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Adderall Alternatives — Is There A Safer Way?

This entry was posted in ADHD Medication and tagged on by .
Medically Reviewed Fact Checked

Last Updated on March 24, 2023 by Diane Ridaeus

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Adderall alternatives are becoming more widely known in response to clinical research that suggests other treatments may be safer in the long run. Immediate-release (1996) and extended-release (2001) versions of Adderall have long been regarded as first-line treatment choices for both children and adults for symptoms of ADHD and narcolepsy.

At Alternative to Meds Center, we are observing that ADHD drugs in general are beginning to receive more scrutiny in the medical literature, and alternatives to pharmaceutical treatment are possible.  We welcome this change and would be happy to see this accelerate. In the meantime, we know there are alternatives to Adderall that may provide equal or greater efficacy, without the liabilities associated with the prolonged use of stimulants.

adhd medication alternatives

Do Your Symptoms Require Adderall?
For nearly 20 years now, Alternative to Meds Center has provided holistic, science-based options for treatment for those who would prefer natural remedies over medication. For persons who are desiring a reduction in the use of medication, the answers are also here. Our published evidence shows remarkable outcomes in the programs offered to our clients, over many years. Many of our staff have found relief through implementing non-drug-based solutions as alternatives to Aderral or other medications, and are passionate about delivering the same life-changing therapies to others.
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About Adderall®

Adderall is a compound of 4 stimulant drugs, plus binders and other non-medicinal substances. By name, these stimulant drugs are, according to the drug’s label:

  • dextroamphetamine saccharate 
  • amphetamine aspartate
  • dextroamphetamine sulfate
  • amphetamine sulfate.

Amphetamines activate surges of dopamine and norepinephrine (a form of adrenaline) in the CNS and brain. The effects are pleasurable, stimulating, and addictive over prolonged use.

Amphetamine-based drugs like Adderall are classed as Schedule II for their high risk of abuse and dependence, and because they cause dangerous physical and psychological adverse effects.1,2

Adderall Alternatives Provide Safer Strategies in Practical Ways

Here are some well-documented strategies that don’t require drugging that can be implemented relatively easily. In many cases, these alternatives to Adderall have enabled an entire reversal of chronic conditions like daytime sleepiness, energy roller coasters, lack of focus, exhaustion, nervous jitters, mental confusion, impulsivity, and other symptoms, without prescription drugs.

Alternatives to Adderall may include:
  • Adderall alternativesImprove diet and nutrition. 
  • Improve gut health. 
  • Improve sleep. 
  • Test for and correct vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
  • Cleanse.
  • Counseling, lifestyle changes.
  • Avoid stimulants, and recreational drugs/alcohol.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine.
  • Exercise.


Improve the diet. Avoid sugar and caffeine over-consumption, and high-carb meals and snacks to avoid blood sugar crashes, jitters, mental fog, wild energy spikes, and bouts of exhaustion. A diet consisting of adequate fresh leafy greens and other vegetables and fruits high in neuro-supportive nutrients and adequate good quality protein over the day is fundamental for robust mental and physical health and for keeping blood sugar levels at an even keel.11,12

  • About coffee and caffeine consumption: While minimal coffee intake is considered somewhat therapeutic for some, overconsumption can have disastrous effects such as increased anxiety, low mood, panic attacks, and even psychosis in non-psychotic persons. Moderation is the key.9,10
  • A Note on Blood Sugar and Hypoglycemia:  Hypoglycemia symptoms are similar to many psychiatric symptoms. Keeping blood sugar levels from spiking and crashing after high sugar consumption is a good daily practice for mental health.11

Improve gut health. The bulk of vital neurotransmitters and other essentials for human health are produced in the gut and delivered from there into the bloodstream. Studies show that improving gut health has a positive impact on neurological dysfunction, including ADHD symptoms. Adderall alternatives here include daily consumption of fermented foods, yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other sources that can give the gut the fuel it needs for these important functions and keep your neurotransmitters and hormones functioning at normal levels.8,13

Get a good night’s sleep. Insomnia and daytime sleepiness are common in persons who suffer from ADHD symptoms. Make it routine to keep electronics and blue light out of the sleeping area. Keep the room you sleep in well-ventilated. Use clean non-toxic bed linens, a comfortable pillow and mattress, and black-out curtains or a comfortable light-blocking eye mask to promote natural melatonin production.

  • Herbal and natural remedies such as teas and supplements can help, such as chamomile, passionflower extract, lavender, melatonin, and others that you can easily find in local shops.7,26

Lab testing for vitamin and mineral deficiencies and allergies. Certain vitamin deficiencies as well as mineral deficits are associated with ADHD. Micro-nutrient treatments have produced improvements in emotional regulation and aggression in clinical studies. Lab testing can help pinpoint exactly what your body needs, and even discover toxic accumulations you didn’t know were there. These should be cleansed out of your body. Alternatives to Adderall also include testing for food or other allergies.

  • Allergies can play symptomatic havoc with day-to-day life, but once you know about them you can take steps to avoid further exposure.
  • Thyroid issues are sometimes overlooked as potential mimics of psychiatric conditions, and testing can isolate thyroid-related issues that need addressing.14,16,17

Cleanse, cleanse, cleanse. Toxic exposures that a lab test finds should be a bright signpost that tells you it’s time to clean that body. Toxicity is often overlooked in psychiatric diagnoses, as it is associated with many “mental health” symptoms that are actually reactions to toxins we’ve been exposed to, which is not uncommon in modern day-to-day life.18

Therapeutic Lifestyle changes. There are many “TLC” options that can be as powerful in positive ways as psychotherapy. Do what you can to avoid stressors in the environment, toxic relationships, or self-sabotaging or self-limiting habits. If you hate your job, consider opportunities that could be of greater personal value to you. Make friends with people you genuinely enjoy being around. Take a Pilates class, or a course on improving social and communication skills, or take up a hobby you are keenly interested in. Take time to relax and rest. Marital or family conflicts can be heart-wrenching if not resolved. Seek help to guide you and yours to more harmonious, supportive interchanges. Counseling like CBT and other sources of guidance can greatly support you as you restructure your lifestyle in every way possible that is meaningful to the unique person that you are.19

Limit or cut out stimulants, alcohol, marijuana, and other recreational drug use. Using alcohol or other recreational drugs to “relax” often has a rebound or boomerang effect, magnifying instead of relieving stress and irritation.20

Traditional Chinese Medicine. Combining therapies such as acupuncture, meditation, Tai Chi, QiGong, breath therapy, or other learned relaxation techniques can put you back in control of energy, mindfulness, and personal confidence. These techniques can help you find clarity and grace in a sometimes crazy and graceless world.21,22

Exercise is a practical and potent tool that can improve many facets of human health, both physical and psychological. It has been well-established in clinical studies that aerobic exercise such as walking, running, or bicycling alleviates symptoms of ADHD almost immediately! Exercise promotes neurogenesis (growth of new neurons) which improves mood, and cognitive ability, and facilitates learning.23,25

Why Consider Alternatives to Adderall?

The drug label is a good source of information about the risks associated with Adderall. The following summary is taken from the drug’s label and the DEA, and other sources as cited. Below are some reasons to consider other treatment options.

  • risks associated with adderallAdderall is considered dangerous by the DEA — posing a high risk for abuse and dependence.
  • Serous adverse effects include sudden death, cardiac arrest, and stroke.
  • The emergence of new symptoms may occur, such as aggression, mania, hallucinations, and other psychotic symptoms.
  • A single dose of amphetamines produced stimulant-induced psychosis in 50-70% of patients with prior psychosis or other symptoms of schizophrenia.5
  • The mode of therapeutic action is not completely understood.
  • According to the FDA, there is no test for a diagnosis of the syndrome known as ADHD, and “ADHD” as a syndrome remains under considerable controversy and clinically unproven.
  • More studies are needed on the effects of long-term use of Adderall.
  • Suppression of growth over time.6
  • Seizures, whether or not a history of seizures was present before taking Adderall.
  • Risk of serotonin syndrome, a life-threatening adverse drug-induced effect.
  • Visual disturbances such as blurring vision are associated with Adderall and similar stimulants.
  • Risk of circulatory problems leading to numbness or pain, and fingers turning from pale, to blue, or turning red.
  • Unexplained wounds on the fingers or toes.
  • There are no well-controlled studies on the effects of Adderall on pregnant women.
  • Babies born to mothers taking Adderall may present with congenital heart malformations, discontinuation syndrome, premature birth, and low birth weight.3
  • The frequency of emergency visits in the age 55+ population associated with stimulant drugs such as Adderall increased 700% from 1995 to 2002.4

While not everyone experiences life-threatening symptoms from Adderall, there is enough clinical evidence to give one pause and consider other, safer strategies to address problematic symptoms. But first, it may help to understand more about the diagnosis of adult ADHD.

Understanding the Adult ADHD diagnosis

The “criteria” for a diagnosis of ADHD is the same for kids as for adults, but an adult only has to present with 5 of these points, compared to a child who needs 6 or more for a “valid” diagnosis. Currently, there are 18 or more descriptors that you can read more about in the DSM-5© if you are interested.15 However, one of these is particularly interesting and deserves a bit of a closer look.

This one is key:

  • “Symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, and are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g., mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, personality disorder, substance intoxication, or withdrawal).” (taken from DSM-5©)

adhd diagnosisThe reason it is worth a closer look is that it reveals a glaring neglect of any other diagnostic avenue or assessment of factors pertinent to day-to-day life. It implies by default that if you are forgetting your keys too often, feeling jittery and distracted during meetings at work, or bored or annoyed by the slowness of others, are disorganized, etc., etc., etc., then you’ve got to be either suffering from ADHD or from some other psychiatric disorder or substance abuse issue. That is a VERY narrow set of criteria.

Our modern world is RICH with psycho-social stressors, media and information overload, toxic exposures, poor diet, lifestyle, financial, and educational challenges, and high velocity of change in all of these areas. We have the opportunity to delve deeper into causal factors, with an aim to intervene and improve them in logical, practical ways. To just short-circuit any truly authentic assessment with a prescription of a Schedule II drug amounts to a gigantic missed opportunity.

And on an individual basis, perhaps one needs to re-assess one’s personal values and begin to restructure one’s life around meaningful purposes. Perhaps one is hampered by skill sets that are missing or need improving. Perhaps there is a need or desire to find avenues for spiritual growth and guidance. There are many ways to adjust one’s focus in life so that goals become clearer, and actions become more organized and deliberate. In contrast, the drug industry thrives on the idea of letting a drug do all the work. Perhaps there are alternatives to Adderall that result in a more satisfying and healthy outcome. Some of these are discussed below.

What about Transitioning Off Adderall?

Alternative to Meds Center has helped thousands of clients to transition to drug-free treatment options in a very comfortable, nurturing, inpatient setting. It is important to not stop taking prescription medications abruptly. A slow, gradual process is best. You can read more about the techniques and treatment protocols used during and after holistic detox at the center.

Adderall Generic, Brand, and Slang Names

Adderall is the brand name for the generic components, which consist of four types of amphetamines in Adderall.1

Adderall has developed a significant street presence.24 Outside the doctor’s office, Adderall may be called by a slang term, like the following:

  • Study Buddies
  • Addy
  • Christmas Trees
  • Lid Poppers
  • Smart Pills
  • Smarties
  • Study Skittles
  • Truck Drivers
  • Abby
  • Co-Pilots

The Alternative to Meds Center Treatment Protocols

inpatient adderall transitioningInpatient treatment at the center consists of many steps that are designed to facilitate transitioning a person from drug-dependent to drug-free. Lab-testing, holistic detox, neurotransmitter rehabilitation, neurotoxin removal, cleansing the body, counseling options, orthomolecular and environmental medicine, and a wide range of comfort therapies delivered by licensed practitioners including Equine assisted therapy, art therapy, IV treatments, therapeutic massage, and much more, are available throughout the client’s stay with us.

Peer support programs are highly popular, and the area in which the facility is located is awesome for outdoor hikes, biking, and breathtakingly beautiful photo opportunities, and the weather is traditionally pleasant all year round.

Please feel free to contact us for any other information you would like to have, such as insurance coverage, costs and length of programs, and what to bring. We welcome your call and are here to help. We have over 50 staff, many of whom have recovered in similar ways using proven and safe alternatives to Adderall for natural mental health.

1. FDA drug label Adderall CH (Dextroamphetamine Saccharate, Amphetamine
Aspartate, Dextromamphetamine Sulfate and Amphetamine Sulfate Tablets) [published online as revised Jan 2017] [cited 2023 Jan 27)

2. DEA Drug Scheduling [cited 2023 Jan 27)

3. Huybrechts KF, Bröms G, Christensen LB, Einarsdóttir K, Engeland A, Furu K, Gissler M, Hernandez-Diaz S, Karlsson P, Karlstad Ø, Kieler H, Lahesmaa-Korpinen AM, Mogun H, Nørgaard M, Reutfors J, Sørensen HT, Zoega H, Bateman BT. Association Between Methylphenidate and Amphetamine Use in Pregnancy and Risk of Congenital Malformations: A Cohort Study From the International Pregnancy Safety Study Consortium. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018 Feb 1;75(2):167-175. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.3644. PMID: 29238795; PMCID: PMC5838573. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

4. Berman SM, Kuczenski R, McCracken JT, London ED. Potential adverse effects of amphetamine treatment on brain and behavior: a review. Mol Psychiatry. 2009 Feb;14(2):123-42. doi: 10.1038/mp.2008.90. Epub 2008 Aug 12. Erratum in: Mol Psychiatry. 2010 Nov;15(11):1121. PMID: 18698321; PMCID: PMC2670101. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

5. Curran C, Byrappa N, McBride A. Stimulant psychosis: systematic review. Br J Psychiatry. 2004 Sep;185:196-204. doi: 10.1192/bjp.185.3.196. PMID: 15339823. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

6. Miller BS, Aydin F, Lundgren F, Lindberg A, Geffner ME. Stimulant use and its impact on growth in children receiving growth hormone therapy: an analysis of the KIGS International Growth Database. Horm Res Paediatr. 2014;82(1):31-7. doi: 10.1159/000360005. Epub 2014 Jun 11. PMID: 24924157. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

7. Pacheco D, medically reviewed by Dimitriu A, ADHD and Sleep Problems: How are they related? [2023 Jan 17] [cited 2023 Jan 27)

8. Kalenik A, Kardaś K, Rahnama A, Sirojć K, Wolańczyk T. Gut microbiota and probiotic therapy in ADHD: A review of current knowledge. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2021 Aug 30;110:110277. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2021.110277. Epub 2021 Feb 6. PMID: 33561522. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

9. Lara DR. Caffeine, mental health, and psychiatric disorders. J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20 Suppl 1:S239-48. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2010-1378. PMID: 20164571. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

10. Broderick P, Benjamin AB. Caffeine and psychiatric symptoms: a review. J Okla State Med Assoc. 2004 Dec;97(12):538-42. PMID: 15732884. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

11. Aucoin M, Bhardwaj S. Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Hypoglycemia Symptoms Improved with Diet Modification. Case Rep Psychiatry. 2016;2016:7165425. doi: 10.1155/2016/7165425. Epub 2016 Jul 14. PMID: 27493821; PMCID: PMC4963565.

12. Millichap JG, Yee MM. The diet factor in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics. 2012 Feb;129(2):330-7. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-2199. Epub 2012 Jan 9. PMID: 22232312. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

13. Gkougka D, Mitropoulos K, Tzanakaki G, Panagouli E, Psaltopoulou T, Thomaidis L, Tsolia M, Sergentanis TN, Tsitsika A. Gut microbiome and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review. Pediatr Res. 2022 Dec;92(6):1507-1519. doi: 10.1038/s41390-022-02027-6. Epub 2022 Mar 30. PMID: 35354932. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

14. Bala KA, Doğan M, Kaba S, Mutluer T, Aslan O, Doğan SZ. Hormone disorder and vitamin deficiency in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2016 Sep 1;29(9):1077-82. doi: 10.1515/jpem-2015-0473. PMID: 27544717. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

15. Takeda Pharmaceuticals Information Sheet ADHD DSM-5© [published online] [cited 2023 Jan 27)

16. Rucklidge JJ, Eggleston MJF, Johnstone JM, Darling K, Frampton CM. Vitamin-mineral treatment improves aggression and emotional regulation in children with ADHD: a fully blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2018 Mar;59(3):232-246. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12817. Epub 2017 Oct 2. PMID: 28967099; PMCID: PMC7779340. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

17. McKee J, Brahm N. Medical mimics: Differential diagnostic considerations for psychiatric symptoms. Ment Health Clin. 2016 Nov 3;6(6):289-296. doi: 10.9740/mhc.2016.11.289. PMID: 29955484; PMCID: PMC6007536. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

18. Genuis SJ. Toxic causes of mental illness are overlooked. Neurotoxicology. 2008 Nov;29(6):1147-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2008.06.005. Epub 2008 Jun 24. PMID: 18621076. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

19. Walsh R. Lifestyle and mental health. Am Psychol. 2011 Oct;66(7):579-92. doi: 10.1037/a0021769. PMID: 21244124. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

20. Spera V, Pallucchini A, Carli M, Maiello M, Maremmani AGI, Perugi G, Maremmani I. Does Cannabis, Cocaine and Alcohol Use Impact Differently on Adult Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Clinical Picture? J Clin Med. 2021 Apr 2;10(7):1481. doi: 10.3390/jcm10071481. PMID: 33918432; PMCID: PMC8038274. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

21. Dong FH. [Precise application of Traditional Chinese Medicine in minimally-invasive techniques]. Zhongguo Gu Shang. 2018 Jun 25;31(6):493-496. Chinese. doi: 10.3969/j.issn.1 [cited 2023 Jan 27)

22. Zhang YP, Hu RX, Han M, Lai BY, Liang SB, Chen BJ, Robinson N, Chen K, Liu JP. Evidence Base of Clinical Studies on Qi Gong: A Bibliometric Analysis. Complement Ther Med. 2020 May;50:102392. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102392. Epub 2020 Apr 6. PMID: 32444061. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

23. Mehren A, Reichert M, Coghill D, Müller HHO, Braun N, Philipsen A. Physical exercise in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – evidence and implications for the treatment of borderline personality disorder. Borderline Personal Disord Emot Dysregul. 2020 Jan 6;7:1. doi: 10.1186/s40479-019-0115-2. PMID: 31921425; PMCID: PMC6945516.003-0034.2018.06.001. PMID: 29945400. [cited 2023 Jan 27)

24. DEA DIR-022-18, Slang Terms and Code Words – A Reference for Law Enforcement Personnel [published July 2018] [cited 2023 Jan 27)

25.  van Praag H. Neurogenesis and exercise: past and future directions. Neuromolecular Med. 2008;10(2):128-40. doi: 10.1007/s12017-008-8028-z. Epub 2008 Feb 20. PMID: 18286389. [cited 2023 Mar 24]

26.  Fatemeh G, Sajjad M, Niloufar R, Neda S, Leila S, Khadijeh M. Effect of melatonin supplementation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Neurol. 2022 Jan;269(1):205-216. doi: 10.1007/s00415-020-10381-w. Epub 2021 Jan 8. PMID: 33417003. [cited 2023 Mar 24]

Originally Published January 27, 2023 by Diane Ridaeus

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Adderall Alternatives — Is There A Safer Way?
Medical Disclaimer:
Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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