Alternatives to Adderall

For decades, amphetamine medications like Adderall have been the go-to treatment option for managing ADHD symptoms. Lately, however, ADHD patients have faced difficulties finding and obtaining Adderall prescriptions. With a large influx of ADHD diagnoses in the last few years, combined with manufacturing supply chain issues, a widespread and concerning shortage of amphetamine drugs has emerged, leaving ADHD patients grappling with unprecedented challenges in obtaining their prescribed medications.

The scarcity of amphetamine-based medications has created a significant hurdle for patients who rely on Adderall and similar drugs to manage their ADHD symptoms. The mounting difficulties in securing prescriptions have prompted many individuals with ADHD, as well as their healthcare providers, to explore alternative treatment options to maintain an improved quality of life.

This article aims to delve into the realm of Adderall alternatives and similar amphetamine medications, providing insights into potential substitutes and complementary therapies. From alternative prescription medications with different mechanisms of action, to talk therapy, to innovative treatments like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy, learn about the best Adderall alternatives that individuals with ADHD are using to find effective symptom management.

Types of ADHD Medications

Stimulants for ADHD

Adderall is a stimulant medication that works by raising dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the body which increases activity in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex, which is located behind the forehead, is responsible for decision-making, attention, and focus, which ADHD patients struggle with. [2]

Stimulant medications like Adderall are often considered the first line of treatment for ADHD and have been studied extensively. However, Adderall is not the only stimulant medication. For those who are seeking alternatives to Adderall, other stimulant prescription medications affect brain function in a very similar way. Other common non-stimulant medications include:

  • Ritalin and Concerta (methylphenidate)
  • Focalin (dexmethylphenidate)
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
  • Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)

Stimulants can cause side effects for some people. Common side effects include headache, nausea, and increased blood pressure or heart rate. Other possible side effects include decreased appetite, weight loss, insomnia, and tics.

These side effects are often more common when starting the medication and for a few weeks after until your body has adjusted to the medication. If symptoms persist, you should discuss them with your healthcare provider.

Stimulants may not be appropriate for everyone. Some people, like individuals with a history of glaucoma, cardiovascular disease, hyperthyroidism, or hypertension, should not use these medications. 

Non-stimulant medications for ADHD

Non-stimulant medications may be a viable Adderall alternative for ADHD patients who cannot take stimulants, cannot tolerate the side effects of stimulants, or are just looking to try something new. Several non-stimulant medications may be used to treat someone with ADHD, and they all work slightly differently.

Some of the common non-stimulant prescription drugs include:

Strattera (atomoxetine): Atomoxetine is a non-stimulant medication that blocks the reuptake of a chemical called norepinephrine, which is needed for attention, learning, and memory. By blocking the reuptake of norepinephrine, atomoxetine increases its levels in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for attention regulation. [6]

Qelbree (viloxazine): Viloxazine works like atomoxetine, increasing levels of norepinephrine in the brain by blocking the reuptake of the chemical. [13]

Catapres, Kapvay (clonidine): Clonidine is an alpha-agonist hypotensive agent and was initially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat high blood pressure but was later also approved to treat ADHD in children ages six and older. [9]

Tenex, Intuniv (guanfacine): Guanfacine is approved by the FDA to treat ADHD. Like clonidine, guanfacine acts on specific parts of the brain to reduce stress responses. This leads to a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and relaxed blood vessels. [2] It works like clonidine by affecting the same region of the brain.

Symmetrel (amantadine): Amantadine is considered an adjunct treatment to stimulants or a third-line option for ADHD patients who have not responded well to FDA-approved ADHD medications. [8] It is not fully understood how amantadine works. However, it is believed to increase extracellular dopamine levels by inhibiting dopamine reuptake and/or blocking NMDA receptor function. Simply put, it increases dopamine levels in the brain, improving attention, and drive. [5]

Non-stimulant medication side effects may include:

  • Nausea
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased or decreased appetites
  • Weight changes
  • Mood swings or emotional changes
  • Changes in blood pressure or heart rate
  • Allergic reactions and liver issues are rare but possible.

Antidepressants

ADHD patients often have other co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, OCD, depression, bipolar disorder, binge eating disorder, or substance use disorder. [14] Individuals with ADHD are at four times increased risk of depression than those without the condition. [14] This is thought to be due to an imbalance in dopamine regulation, a neurochemical responsible for motivation, mood, and reward processing.

This dysregulation results in reduced dopamine levels compared to people without ADHD. Consequently, people with ADHD may find it challenging to become motivated and experience the same reward fully. This imbalance can impact their well-being and make them more vulnerable to not feeling their full potential. [14] Many antidepressants complement ADHD stimulant medications and the non-stimulant medicine Strattera (atomoxetine), though your healthcare provider may need to make some minor adjustments. [14]

Wellbutrin (bupropion):

Wellbutrin (bupropion) is one antidepressant that can also treat ADHD. [14] Small randomized clinical trials show Wellbutrin improved ADHD symptoms. It is suggested that for patients with uncomplicated ADHD, bupropion may be helpful alongside stimulant medications when stimulants are ineffective alone, for people unable to tolerate the side effects, or when there is a concern about abuse or diversion of stimulant medications. [16]

Overall, there are many different prescription medications that can improve cognitive function and serve as an effective Adderall alternative. Understanding the diverse array of alternative options available is crucial, as each individual may respond differently to various treatments. At Neuro Wellness Spa, we equip ADHD patients and their caregivers with a comprehensive understanding of ADHD medications and their alternatives, empowering them to make informed decisions in collaboration with their healthcare professionals.

Talk Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that aims to teach individuals to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors to achieve positive changes in their emotional and mental well-being. [4,15]

CBT seeks to shift the negative self-perceptions that often arise from living with ADHD. It achieves this by offering coping techniques and tools to handle negative emotions and expectations. It also examines behavioral patterns that may hinder the implementation of these strategies. [12] CBT therapy often focuses on helping individuals with ADHD with behavior modifications, such as behavior, organizational skills, social skills, procrastination, time, and task management.[3] CBT has also been shown to be effective in helping cope with ADHD symptoms and enhance their overall functioning. [12]

Alternative Treatments for ADHD

TMS Therapy

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive, FDA-approved treatment involving targeted magnetic pulses to specific brain areas responsible for regulating mood and other cognitive functions. It is mainly used for treatment-resistant major depression, but research is ongoing to investigate its use in treating other disorders, such as ADHD.

Research is ongoing, but initial studies show promise in treating ADHD with TMS. [7,17] TMS can influence various processes in the brain, including altering blood circulation, modifying gene activity or expression, and promoting the release of specific molecules that support cell growth and brain health, making TMS therapy an effective Adderall alternative. [11]

It also shows potential for enhancing dopamine release from the prefrontal cortex. This could benefit conditions like ADHD, depression, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s disease, where dopamine regulation is disrupted. [11] TMS is considered safe and well-tolerated for treating ADHD symptoms in adolescents and adults, as it does not involve invasive procedures. [11] TMS side effects, like scalp discomfort and headaches, are usually minor.

Neuro Wellness Spa’s experienced professionals provide personalized care and support for ADHD patients. Our state-of-the-art facility offers a comfortable and relaxing environment where you can receive TMS therapy in a serene setting. Don’t let ADHD control your life anymore. Contact us now to schedule a consultation and discover if TMS is right for you.

Holistic treatments

While medications and other forms of ADHD therapy are critical, there are lifestyle changes that can play an essential role in improving the symptoms of ADHD. Some may be skeptical about the efficacy of natural Adderall alternatives, but in many cases, these natural alternatives can be just as effective in augmenting cognitive performance as prescription medications. Most can also be used alongside traditional ADHD medications. Natural and proven ways to treat ADHD include:

Sleep

The power of sleep cannot be overstated. Sleep is one powerful tool the body has that regulates mood and maintains attention throughout the day. [10] Sleep also plays a vital role in learning. [10] Getting on a regular sleep schedule and getting enough restorative sleep can improve symptoms.

Exercise

Exercise enhances brain development, efficiency, and learning abilities. [10] Experts also know that physical activity causes dramatic changes in the areas of the brain that relate to ADHD, such as executive functioning, attention, and working memory. [10]

Healthy Diet

Food influences gene expression and function. [10] Foods that include Omega-3 fatty acids in healthy high-fat foods like fish and nuts are crucial in improving brain signaling and signal strength. [10] Deficits in these nutrients can negatively impact focus, attention, and impulse control, particularly in ADHD patients. [10]

Conclusion:

In conclusion, ADHD patients have various treatment options, from medications to therapies and lifestyle adjustments. Each individual’s response to treatment may vary, and it is essential to work closely with healthcare providers to tailor a personalized approach that best suits the patient’s needs.

If you or a loved one is living with ADHD, Neuro Wellness Spa is here to help. Our staff of psychiatrists is available to answer any questions you may have and guide you through the process of exploring treatment options. Don’t wait any longer to seek the help you deserve. Call Neuro Wellness Spa today and start your journey towards a healthier and more fulfilling life.

References:

1. (2023, July 18). A ‘perfect storm’ led to an ADHD medication shortage. Here’s why. PBS News Hour. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/a-perfect-storm-led-to-an-adhd-medication-shortage-heres-why

2. Brown, K. A., Samuel, S., & Patel, D. R. (2018). Pharmacologic management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: a review for practitioners. Translational pediatrics, 7(1), 36–47. https://doi.org/10.21037/tp.2017.08.02

3.   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (n.d.). Treatment of ADHD. https://www.cdc.gov/adhd/treatment/

4.  Drechsler, R., Brem, S., Brandeis, D., Grünblatt, E., Berger, G., & Walitza, S. (2020). ADHD: Current Concepts and Treatments in Children and Adolescents. Neuropediatrics, 51(5), 315–335. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0040-1701658

5.  Hosenbocus, S., & Chahal, R. (2013). Amantadine: a review of use in child and adolescent psychiatry. Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry = Journal de l’Academie canadienne de psychiatrie de l’enfant et de l’adolescent, 22(1), 55–60.

6.  Ledbetter M. (2006). Atomoxetine: a novel treatment for child and adult ADHD. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 2(4), 455–466. https://doi.org/10.2147/nedt.2006.2.4.455

7.  Memon A. M. (2021). Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Treatment of Adolescent Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Narrative Review of Literature. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 18(1-3), 43–46.

8.  Morrow, K., Choi, S., Young, K., Haidar, M., Boduch, C., & Bourgeois, J. A. (2021). Amantadine for the treatment of childhood and adolescent psychiatric symptoms. Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical Center), 34(5), 566–570. https://doi.org/10.1080/08998280.2021.1925827

9.  Naguy A. (2016). Clonidine Use in Psychiatry: Panacea or Panache. Pharmacology, 98(1-2), 87–92. https://doi.org/10.1159/00044644

10.  Nigg, J. (2023). Beyond Genes: Leveraging Sleep, Exercise, and Nutrition to Improve ADHD. ADDitude. https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-lifestyle-changes-food-sleep-exercise-genes-environment/

11.  Patel, R. K., Saeed, H., Mekala, H. M., & Lippmann, S. (2021). Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Adolescents With ADHD. The primary care companion for CNS disorders, 23(3), 20br02602. https://doi.org/10.4088/PCC.20br02602

12.  Ramsay, J.R. (2023) Why the ADHD Brain Chooses the Less Important Task and How CBT Improves Prioritization Skills. https://www.additudemag.com/how-to-prioritize-tasks-adhd-adults/

13.  Robinson, C. L., Parker, K., Kataria, S., Downs, E., Supra, R., Kaye, A. D., Viswanath, O., & Urits, I. (2022). Viloxazine for the Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Health psychology research, 10(3), 38360. https://doi.org/10.52965/001c.38360

14.  Sherman, C. (2019). Is It ADHD, Depression, or Both? ADDitude. https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-and-depression-symptoms-treatment/

15.  Sprich, S. E., Burbridge, J., Lerner, J. A., & Safren, S. A. (2015). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for ADHD in Adolescents: Clinical Considerations and a Case Series. Cognitive and behavioral practice, 22(2), 116–126. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpra.2015.01.001

16.  Verbeeck W, Tuinier S, Bekkering GE. Antidepressants in the treatment of adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review. 2009. In: Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet]. York (UK): Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK); 1995-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK77602/

17.  Weaver, L., Rostain, A. L., Mace, W., Akhtar, U., Moss, E., & O’Reardon, J. P. (2012). Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in adolescents and young adults: a pilot study. The journal of ECT, 28(2), 98–103. https://doi.org/10.1097/YCT.0b013e31824532c8

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