is one that can debilitate you. It's important in the context of Adderall because there are anecdotes of people who say nutrients like magnesium glycinate, vitamin D, or methylfolate actually have the same cognitive effect that Adderall has. Some people who are suffering from mitochondrial function find creatine and similar tools helpful as well.
For the normal person, this would never be true. Amphetamine-based drugs like Adderall are far too stimulating to be compared to these nutrients, but if you are deficient and the brain and body don't have raw materials to do basic functions, nutrients might be a good place to start. One way to do this is using 23andme to find out whether there is a genetic predisposition for you.
Finally, there are many unique blends that prey on the love of Adderall (need for some!). Many unique nootropic stacks claim to have the power of Adderall or call themselves “natural Adderall”. It simply isn't true and any mention of this is marketing exclusively with the intent of making money.
Some nootropic blends like Qualia are quite powerful and have many ingredients that can prove stimulating. There are natural options like Mind Lab Pro and Alpha Brain that also have useful blends though neither these nor OptiMind, Four Sigmatic, or truBrain, will ever be able to compete with Adderall in the efficacy on the human brain.
A New You: Life Without Adderall
There is a part of human nature that will always desire the quick fix, easy solution, or good feelings. Adderall often provides all three, but in an unsustainable way. If you have read through this entire piece, by now you are aware of that fact and can move beyond it.
While thousands of people search for over the counter Adderall or legal Adderall (through prescriptions), most of the time these are all surface-level solutions for bigger questions in your life. Using the tools and questions we have posed, hopefully you can break free from Adderall usage for good.
Nootropedia Disclaimer: While we support psychedelic science and support usage of entheogens like ayahuasca (DMT) and psilocybin, it is recommended to avoid using other substances such as the drugs mentioned in this article alongside them. We do not recommend using them together.