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Nootropics as an Alternative to Modern ADHD Therapy?

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???????????????????????????????????????????????ADHD is a problem that currently effect around 3-5% of the population. ADHD is characterised by a shortened attention span, restlessness and an inability to concentrate. The group of symptoms frequently presents itself in early childhood and is most diagnosed among males (2:1-3:1 ratio).  The high (and growing) prevalence rate, while alarming, may not include another large portion of individuals that don’t seek help during childhood and remain undiagnosed into adulthood. It is agreeable that ADHD is a large and crippling problem to children, parents and adults. ADHD can affect many aspects of life outside of academic study, including interpersonal relationships.

Over the years many have tried to discover cures and remedies for ADHD and while there has been a lot of progress in understanding the underlying mechanisms, there are still a lot of unknowns with ADHD. Traditional therapies involve cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT may be effective if a child is diagnosed young enough to put these practices into a routine. Regardless, this CBT type of therapy is still no “cure” even though it may help tremendously.

For those suffering from ADHD that are not fortunate enough to respond to behavioural therapy, there are traditional ADHD drugs. These drugs include scheduled amphetamine salts like Adderall which carry a high abuse potential and are often used illegally by many students as “smart drugs”. These amphetamine drugs work by enhancing both dopaminergic and adrenergic neurotransmitter release, which paradoxically calms down the mind of the ADHD sufferer while stimulating a non ADHD sufferer.  The problem with these stimulant based medications is the long list of side effects including:

– Pounding Heartbeats
– Insomnia
– Loss Of Appetite
– Headache
– Tremor
– Hallucinations
– Drug Tolerance

Many parents resort to traditional medication routes only as a last resort given the high abuse potential and side effect concerns.

What Causes ADHD?

ADHD is thought to be caused by a neurotransmitter malfunction. This disorder is not fully understood yet however a specific gene related to dopamine has been isolated in those suffering from ADHD. Dopamine is a monoamine neurotransmitter that plays a very large role in motivation, learning and concentration. ADHD is thought to be primarily malfunction in the dopamine system, which explains why these dopaminergic amphetamine drugs, such as Adderall, provide therapeutic benefit.

Can Nootropics Help?


If nootropics can help “normal” people with focus, learning and memory, perhaps they can help provide some benefit to ADHD sufferers. This is a common question many suffering from ADHD ask.  No nootropic has been approved as treatment for ADHD by the FDA. This is not likely to change as drug companies tend to focus on patentable formulations which provide them with a suitable profit, lots of nootropics such as piracetam are inexpensive to manufacture and are produced at ease on a mass scale.

brainThere has only been to date one study of piracetam and ADHD (link). The study involved 80 children aged between 6-11 years who had been diagnosed with ADHD. The vast majority of the participants were young boys (70), probably given the gender gap between sufferers. The participants were split into 3 groups, 1 control of 20 children receiving no treatment and 2 treatment groups receiving 70mg/kg and 40mg/kg respectively. 60% of the children receiving higher dose piracetam saw therapeutic benefit, while 47% receiving lower dose saw benefit, suggesting a dose dependent relationship.

The study was conducted in Russia and indexed in pubmed in 2004.  It’s difficult to obtain anything past an abstract due to the study not being indexed in common journals.

Monoamine Precursors – Tyrosine and Tryptophan

Given that ADHD is primarily a disease of low dopamine and other neurotransmitters, it’s logical to assume that providing the precursors (or building blocks) for these neurotransmitters could treat some of the symptoms. One interesting study published in 2011 tested a combination of tryptophan (serotonin precursor) and tyrosine (dopamine and adrenaline precursor). The study involved 85 patients aged between 4 and 18 years and was conducted over an 8 week period.  Aside from amino acid precursors, the participants were given a gram of vitamin C,  and smaller amounts of calcium, vitamin b6, folate, lysine, cysteine and selenium, these were given to ensure optimal neurotransmitter synthesis and fulfill all coenzyme requirements.


Results were overwhelmingly positive , with 77% of participants showing a positive improvement. Study link here. Given the absence of side effects and the magnitude from two dietary amino acids, it makes one wonder how many unexplored alternative there are for ADHD that may indeed be equal to or superior to traditional medication.


Nootropics, while providing a potential avenue for treatment are largely untested and require further scientific research before conclusions can be drawn. Tyrosine and tryptophan show promise, as does piracetam. As time goes on we can only hope that research sheds further light on both the disease process for ADHD and potential treatments.





  1. Grant   •  

    Correct! I have ADHD and found nootropics just as effective and less physiologically jarring than Rx ADHD meds.

  2. J   •     Author

    That’s good to hear Grant!

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