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Focus and Concentration: Adderall vs. Nootropics

Are nootropics or Adderall the best supplement for brain focus and concentration? We compare the two supplements here so you can stay informed on what you’re putting in your body. text content here.


By Vincent Giampapa MD

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There’s nothing worse than being unable to concentrate at work or school, losing focus on the athletic field, or just feeling fuzzy, unfocused, dazed, dull, bored, and somewhat confused. Being unable to think clearly can be frustrating, especially when it interferes with activities that mean a lot to you. Fortunately, advances in science have paved the way for supplements that improve focus, clarity, and long-term brain health in students, athletes, workers, retirees, and everyone in between. The best supplements for focus and concentration deliver meaningful brain-boosting power in a safe way.

What are Nootropics?

Also known as cognitive enhancers or smart drugs, nootropics enhance brain function in healthy people. Nootropics can be natural or synthetic, over the counter, Rx drugs, dietary supplements, extracts, or other ingredients scientifically proven to boost brainpower.

Nootropics support a number of physiological processes, such as blood flow, antioxidant activity that protects brain cells and promotes healthy brain aging, the conversion of glucose and ketones into energy, neurotransmitters that convey messages between brain cells, and phospholipids for memory, recall, and mental speed.

Over-the-counter nootropics include a variety of ingredients. Caffeine can boost mental focus, for example, and is readily available without a prescription. L-theanine is an amino acid that occurs in black and green teas; it can increase alpha waves in the brain to create a relaxed, yet alert state. Omega-3 fatty acids can protect brain cells, and can promote the repair and renewal of brain cells, and may improve brain function [1, 2].

Adderall Explained

Sold by prescription only, Adderall contains two stimulants: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Doctors prescribe Adderall to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children [3,4]. Research shows that it improves attention and focus, with between 75 and 80 percent of children with ADHD seeing improvement with the use of stimulants like Adderall [5]. This medication can also increase daytime wakefulness in people with narcolepsy, a condition that causes overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep.

Sometimes doctors prescribe Adderall for off-label purposes, which means they prescribe the medication to treat conditions other than ADHD and narcolepsy. These off-label uses include using this prescription for depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.

While Adderall is not approved for studying, many people misuse it to increase their focus, concentration, and endurance when studying. However, a recent study showed that this drug will not improve thinking for people who do not have ADHD [6]. In fact, the research suggests that it could worsen their memory.

Effects of Long-Term Adderall Use

While Adderall effectively boosts focus and concentration, using this medication can cause side effects, particularly if you use it for a long time. Side effects of Adderall include [7]:

• Nervousness or restlessness
• Problems falling asleep or staying asleep
• Headaches
• Dizziness
• Dry mouth or hoarseness
• Slowed speech
• Vision changes

Use of Adderall may slow a child’s growth; Adderall use in adults may affect sex drive or sexual performance. In rare cases, Adderall can affect the eyes to cause blurred vision or trouble focusing, which could interfere with your ability to read or see clearly. Adderall can also cause the pupils of the eyes to dilate, or get larger.

Adderall use can cause serious side effects, such as fever and weakness, or numbness of your arms or legs. A severe allergic reaction may occur to cause swelling of the tongue, throat, or face. This type of reaction is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately. Other serious side effects from Adderall use include:

• Uncontrollable shaking or tics
• Hallucinations or paranoia
• Worsening depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions

Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms while taking this drug.
Adderall can cause dependence, which means that using it for a long time then quitting suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms. While these withdrawal symptoms are temporary, they can be uncomfortable. Withdrawal symptoms from Adderall may include:

• Feeling uneasy, anxious, or irritable
• Panic attacks
• Phobias
• Insomnia, sleeping too much, or other sleep problems
• Hunger
• Fatigue or lack of energy
• Depression
• Suicidal thoughts

What’s the Best Supplement for Focus and Concentration?

When it comes to supplements for focus and concentration, nootropics have Adderall. Unlike Adderall, for example, most nootropics are available without a prescription. The pharmaceutical ingredients in Adderall can potentially cause adverse health consequences, particularly when used off-label by adults who just want to sharpen their thinking. Adderall can also be habit-forming, trigger an increase in blood pressure, cause a fast heartbeat, and even lead to tremors or other serious effects.

Nootropics, on the other hand, can enhance overall cognition, intensify focus, improve memory and retention, and boost energy, mostly without side effects. People often find that they can study or focus on work for longer after taking nootropics than they could before. In other words, natural nootropics provide more benefits than Adderall without the drawbacks.

Types of Nootropics

Nootropics is an umbrella term that covers a broad range of natural and synthetic substances, including drugs, dietary supplements, and other compounds that enhance brain function in healthy consumers. There are several types of nootropics, and each supports focus and concentration in a different way. Some nootropics work by strengthening communication between brain cells, while others protect the cells and tissues supporting the brain. Below is a short review of the best natural nootropic types, with examples of each.

Phospholipids are a type of fat that creates a barrier to protect the health of cell membranes and neurotransmitters. These “good fats” help you retain information, recall it quicker, respond faster, and keep your memory sharp. Unfortunately, phospholipids tend to decrease with age, leaving you struggling to learn and recall information.

Brain cells, or neurons, communicate by sending electrical messages back and forth. Between each of the brain cells is a tiny gap, known as a synapse. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry these electrical messages across the synapse. When neurotransmitters are working well, messages between brain cells move very quickly. Neurotransmitters that are not working well can slow down communication between neurons to cause fogginess, mental distraction, and poor concentration.

Nootropics that support transmitters help speed the transmission of the electrical messages, thereby improving focus, alertness and concentration. L-theanine, Huperzine-A, magnesium, L-Tyrosine, and glycine are science-backed nutrients known to support the function of neurotransmitters, particularly in people who desire a little extra brain power, such as executives, students, athletes, the sleep-deprived, and top performers.

Phospholipid Support

GPC, phosphatidylserine, and DMAE support phospholipids for peak cognition, mental speed, fast learning and better recall.

Brain Blood Flow Support

Healthy blood flow provides your brain with the essential nutrients and oxygen it needs to function well. Poor blood flow to your brain can cause fogginess and poor cognition. Nootropics containing curcumin, L-Taurine, and natural caffeine improve blood flow to the brain to support alertness, cognition, and mental endurance.

Brain Antioxidant Activity

Produced by normal metabolic activities in the body, free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage all types of body tissues and cells, including brain cells. Damage to neurons can build up over time to reduce the function of brain cells and dull mental sharpness. Free radical activity can also cause signs and symptoms of aging, such as a slowdown of cognitive processes.

Antioxidants help protect brain cells from damage caused by free radicals, and support healthy brain aging. Lutein, Asian Panax Ginseng, and Black Pepper Fruit Extract each offer antioxidant effects that protect your brain cells.

Cognitive Fuel & Brain Energy

It takes a lot of fuel to keep your brain working at peak performance. While your brain represents only about 2 percent of your body weight, it consumes 20 percent of the energy in your body. In fact, the average person burns about 320 calories a day just by thinking. Engaging in cognitive challenging work burns even more calories. To meet its demand for energy, the brain uses long-lasting energy in the form of glucose and ketones. Glucose provides most of the energy to your brain, but ketones are a more efficient source of energy.

Nootropics that support the supply and conversion of glucose and ketones into energy helps you concentrate longer. Omega fatty acids and medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) help produce ketones in your body and regulates the uptake of glucose into your brain. Vitamin B6 helps convert food into energy the brain can use, while vitamin B12 helps your body build the red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen to the brain. Furthermore, MCTs, omega fatty acids, and Vitamin B6 and B12 provide your brain with the cognitive fuel and energy it needs to stay sharper longer.




† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.