Adderall, a mix of four amphetamine salts, is one of the world’s most commonly-prescribed drugs, and a first-line treatment for ADHD. However, it’s also popular off-label as a drug for weight loss, productivity, athletic performance, and sometimes it’s even used as a party drug.
Some people try to enhance Adderall’s effects by taking supplements with it.
On the other hand, many people like the effects of Adderall, but would prefer to take something else, and want to know what the best adderall alternatives are. There are a few reasons for this: they may be worried about side effects, sleep issues, addiction, tolerance, or they may even be pregnant and looking for healthy alternatives to Adderall.
If you fall into one of those groups, here are six of the best legal alternatives to Adderall that don’t require a prescription.
Best Adderall Alternative: FLModafinil
FLModafinil is the best legal alternative to modafinil, which is itself a good alternative to Adderall. It’s a bisfluoro analogue of modafinil– that is, it’s just modafinil with a fluorine atom attached to one side of the molecule.
Modafinil is a eugeroic, or wakefulness-promoting drug. Its primary mechanism of action is that it acts as a selective dopamine re-uptake inhibitor. It can treat ADHD, and improves response inhibition similarly to Adderall.
In people without ADHD, it improves cognition and focus when sleep-deprived, but it’s not all that helpful otherwise. One advantage of modafinil is that its effects are almost entirely mental; there’s very little feeling of physical stimulation.
As I’ve explained before, FlModafinil is absorbed more easily in the intestine than modafinil, and is then rapidly converted into modafinil in the body. As such it should be dosed about half as high as modafinil– 50-100 mg, always taken first thing in the morning after a night of poor sleep, since modafinil has a 15-hour half-life.
Best Liquid FLModafinil
Science FLModafinil is the purest liquid FLModafinil we’ve found. Furthermore, it offers the best price per milligram.
Best FLModafinil Tablets
I recommend using Nootropics Unlimited FLModafinil 25 mg tablets, and taking just two every morning, in combination with a little bit of caffeine and theanine, which I’ll discuss in a bit. You could take higher dosage without caffeine, but combining lower-dose modafinil with low-dose caffeine makes it easier to sleep that night.
Best Legal Stimulants: DMAA
DMAA is in a way the opposite of modafinil– very physical stimulating, and less mentally stimulating. In fact it’s mainly sold as an ingredient in pre-workout supplements.
That makes DMAA great for physical tasks. It’s occasionally used as a party drug too, as low doses enhance motivation and subjective well-being. Cognitive benefits at low doses are minor but noticeable, mainly relating to faster reactions and mental processing speed. Higher doses will make you jittery and produce a strong desire for physical activity.
DMAA is safe at doses of at least 50 mg a day, which should be plenty. Adverse events have been reported at higher doses or in combination with other drugs and alcohol. With a half-life of 8-9 hours, this should be taken only in the morning.
Best DMAA Supplement
Many pre-workout supplements use higher doses of DMAA, and all of them have more caffeine than people should be taking. As such, I recommend this pure DMAA powder from Bulk Stimulants.
Alternative To Adderall For Productivity: Huperzine A
Huperzine A is one of the best OTC stimulants in my opinion. It’s an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor– that is, it inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine. It’s derived from the firmoss of the genus huperzia, hence the name. While there aren’t exactly any great herbal alternatives to Adderall, huperzine is at least derived from an herb.
Huperzine A can improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients. While it’s commonly used as a productivity drug, research support for that use is lacking. Theoretically, more acetylcholine would improve memory attention, motivation and muscle activation.
However, too much acetylcholine can be very bad; in fact many pesticides and nerve agents such as sarin and VX also act as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.
For Alzheimer’s patients, huperzine dosage is usually 300-500 micrograms per day. As a nootropic however, it’s usually dosed at 100 mcg twice a day. You may even want to go lower at 100 mcg a day, optionally split into two doses of 50 mcg each.
Huperzine A has a half-life of 10 hours, and while it’s not overly stimulating, it’s still best not to take it later in the evening. It should be dosed in the morning, or morning and early afternoon for divided doses.
Best Huperzine-A Supplement
I recommend Source Naturals Huperzine tablets. At 100 mcg this is well-dosed, and the tablets can be broken in half if you want to dose lower.
Best Over The Counter Alternatives For Adderall: l-Tyrosine
L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that is very important for brain function. It’s the main precursor to dopamine. As such, supplementing tyrosine will allow your brain to produce as much dopamine as it needs or wants to produce. Tyrosine can be used to potentiate dopaminergic drugs and supplements, and also to replenish neural tyrosine stores depleted by stimulant use.
The optimal dose of tyrosine varies. A good starting point is 1000 mg in the morning plus another 500 in the afternoon, however people over 40 may want to use a lower dose.
Best Tyrosine Supplement
There are plenty of good options for Tyrosine, but I prefer NOW Foods Tyrosine because NOW is a very reputable brand that can always be relied upon to dose its products accurately, and which follows industry best manufacturing practices. That makes this the best OTC stimulant option with few or no side effects, and a very safe alternative to Adderall.
Best Natural Adderall Alternatives: Nicotine
Nicotine is, surprisingly, a good nootropic. It can help with ADHD, and in fact can improve cognition more generally. Like modafinil, it will keep you alert without being overly physically stimulating.
As with other drugs however, less is more, and tolerance is an issue. Nicotine stops being helpful if you use it all the time– smokers don’t benefit from it.
With a half-life of 1-2 hours, and the potential for severe nausea if you take too much at once, nicotine is best taken in patch form for a low and steady release. This short half-life means nicotine is also a relatively good evening option, as long as you can remember to remove the patch.
Best Nicotine Patch
Cut this 21 mg nicotine patch into smaller strips of 2-5 mg each, put it on, and make sure to take it off at least 2 hours before bed.
Natural Alternatives to Adderall: Caffeine and L-Theanine
Caffeine and L-theanine is still the most popular nootropic stack for good reason. Caffeine on its own can improve working memory, alertness and cognition speed, particularly when you’re tired. Higher doses can actually make it harder to focus however.
But combine caffeine with the amino acid theanine, and the nootropic effects become much more clear. Alertness and cognitive performance improve, and this is usually seen even when subjects are already well-rested. Further, theanine mitigates against the jitteriness and anxiety that caffeine can cause.
The ideal dosage here is 50-100 mg of caffeine, and (roughly) twice as much theanine as caffeine. You can buy combination stacks, but you can also just as easily take theanine capsules with a caffeinated beverage, as long as you know roughly how much caffeine is in it.
Although theanine has a calming effect, caffeine can still keep you awake, so this combo should be taken in the morning or around lunchtime, but caffeine should still be avoided later in the day. You can experiment with taking the caffeine first and the theanine a bit later though.
Best L-Theanine Supplement
I recommend Jarrow Theanine for caffeine drinkers, as it contains no caffeine and is dosed high enough to combine well with a cup or two of coffee.
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