Alternatives to Adderall for ADHD
Adderall is an FDA-approved (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) brand-name medication manufactured by Shire US Inc. Adderall is a stimulant medication used to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in children (ages 6-12), adolescents (ages 13-17), and adults.
Stimulant drugs, when used for the treatment of ADHD can help manage ADHD symptoms, such as a short attention span, impulsive behavior, and high energy levels (hyperactivity). Adderall is also approved to treat narcolepsy, a sleep disorder with excessive daytime sleepiness and episodes of sleep attacks.
The active ingredients in Adderall are amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Adderall can become physically addictive and cause withdrawal symptoms when ADHD treatment is stopped.
Here, we will look at what Adderall is, how it works, its side effects, drug interactions, and contraindications, as well as the alternatives available over the counter and from your doctor on prescription.
How does Adderall work?
Adderall and Adderall XR contain amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which belong to a drug class called central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. CNS stimulants help increase focus and alertness and decrease impulsivity. Adderall and Adderall XR are Schedule II controlled substances. This means they have the potential for abuse and dependence.
For someone with ADHD, Adderall boosts the levels of certain brain chemicals (also known as neurotransmitters), like dopamine and norepinephrine, helping to improve cognitive function and reduce mental tiredness.
Adderall is available as an immediate-release tablet formulation in the following doses: 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg. It is also available in the extended-release (long-acting) form (Adderall XR) of a capsule in the following doses: 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg.
Your daily dose will be based on your age:
- Children aged 6-17 years of age – 10 mg once daily in the morning
- Adults – 20 mg once daily in the morning
You are advised to read the medication guide provided with this medicine for the drug information and patient information, and always speak with your healthcare provider for medical advice about any changes to your dose so they can monitor and evaluate your condition.
What are the alternatives to Adderall for ADHD?
What works just as well as Adderall?
Alternative prescription medications available for the treatment of ADHD include:
- Focalin XR (dexmethylphenidate)
- Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)
- Ritalin (methylphenidate)
Alternatives to Adderall XR include:
- Concerta (methylphenidate)
- Dexedrine (amphetamine)
- Evekeo (amphetamine)
- Focalin XR (dexmethylphenidate)
- Quillivant XR (methylphenidate)
- Ritalin (methylphenidate)
- Strattera (atomoxetine hydrochloride)
What are the natural Adderall alternatives?
Natural alternatives to Adderall include:
- Citicoline – these supplements may help reduce the symptoms of ADHD. They may also help with nervous system disorders such as dementia and glaucoma. Citicoline is the same as a precursor to phospholipid, which helps the brain to work normally and may also help repair brain damage. Citicoline does not appear to have side effects, however, it does require further testing as an alternative for the treatment of ADHD
- Methionine – this is an amino acid used to help produce chemicals in the brain. It has been used for the treatment of ADHD and the symptoms of depression. Methionine may, however, cause an increase in manic episodes and anxiety in adult patients with bipolar disorder
- Vitamin B-6 is used in the body to make serotonin, a chemical that helps to manage your mood and feelings. Vitamin B6, when given with magnesium supplements to children with ADHD was seen to improve symptoms of ADHD, such as mental focus, aggressive behavior, and hyperactivity after 8 weeks of treatment. These symptoms of ADHD were seen to return after treatment with these supplements was discontinued
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical found in the brain that reduces hyperactivity and excitability as well as anxiety and stress. GABA may be used to treat adults and children with ADHD and some mental health problems
- Gingko Biloba – This is a herbal supplement used to help improve blood flow and memory in older adults. Gingko Biloba has also been found to help improve symptoms of ADHD in children. Further testing is needed however to ascertain its full benefits
- Pycnogenol – This is an antioxidant that may help improve circulation, reduce blood pressure, reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, causing a reduction in the symptoms of ADHD. Pycnogenol supplements have been found to reduce the symptoms of hyperactivity in children, improve focus, hand-eye coordination, and concentration over a 4-week period. It’s not known if these same benefits are seen in adults with ADHD
- Combination supplements containing a mix of herbs such as Humulus, Aesculus, Oenanthe, Aconite, Gelsemium, GABA, and L-Tyrosine. This combination supplement may help people to remain calm without feeling irritable or anxious
- Natural supplements to help improve focus and memory may also help those with ADHD, these include:
- Fish oils containing omega-3 fatty acids
- Flax seeds also providing omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients
- Rosemary and mint for the improvement of memory and alertness
- Cocoa seed, an antioxidant that protects the brain
- Sesame seeds rich in tyrosine, vitamin B-6, zinc, and magnesium, which also help maintain brain health
- Saffron for the improvement of brain function
- Supplements containing iron, magnesium, and zinc may help reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children. Children without a mineral deficiency may not benefit from taking extra supplements
Speak to your healthcare provider for further advice before trying an alternative or changing your ADHD medication.
What is similar to Adderall over the counter?
The best nootropics, herbs, supplements, or OTC stimulants for ADHD include Ginkgo Biloba, Alpha GPC/Citicoline, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Magnesium, Pycnogenol, NALT (N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine) or Tyrosine, Valerian Root, and L-theanine.
Nootropics are natural or man-made supplements or drugs used to improve cognitive function and relaxation, boost mood, and improve attention, memory, creativity, and motivation in healthy people.
What alternatives are there to Adderall while pregnant?
Alternatives to Adderall during pregnancy that have fewer side effects include low-dose stimulant drugs such as amphetamine or caffeine or a non-stimulant drug such as napsine or modafinil. Vyvanse and Ritalin are not proven to be safe during pregnancy but are also not known to be harmful. Women taking ADHD treatment during early pregnancy may be at greater risk of having a baby with birth defects compared to those women who did not use ADHD treatment.
What alternatives are there to Adderall on prescription?
Alternatives to Adderall, only available on prescription, include Dexedrine (d-amphetamine), Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine), Ritalin and Concerta (methylphenidate), Kapvay (clonidine), Intuniv (guanfacine), and Strattera (atomoxetine).
What stimulant is closest to Adderall?
The closest stimulants to Adderall are Focalin (dexmethylphenidate), Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), or Ritalin and Concerta (methylphenidate).
What should I do if I can’t find Adderall?
If you can not find Adderall, speak to your doctor about switching to an alternative. You should not stop taking Adderall without speaking to your doctor first for medical advice.
What is generic Adderall?
Generic drugs are essentially the same as the branded versions. The generic equivalent will contain the same active ingredients as the branded version. In this case, the generic names for Adderall are amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Generic drugs are reviewed and approved by the FDA in the same way branded drugs are.
What are the best Adderall alternatives?
Modafinil may be more effective for the treatment of the symptoms of ADHD. It is important to note that not all patients will respond to medications in the same way. What is an effective treatment for one patient may not be the same for another. Always speak to your doctor to decide which treatment is the best option for you.
Adderall side effects
The most common side effects of Adderall in clinical trials include the following:
- Loss of appetite, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss
- Insomnia, changes in mood, anxiety
- Vomiting, nausea, headaches, dizziness, dry mouth
- Fast heart rate
- Urinary tract infections
More serious side effects of Adderall include
- Serious cardiovascular events
- Increase in blood pressure
- Psychiatric adverse events – may cause treatment-emergent psychotic or manic symptoms in patients with no prior history or worsening of symptoms in patients already suffering from psychosis
- Long-term suppression of growth
- Peripheral vasculopathy, including Raynaud’s phenomenon
- Visual disturbance
- May exacerbate tics
You are encouraged to report the adverse effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Adderall drug interactions
Adderall can interact with other medications. These include:
- MAOI antidepressants
- Alkalinizing and acidifying agents
- Adrenergic blockers
- Tricyclic antidepressants – norepinephrine, and meperidine
Adderall can interact with other prescription medications. This can change how Adderall and other medications work and can make side effects more likely. Tell your prescribing physician about all your drugs, including vitamins and dietary supplements.
Adderall warnings & precautions
You should not use Adderall if you:
- Are allergic to the active ingredient methylphenidate
- Are allergic to any of the other ingredients in Concerta
- Have known structural cardiac abnormalities, cardiomyopathy, serious heart rhythm abnormalities, coronary artery disease, or other serious heart problems
- Have used an MAO inhibitor in the past 14 days, such as isocarboxazid, rasagiline, selegiline, or tranylcypromine
- Are younger than 3 years old
- Are breastfeeding or are planning to breastfeed
Talk to your doctor before using Adderall if you:
- Have had problems with drug or alcohol abuse
- Have a history of depression, mental illness, bipolar disorder, or suicidal thoughts or actions
- Have glaucoma
- Have an overactive thyroid
- Have severe agitation
- Have high blood pressure, heart disease, or coronary artery disease
- Have vascular disease
- Have motor tics or Tourette’s syndrome
- Suffer from seizures
- Have liver or kidney disease
- Blood circulation problems in your hands or feet
- Are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant
You should always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication, including Adderall, to make sure it is safe for you.
A medical professional has reviewed this article.
Dr. Jamie Winn received his Doctor of Pharmacy in 2002 from the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, Columbia, SC. Jamie is a medical reviewer for NiceRx.