Best Nootropics for ADHD & ADD

David Tomen
David Tomen
21 minute read

Key Takeaways

  1. B-Vitamins and multivitamins are crucial for brain health and neurotransmitter synthesis.
  2. Acetylcholine’s role in ADHD can be supported with nootropics like ALCAR and CDP-Choline.
  3. Nootropics like Ashwagandha and Bacopa Monnieri help repair damaged neuroreceptors in ADHD.
  4. Noopept enhances cognition, memory, and provides neuroprotection.
  5. Combining specific nootropics with essential vitamins can optimize brain function for managing ADHD symptoms​​.

Depending on the severity of your ADHD symptoms, you may be able to use nootropics as an alternative to prescription stimulants like Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse and their variations.

I experimented for a year by using nootropics in place of the 20 mg of Ritalin I had been using 3-times a day for several years. And for the most part, I was successful in taming my Adult ADD symptoms.

Adult ADD Nootropic Stack

The ADD/ADHD stack I use includes:

During my one-year stimulant holiday, the ingredients in Mind Lab Pro along with L-Tyrosine, CDP-Choline,  and ALCAR (included in Performance Lab Energy) kept my dopaminenorepinephrine, and acetylcholine levels high enough to maintain focus, motivation and improve my memory. Vinpocetine kept my brain blood flow at optimal levels. And Aniracetam and Sulbutiamine improved my mood.

But after a year I decided to go back to using 20 mg of Ritalin twice per day. Because my workload had me writing 10 hours per day. And maintaining working relationships with 2 or 3 clients at once.

By adding Ritalin back to my stack I was able to reduce the time it would take to complete a project from 3 days to 1 ½ days. Proof to me that my overall brain health couldn’t make it with nootropics alone.

The beauty of continuing to use L-Tyrosine, CDP-Choline, and ALCAR even after I started using Ritalin again was that I avoided the stimulant “crash” that is so common late afternoon when using stimulants. And I was able to reduce the original 20 mg Ritalin 3-times per day down to only twice per day.

And I have not experienced building up tolerance to Ritalin that is so common when using stimulants to treat ADD or ADHD.

Your situation may be different, or ADHD symptoms not as severe. Only you can decide if nootropics can replace ADHD meds. The  stack I describe on this page is designed to be used with or without stimulant meds.

Whether you use this stack with meds or without, you’ll need to discover for yourself what dosages of each nootropic are ideal for you. Because the amounts that work for me may not work as well for you. You may need less NALT and/or ALCAR.

Experimenting is the key to success with nootropics. And knowing as much as you can about what’s going on in your brain that needs to be fixed. But after many years of recommending this ADHD nootropic stack to people just like us around the world, we know this works.


Prescription “Smart Drugs” vs. Nootropics for ADHD

This post is in response to many emails and questions I’ve been getting about how to treat Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) with nootropics.

So if you are dealing with ADHD, hopefully this post will help. Especially if you are using stimulants like Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, Focalin, or any of the other stimulant prescribed for ADD/ADHD. Or you are trying to deal with ADHD naturally by avoiding prescription stimulants.

This information can also help if you are a student or executive who uses prescription “smart drugs” like Adderall or Modafinil to boost productivity.

Here we’ll dig into the causes of ADHD or ADD in your brain. Symptoms associated with ADHD. And what you can do using nootropics, or nootropics stacked with stimulants to correct ADHD symptoms.

I’ll also include ways to potentiate the effectiveness of prescription stimulants with nootropics so they work better.

If you’ve never ‘officially’ been diagnosed with ADHD, but some of this resonates with you, you could be ADHD or ADD. And this may point you to some answers.

I’ve been ADD all my life. (ADD is ADHD without the hyperactivity). But it wasn’t until about 16 years ago, that a very wise psychiatrist identified what was going on. And why I had been struggling with focus and other problems with behavior. That no amount of self-help books on focus and management could ever correct.

Ritalin turned the lights on for me. And completely changed my life for the better. This was the seed that sprouted my interest in neuroscience and nootropics. And ultimately launching Nootropics Expert®

What is ADHD & ADD?

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are associated with attention and executive function in your brain.Nootropics for ADHD Innattentive

Your prefrontal cortex directs behavior, thought and feeling which are all associated with working memory. This fundamental cognitive function is what most “healthy” people take for granted, are what make up executive function.

This executive function and working memory give you the ability to:

  1. Regulate your attention
  2. Inhibit inappropriate behavior and thought
  3. Monitor your actions
  4. Plan and organize your future

If you can’t focus on the task at hand, blurt things out at inappropriate times, have little control over your emotions or actions, and can’t seem to stick to that careful set of goals you wrote down, you may be ADHD.

The Role of Norepinephrine and Dopamine in ADHD

Norepinephrine and dopamine are the primary neurotransmitters involved in ADHD because they play an essential role in attention and thinking.[i]

The “inattentive” type of ADHD is related to issues with the norepinephrine, and the “hyperactive and impulsive” type of ADHD is linked to dopamine dysfunction.

These two neurotransmitters work in concert to maintain alertness, increase focus, sustain thought, effort, and motivation. The only difference between the two is the presence of a hydroxyl group. And dopamine is the precursor to norepinephrine synthesis in your brain.[ii]

Much of what we read about ADHD focuses on dopamine’s function in your brain. But norepinephrine (NE) plays a critical role in activating your reaction to events. And how you respond to the event.[iii] NE is essential for collecting information coming in through your senses. And then modulating your brain’s response.

Any disruption in this NE system can result in ADHD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), sleep disorders and more.[iv]

For example, NE working with postsynaptic α2-adrenoceptors (α2-AR) in your brain play an essential role in helping you focus and eliminate distractions when you’re paying attention to something.[v]

This is just one example of what goes wrong with ADHD brain function. My point in bringing this all up is not to overwhelm you with neuroscience.

But to make clear that simply suggesting too much or too little of a single neurotransmitter like dopamine cannot explain the complexity of ADHD.

So using a nootropic like L-Tyrosine to amp up dopamine in your brain is often not enough to take care of ADHD symptoms. Or using Adderall with someone who has a problem with alpha2-receptor binding with norepinephrine may not get much benefit.

This is the reason that experimenting with various stimulants and/or nootropics is often the only way to find a long-term solution to keeping ADHD under control. And why some respond better to a drug like Ritalin and not as well to Adderall. Or vice versa.[vi]

And recent research shows serotonin and acetylcholine are involved too. Mostly the “hyperactivity” part of ADHD which includes movement, inattention, and impulsivity.[vii]

Smart Drugs Used to Treat ADHD Symptoms

If you are truly and clinically ADHD or ADD, it is unlikely that optimizing your diet, getting plenty of sleep, using nootropics, and exercising regularly will get the symptoms of ADHD under control.Noopept ADHD

The most severe forms of ADHD often benefit from using prescription medication. Otherwise known as “smart drugs” in some circles, these meds are typically amphetamines or methylphenidate.

The amphetamine-class of ADHD prescription drugs includes Adderall (75% dextroamphetamine salts and 25% levoamphetamine salts), Dextroamphetamine, and Vyvanse (Lisdexamfetamine).

The methylphenidate-class of ADHD medications includes methylphenidate (Ritalin) and its variants like Concerta, and Focalin.

Adderall and Ritalin both work with dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain. But through different mechanisms of action.

Ritalin is a pure uptake inhibitor of dopamine and norepinephrine without any other presynaptic activity.[viii] Adderall on the other hand, has additional presynaptic activity, releasing dopamine and norepinephrine from presynaptic neurons.

The idea for the last 60 years or so, has been if we could boost dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, ADHD symptoms would go away. As long as we’re taking the medication.

Why Prescription Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Meds Often Don’t Work

Nootropics for KidsIn an ideal world, taking one pill 2 or 3 times a day to treat ADHD would put your life back on track. And help you function like a ‘normal’ person.

But real-world results often don’t work out as well as theory. For several reasons. For example, what if there’s not enough dopamine or norepinephrine in your brain in the first place? Then stimulants will not work as well as planned because they haven’t the neurotransmitters in place to work with.

You could also have problems with not enough or damaged neuroreceptors. Natural aging processes can slow blood flow or inhibit the production of neurotransmitters. A lack of acetylcholine could prevent your neurotransmitters from doing what they were designed to do.

This is where nootropics can help save the day in treating the symptoms of ADHD.

Optimizing Dopamine & Norepinephrine

Nootropics for ADHD redditOne of main culprits contributing to ADHD symptoms is a lack of dopamine (DA) and norepinephrine (NE) in your brain. Or your brain is not using the available DA and NE effectively.

Stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin work to boost levels and use of these two critical neurotransmitters.

Production of dopamine and norepinephrine in your body and brain follows this metabolic pathway:

Phenylalanine → Tyrosine → L-DOPA → Dopamine → Norepinephrine

Dopamine is converted to norepinephrine by the enzyme dopamine β-monooxygenase, with O2 and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) as cofactors.

Norepinephrine can be further converted into epinephrine by the enzyme phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase with SAM-e as cofactor.

Nootropics to boost dopamine and norepinephrine include:

  • L-TyrosineL-Tyrosine is the precursor to the synthesis of dopamine in your brain. L-Tyrosine enhances working memory, executive function, creative flow states, reduces stress, improves mood and is anti-anxiety.Suggested dosage of L-Tyrosine or NALT for ADHD is 350- 500 mg twice per day. I successfully stack 500 mg of NALT or L-Tyrosine 3-times per day. Once each time I dose with Ritalin, and a last dose mid-afternoon to prevent a stimulant crash later in the day.
  • Mucuna Pruriens (L-Dopa) – Mucuna works as an antioxidant and heavy metal chelator, improves memory & cognition, reduces depression and boosts libido.L-Dopa is also the direct precursor to dopamine. Suggested dosage of Mucuna Pruriens is 250 – 500 mg per day. But if you’re just starting out with nootropics, I highly recommend using L-Tyrosine or NALT instead of Mucuna Pruriens. Because Mucuna can be more difficult to dose since it directly stimulates the production of dopamine. L-Tyrosine and NALT are more ‘forgiving’ when it comes to dosage.
  • N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC)NAC is an amino acid that regulates the amount of glutamate and dopamine in your brain.NAC can be used to address the symptoms of ADHD. And may even help eliminate some of the negative side effects associated with prescription ADHD stimulants. Suggested dosage of NAC is 600 mg 3-times per day.
  • Phosphatidylserine (PS)PS can help improve alertness, attention, cognition, memory, recall and mood, and lower anxiety. All issues associated with ADHD.Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid component of the membrane encasing every one of your brain cells. PS helps maintain the fluidity and permeability of brain cells. Improving the flow of dopamine and acetylcholine. Suggested dosage of PS is 100 mg 3-times per day.
  • Pine Bark Extract – Pine Bark extract helps prevent decreases in dopamine and norepinephrine. And the glutathione (GSH) and GSH-disulphide reductase (GSSG-R) ratio. Neurotransmitter problems which contribute to hyperactivity in ADHD.Pine Bark extract also helps boost blood flow in the brain by increasing nitric oxide which helps dilate blood vessels. And it helps reduce oxidative stress, membrane damage, DNA damage, inflammation, and glycation.I’ve found one of the most potent forms of Pine Bark extract comes in both Mind Lab Pro® and Performance Lab® Mind.

A word of caution here in boosting the catecholamines dopamine and norepinephrine. Too much of either is not a good thing. In fact, excess levels of either will throw your neurotransmitter levels out of balance. And can cause anxiety, insomnia and panic attacks.

Taming Hyperactivity with Nootropic Supplements

The “H” in ADHD stands for hyperactivity. Boosting levels of dopamine and norepinephrine can help balance out hyperactivity. And help calm and focus your mind. But often simply boosting or balancing these neurotransmitters is not enough.

Recent studies show that serotonin and dopamine interaction also play a role in ADHD.[ix] Serotonin is involved in the uptake, synthesis and breakdown of dopamine in your brain. Problems with serotonin seem to contribute to behavior and impulse control.

Much more research needs to be done in this area of ADHD. But we can help control and balance serotonin with nootropics.

  • 5-HTP – This amino acid is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan. And 5-HTP is the immediate precursor to serotonin in your brain.5-HTP can help relieve anxiety and depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia, migraines and likely the hyperactivity, depression and anxiety associated with ADHD. Suggested dosage of 5-HTP is 50 mg up to 3-times per day. Please see my dosage notes and warnings before you try supplementing with 5-HTP.
  • GinsengGinseng helps calm anxiety, and boost attention, concentration and memory. Ginseng provides neuro-protective effects on the dopaminergic-pathway which can help with ADHD. And ginseng is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI).Suggested dosage of Ginseng is 100 – 400 mg per day.
  • L-TheanineL-Theanine commonly found in green tea helps boost alpha and theta brain waves, is anti-anxiety, boosts cognition and memory and reduces insomnia.L-Theanine also helps boost GABA, serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain. Suggested dosage of L-Theanine is 150 mg 2 – 3-times per day.
  • Rhodiola RoseaRhodiola Rosea helps improve alertness, energy, memory and mood, is anti-anxiety and antidepressant, reduces fatigue and boosts memory and concentration.Rhodiola influences serotonin and norepinephrine levels in your brain. Suggested dosage of Rhodiola Rosea extract is 150 – 200 mg per day.
  • SaffronSaffron acts as a dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Similar to how Ritalin works.  A randomized double-blind study was conducted with 54 children 6-17 years old who were given 20 – 30 mg methylphenidate or 20 – 30 mg Saffron per day for 6 weeks. At the end of the study researchers concluded, “Short-term therapy with a saffron capsule showed the same efficacy compared with methylphenidate.”Suggested dosage of Saffron is 30 mg per day.
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)Vitamin B6 helps your brain make serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin. Suggested dosage of B6 is up to 100 mg per day.
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate)Folate (NOT folic acid) as a nootropic helps your brain make dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Suggested dosage of Folate is 400 mcg per day.
  • Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) – is a cofactor in the synthesis of neurotransmitters acetylcholine, dopamineGABAnorepinephrine, and serotonin. Suggest dosage of B12 is 100 mcg per day.

B-Vitamins are Critical in Controlling ADHD

Take note that several of the B-Vitamin group are involved in the production of the neurotransmitters involved in ADHD. I recommend adding a good B-Vitamin Complex that include methylfolate (not folic acid) and methylcobalamin (not cyanocobalamin) to your stack. Both in a pure nootropic stack as well as when using any of the ADHD prescription stimulants.

But it’s not only the B-Vitamins that are required for a healthy, fully functioning brain. We also need each of the 13 vitamins and 13 minerals needed for everything from blood flow, neurotransmitter synthesis and release, brain signaling, and neuroprotection.

I’ve found the easiest way to make sure my ADD brain gets all the vitamins and minerals it needs every day is to also use a multivitamin/mineral supplement.

The best I’ve found so far is the multivitamin called Performance Lab® NutriGenesis Multi. It’s better than the “raw-food” multi I was using for years. And makes a difference I can actually feel.

But please note that this multi is in addition to a B-Vitamin Complex because the ADHD brain needs more of these critical nutrients than what is normally in any good multivitamin.

The Role of Acetylcholine in ADHD

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center discovered that there are three types of ADHD.

We’ve already covered the “inattentive” type that is related to issues with the norepinephrine transporter gene. And the link to the dopamine transporter gene in the “hyperactive and impulsive” type.

But the research team now report that a variation in the choline transporter gene is associated with a “combined” type of ADHD. Symptoms include both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.

Choline is required to synthesize acetylcholine (ACh) which is needed for memory, motor-control, focus, learning, concentration, and cognition.

If you have the “combined” type of ADHD it’s likely due to a mutation in this choline transporter gene variation.

Nootropics to boost acetylcholine include:

  • ALCAR (Acetyl-L-Carnitine)ALCAR donates a methyl group in the presence of Coenzyme-A for the synthesis of acetylcholine. And it’s also a shuttle transport for fatty acids through brain cell membranes. It shuttles fatty acids into mitochondria for ATP synthesis, and shuttles toxic byproducts out.

Research from the Linus Pauling Institute shows ALCAR will restore mitochondrial function, replenish age-related changes to mitochondrial structure, and helps replenish acetylcholine levels to your brain and body.

And other studies show that ALCAR stimulates nerve growth factor. Helping support survival and growth of neurons. Which is particularly important for the ADHD brain and especially when using prescription stimulants that may be tough on neurons.

  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (R-LA)Alpha Lipoic Acid increases acetylcholine production by activation of choline acetyltransferase and increases glucose uptake. This process supplies more Acetyl-CoA for the production of acetylcholine.

Alpha Lipoic Acid enhances insulin-stimulated glucose transport and metabolism for better brain cell performance. And R-Lipoic Acid provides strong antioxidant support because it helps regenerate and recycle existing antioxidants in your brain including Vitamins C & E, glutathione, and CoQ10.

I’ve since switched the ALCAR supplement in my ADD stack to Performance Lab® Energy because this pre-formulated energy stack contains my preferred dose of ALCAR. But note that I also take another 500 mg of ALCAR with L-Tyrosine late afternoon to prevent a stimulant crash.

Performance Lab® Energy also contains Alpha Lipoic Acid and ALCAR which helps my ADD brain produce acetylcholine.

  • CDP-Choline (Citicoline)Citicoline helps synthesize phosphatidylcholine (PC), a major phospholipid found in brain cell membranes. And provides choline for the synthesis of acetylcholine while providing antioxidant activity.

The CDP-Choline (Citicoline) in my ADD stack is supplied by Mind Lab Pro® which is the base of my nootropic stack.

But a suitable alternative to MLP is Performance Lab® Mind which contains the branded form of citicoline called Cognizin®.

Performance Lab® Mind and Mind Lab Pro® also contain L-Tyrosine, Phosphatidylserine (PS), and Maritime Pine Bark extract.

Repairing Neuroreceptors Needed to Control ADHD

One of the issues with neurotransmitters and ADHD are damaged or non-existent receptors. Dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin have less receptors to bind to for cognition and mood control.Best nootropics for ADD

Once again, nootropics come to the rescue in helping control ADHD. You can add one of these nootropics to your stack to help boost neuron and receptor health.

  • Ashwagandha – This adaptogen, Ashwagandha helps reduce anxiety and depression. And helps reconstruct axons, dendrites and synapses involved in neurotransmitter signaling in your brain.Suggested dosage of Ashwagandha extract is 250 – 500 mg per day.
  • Bacopa MonnieriBacopa helps boost memory and cognition, improves mood, and reduces stress. This adaptogen affects brain levels of acetylcholine needed for neurotransmitter signaling.And the two active components of Bacopa Monnieri called bacosides A and B not only improves signaling of electrical impulses between neurons in your brain. Bacosides also help rebuild damaged neurons. Suggested dosage of Bacopa is up to 450 mg per day.
  • Lion’s ManeLion’s Mane Mushroom is known for stimulating Nerve Growth Factor, improving cognition and memory, and relieving depression.Lion’s Mane stimulates the repair and creation of neurons in your brain. Neurons needed for dopamine and norepinephrine to control ADHD. Suggested dosage of Lion’s Mane Mushroom starts at 500 mg per day. Note: that there’s an effective 500 mg dose of Lion’s Mane full-spectrum fruiting body in each dose of Mind Lab Pro®
  • NoopeptNoopept helps boost cognition, memory, learning, perception, logical thinking and mood. Noopept increases Nerve Growth Factor, and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) critical for neuroplasticity and Long-Term Potentiation critical for long-term memory.Noopept also prevents the release of excess glutamate in your brain. Providing potent neuroprotection for neurons and reducing damage. Suggested dosage of Noopept is 10 – 30 mg per day.

Please note that I haven’t linked through to supporting clinical studies for each of the nootropics I listed above. But you can click through to my full review of each nootropic for extensive research supporting each supplement.

Nootropics for Kids

ADHD and ADD is most often diagnosed in children. The latest statistics (2011) from the CDC in the USA shows about 11% of children 4 – 17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed ADHD.[x] And that’s just for the USA.Nootropics-for-kids-adhd

Although ADHD is usually first diagnosed in children, it often lasts into adulthood. I sometime wonder how my life would have been different if I had been declared ADD when I was a kid.

But it wasn’t until the late 1960’s that the American Psychiatric Association formally recognized ADHD as a mental health disorder. I wasn’t declared Adult ADD until much later.

The thing is many parents are wary about putting their children on powerful, prescription ADHD meds. Kids’ brains continue to develop until your early 20’s. So is it a problem messing with brain chemistry at such a young age? Only time will tell and if the benefits outweigh any potential risk.

Hence the reason why parents are looking for ‘natural’ alternatives like nootropics to treat ADHD in children. But are nootropic supplements any safer than prescription stimulants?

Common sense tells me that using L-Tyrosine could be safer than Ritalin for boosting dopamine. And Rhodiola Rosea could be safer than stimulants or antidepressants for taming hyperactivity.

But many children with ADHD, natural supplements may not be enough. I’m not a doctor, and don’t even play one on TV. I’m an ordinary biohacker who has learned as much as I can to help myself. And fix my own cognitive performance issues. Including Adult ADD.

So I highly recommend you find and work with an open-minded psychiatrist with your child. You may be pleasantly surprised to find you may be able to reduce or eliminate prescription ADHD meds altogether to enhance cognitive functions. And maybe not. But the long-term health of your child could be worth the time investment to find out.

In Summary

I’ve been wanting to write this post since I started Nootropics Expert®. If you are ADHD or ADD, I hope you found this useful. And I’d appreciate your feedback, and share your experience with treating ADHD with nootropics in the comments section of this post below.

Please share this post with anyone you think would benefit. Including discussions about nootropics for ADHD on reddit or Longecity.

One final note. Neurotransmitter balance is key to taming ADHD. I strongly caution you to take it slow if you’re just starting out with nootropics. Carefully read each of the extended articles in the List of Nootropics you are considering trying.

You need to be careful about side effects, prescription drug interactions, dosages and how your body reacts to each supplement to ensure healthy brain function.

But I’m confident that with careful planning and a long-term commitment, your cognitive enhancement will be just as successful as I have been in living and thriving with my Adult ADD.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may also contain other affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

[i] Arnsten A.F., Li B.M. “Neurobiology of executive functions: catecholamine influences on prefrontal cortical functions.” Biological Psychiatry. 2005 Jun 1;57(11):1377-84. (source)

[ii] Pliszka S.R., McCracken J.T., Maas J.W. “Catecholamines in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: current perspectives.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 1996 Mar;35(3):264-72. (source)

[iii] Aston-Jones G., Rajkowski J., Cohen J. “Role of locus coeruleus in attention and behavioral flexibility.” Biological Psychiatry. 1999 Nov 1;46(9):1309-20. (source)

[iv] Berridge C.W., Waterhouse B.D., “The locus coeruleus–noradrenergic system: modulation of behavioral state and state-dependent cognitive processes” Brain Research Reviews Volume 42, Issue 1, April 2003, Pages 33–84 (source)

[v] Franowicz J.S., Kessler L.E., Borja C.M., Kobilka B.K., Limbird L.E., Arnsten A.F. “Mutation of the alpha2A-adrenoceptor impairs working memory performance and annuls cognitive enhancement by guanfacine.” Journal of Neuroscience. 2002 Oct 1;22(19):8771-7. (source)

[vi] Zametkin A.J., Karoum F., Linnoila M., Rapoport J.L., Brown G.L., Chuang L.W., Wyatt R.J. “Stimulants, urinary catecholamines, and indoleamines in hyperactivity. A comparison of methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine.” Archives of General Psychiatry. 1985 Mar;42(3):251-5. (source)

[vii] Oades R.D. “Role of the serotonin system in ADHD: treatment implications.” Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics. 2007 Oct;7(10):1357-74. (source)

[viii] Wilens T.E. “Effects of methylphenidate on the catecholaminergic system in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. 2008 Jun;28(3 Suppl 2):S46-53 (source)

[ix] Oades R.D. “Dopamine-serotonin interactions in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).” Progress in Brain Research. 2008;172:543-65 (source)

[x] “Key Findings: Trends in the Parent-Report of Health Care Provider-Diagnosis and Medication Treatment for ADHD: United States, 2003—2011” Centers for Disease and Prevention (source)

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Join The Discussion - 796 comments

November 16, 2017

Hi David
Your stack is userful Also to improve my symptoms of depression and my adhd or i need to add something else?
Thank you

November 3, 2017

Hi David
very good article! I’m a guy of 17 years and i’m sure to have the ADD or ADHD. I passed the last 4 years through depression and severe anxiety and i overcome all reading and applying tons of books (about 200). Now i’m feeling better but not as I would like… i pass all my days doing the same things like in a stupid loop, i can’t focus on the things to do because my mind runs rough (seem scared hahaha) and i don’t do nothing at the end of the day (and i also tried meditation and cardio but don’t work…). I started about 3 days ago to use the Na-Semax-Amidate (4 sprays in the morning and 4 in the evening) and it’s helpful because turn off my inner critic but leaves me in a state of more brain fog and “apathy”… i’m a bit more sad and I don’t want do anything. I have a lot of ambitions but i’m still in a stuck situation and i want to try all the choices. I was thinking to use something that really kicks me like Ritalin, maybe Modafinil or other things like psychedelics…
what do you think about it David?

    David Tomen
    November 3, 2017

    Giulio, if you are clinically ADD or ADHD it’s going to take more than Semax to get your brain working the way it was designed. I highly recommend that you see a doctor who specializes in ADHD first. Because this will take the guess work out of trying to figure out what’s going on with your brain.

    You are very fortunate to have recognized this at your age. I was well into my adult life before I was finally diagnosed Adult ADD. My first experience of using methylphenidate was like someone switched the lights on in my brain. It was life-changing. If I’d only known this when I was 17 I wonder how different my life would have been.

    So please don’t mess around with this on your own. Yes, nootropics can help. But you will save a lot of time and grief if you learn exactly what’s going on right now. Stimulants may be where you need to start.

    Psychedelics could possibly send you down a hole that it will be difficult to recover from. Or they could be the reset button you need. But it’s far too risky at this stage in your life. Especially considering you still have about 5 years of natural biological brain development ahead of you.

    If you insist on going it alone then I recommend using the nootropic stack described on this page. It will help you far more than what Semax is capable of.

      November 5, 2017

      Hi David
      Thank you very much for your reply 🙂
      I looked up for your stack and i think it will be perfect for me. I think to buy almost all in powder on Nootropics Depot (do you think that they are the best?)
      and for now i have a limited amount of money (150€) and i was thinking to buy for now the Mind Lab in sinergy with the semax because the complete stack with shipping (i’m in italy) and tax costs about 400€ for 1 month of supplements. Meantime, in 2 weeks, i’ll do the money that i need.
      Just for update you, i’m at the 4th day of NASA (8 sprays a day) and i’m feeling better. I can speak thinking at what i’m saying, i haven’t more the inner critic conversation, i can focus on what to do easily and do it and i have less anxiety…just little steps forward finally 🙂
      For the Ritalin i was thinking 2x10mg a day, starting but with 1 a day and see how works for me.

        David Tomen
        November 5, 2017

        Giulio, I’ve found Nootropics Depot to be one of the better online vendors of nootropics. I’ve also found that there is no “best” in this business because it’s changing all the time. Reputation of vendors helps but ultimately it’s up to us to keep an eye on everything we put into our bodies.

        I think it’s also clear that I’m into biohacking. But when it comes to pharmaceuticals I’m even more cautious. Dosing Ritalin without the assistance of a trained medical professional is risky. So please be careful and listen closely to you what your body is telling you.

        November 5, 2017

        I really appreciate your reply.
        Yes i know the risk and i’ll start with 1x10mg a day to see the pro and cons. of the ritalin.
        I want to start gradually and see how work every piece of the stack. I was thinking to continue using the Na-Semax-Amidate and buy the Mind Lab Pro, Vinpocetine with coconut oil and after 2 weeks buy the other pieces. What do you think?
        it could be “problems” using this stack with the semax?

        David Tomen
        November 6, 2017

        Giulio, I have not done enough research into Semax to advise you either way. But if you are using Ritalin, my experience is you’ll need more NALT and CDP-Choline that what’s provided in that pre-formulated stack. Each of our bodies and brains are unique and you’ll need to experiment to see what works best for you.

October 22, 2017

Ive known ive had adhd since I was a child, but I just got diagnosed last week. i started a new medicine called mydayis at 12.5mg then if it’s not enough we will increase until we find whats right. I am not that impulsive, but I’m hyperactive and have trouble with everything else. This is a stack I came across searching the web. I have a pretty severe case.

2x per day

100 mg Caffeine

200 mg L-Theanine.

300 mg NALT

250 mg Alpha GPC

500 mg Sulbutiamine(morning only)

750 mg Aniracetam (morning only)

20mg nooept (afternoon only)

I seen you recommended nalc which ive never heard of. I am just now exploring nootropics within the last few months, but I cant retain what I read. Any recommendations on changing that stack? I’m also thinking of buying alpha brain or something else. This is all a headache. Haha

    David Tomen
    October 22, 2017

    Matthew, if you are hyperactive I’d strongly suggest not using Caffeine. You want to calm your brain. Not amp-it-up. And I’m not sure what you are referring to by “nalc”. I’ve never heard of it either.

    Other than Noopept, the other nootropics in your stack are under-dosed. Please refer to the review for each here on Nootropic Expert for recommended doses. Do not expect much benefit if you under-dose.

    I highly recommend Mind Lab Pro over Alpha Brain. Especially for ADHD. You may also want to consider adding an Omega-3 supplement high in DHA. And something to increase cerebral blood flow. Try Vinpocetine or Pine Bark Extract.

Tanya Zivin
October 14, 2017

Hi David,

I need help for my 12 yo daughter who has a tic disorder resulting from using Adderall (for a very short period of time last year). Her major tic, a breathing tic, can occur from a very few seconds to once every couple of minutes. I thought we were getting her on the right path with the following supplements:
Vitamin C – 500 mg 2x per day
PharmaGABA – 100 mg – 2x per day
ALCAR – 500 mg – 1x per day
Vitamin B6 – 50 mg – 1 per day
Glutathione Reduced – 500 mg 1x per day
Culturelle – 1 time per day
Methyl B-12 (1000 mcg) + Methyl Folate (400 mcg) + 1.5 mg P5P supplement – 1x per day
S. boulardii probiotic – 1 per day
Zinc citrate – 50 mg – 2 in the morning
Vitamin B5 – 250 mg – 1 per day
K2 + D3 (5000 mg) supplement – 1 per day
5-HTP – 100 mg – 1 per day
Magnesium Glycinate – 400-800 mg at night

Then, we added CBD oil to this regimen and she starting ticcing every few seconds. This has led me to believe it’s not simply a dopamine deficiency’ it’s either her dopamine receptors’ inability to receive the dopamine or just not enough dopamine receptors around. I was reading about the uridine stack. She already takes ALCAR, B vitamins and magnesium. I’m hoping DHA won’t hurt – she’s never had an RBC test, which could determine the correct Omegas to take. Should I invest in Uridine? Please help me. This is so confusing, and we are so desperate to help her.

    David Tomen
    October 16, 2017

    Tanya, your daughter’s reaction to CBD Oil is interesting. You could try Uridine and see if it helps. But you may want to take a look at Phosphatidylserine (PS) and/or L-Glutamine first. Keyword to look for in those reviews is “Tourette’s Syndrome”. I’m NOT saying your daughter has Tourette’s. But it is a “tic disorder” and may have the same faulty mechanism of action in the brain. Take a look at PS along with DHA or an Omega-3 high in DHA. Those two work together in brain cells.

July 29, 2017

Hello David. I am 49 years old and have ADD. I was diagnosed when I was a kid and was on Ritalin. When kids found out I was taking medicine every day at lunch at the advanced school they started teasing me about it and I started a lot of fights. Soon I asked my mom to put me back into the regular school since I did not have anything in common with the “Rich kids” from the other side of town. Later I told them I did not want to take the medicine anymore because of the teasing and fighting. I struggled all through school but when I was on Ritalin I did great in school and my parents told me I always had great grades. After graduating and going to the local college I tried Ritalin again but could not get the doses correct or something in my body changed because I gained about 20 pounds in a month and was sleepy all the time so I stopped taking it. About 5 years ago I tried again but now it was very expensive, about $300 for a month supply but I tried Ritalin, Adderall, Strattera and a couple others but nothing seemed to help with the focus and concentration so I gave up again. Last year we tried again with another medicine and it did not work and told the doctor that it is just the focus and concentration that is the issue so we decided to try Vyvance. I have a couple pills out of a month supply left but it is not helping either. I just found your youtube video and watching it and saw the link to your website and read through this page. I am hoping you have some suggestions that will help me as this is aggravating to say the least. I get distracted so easily and can lose hours in a day before I realize what I am supposed to be doing. Being self employed this is hurting my business a lot. Thank you.

    David Tomen
    July 29, 2017

    Chris, I feel your pain and wonder what my life would have been like if I’d been diagnosed much earlier. First, I’m not a doctor so what I suggest you try is one ADD guy to another. If Ritalin worked well for you when you were younger and no longer works, it sounds like your brain just ran out of enough dopamine for Ritalin to work with. It also could be a problem with dopamine receptors or transporters. But let’s start with the basics.

    As we get older, our bodies produce less of the neurotransmitters like dopamine for a number of reasons. Not enough precursors coming from food. Our body can’t convert what we do eat into dopamine and norepinephrine. And an enzyme in our brain called monoamine oxidase starts to be over expressed. Which inhibits the dopamine we do have available.

    So a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) slows this process down. Without getting into more detail, one way to inhibit MAO is with a prescription drug called Selegiline (L-Deprenyl). It’s a MAO-B inhibitor and at low doses does not inhibit MAO-A. So you don’t have a problem with a thing called the “cheese effect”. I’ll let you research that one on your own. But Deprenyl is the only drug known to selectively enhance a tiny region of the brain called the substantia nigra. This place is rich in dopamine neurons. That’s where problems start that turns into Parkinson’s. Using 5 mg per day of L-Deprenyl will boost dopamine.

    If you can’t get L-Deprenyl, the nootropic supplement called Oat Straw is also an MAO-B inhibitor >

    Here’s what I would try to get you going in the right direction. Follow the stack I use which you’ll find at the top of this article while using Ritalin twice a day. See if you’re doctor will prescribe low-dose L-Derenyl. And if not, try Oat Straw. I’d also add Mucuna Pruriens (L-DOPA) > Mucuna will increase dopamine levels in your brain. Dosage instructions are in that review.

    I mention Ritalin specifically because it’s the simplest of ADD drugs and seems the safest. And it’s immediate release so you would dose it twice a day. Once in the morning and once at noon. Your nootropic stacks would be taken at the same time. I’d also suggest you try Mind Lab Pro because it’ll help repair and replenish neuroreceptors you’ve lost due to aging.

    I’m confident that you can turn things around Chris because I did and it saved my life. But it takes a lot of patience and determination. Because you’ll have to keep experimenting until you find what works best for you.

July 18, 2017

Hi David, how did you find out that you have ADD. Like when did it occur to you and what led you to get yourself diagnosed by a doctor. I’m thinking of getting myself diagnosed.

    David Tomen
    July 18, 2017

    Andrew, it never occurred to me until after the fact. My wife kinda’ ‘forced’ me to see her psychiatrist because he was a Rock Star in those circles. Within 10 minutes of our conversation, the doc told me I was ADD and PTSD. Still haven’t figured the last one out.

    All my adult life I’ve struggled with focus. I rose to the top of every company I’ve ever worked for. And every performance review had a common theme. I’d be able to rise higher if I could only “learn to focus”. I bought all the self-help books on learning how to focus. It was a constant theme and struggle. I didn’t know enough to realize there was something wrong with my brain.

    That diagnosis was a turning point in my life. Starting on Ritalin was like someone turned the lights on in my brain. And thus began my journey into neuroscience and what makes the brain work.

    Andrew, if you do decide to see a doc my only advice is to do your research. Find the best doctor you can. Get references if you can. Search the ADHD forums for tips on locating the right doctor. I can’t stress this enough. This is a very big deal and could affect the rest of your life. Good luck.

Anton Trenev
May 18, 2017

Have you personally found a difference between adderal and Ritalin? I currently take 10mg of Adderall that is not as effective as it once was and taking more usually causes much more anxiety. I would be curious to see if Ritalin has a better effect on me.

    David Tomen
    May 19, 2017

    Anton, I had my doc switch me to Adderall because the Ritalin I had been using for years was no longer very effective. I tried Adderall for 6 months with no success. It was at that stage I tried going the natural route with just nootropics for a year.

    Adderall and Ritalin have different mechanisms of action in the brain. I won’t go into that here except to say that with Ritalin being a pure uptake inhibitor, it seemed to work better for me. And the reason I’m back on Ritalin now. With no tolerance issues because of the stack I’m using.

    Adderall is likely causing anxiety because it’s boosting norepinephrine too much. See if your doc will switch you to Ritalin for a trial. But be prepared to go through withdrawal from Adderall which is not pleasant. Managing ADHD successfully really is trial and error to see what works. And what doesn’t.

      May 23, 2017

      Thank you for the reply David, this post has helped a lot. I recently started taking NALT and I notice a difference. I will also order ALCAR to add.

      What is your experience with NAC? Is it any different than NALT?

      Also, did you continue to take aniracetam with Ritalin? I am seeing mixed feedback on whether or not to combine racetams with Adderal/Ritalin. What’s your take on this? I am currently taking 1600mg piracetam with Adderal

        David Tomen
        May 23, 2017

        I just recently discovered NAC and added it to my stack. And now wouldn’t do without it. Rather than repeating it here I suggest you read through these two sections near the top of each post so you can compare them side by side.

        “N-Acetyl L-Cysteine helps”:
        “N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine helps”:

        The beauty of NAC is when everyone else has a cold or the flu, I seem to escape getting infected.

        I love Aniracetam and absolutely take it with Ritalin. The best antidepressant I’ve ever tried. One of the issues with ADD or ADHD are depression-tendencies. Likely caused by neurotransmitters being out of whack. And Aniracetam supports acetylcholine use which you’ll be increasing by using ALCAR.

February 23, 2017

So based in this article someone with ADD cannot simply use nootropics without pharmaceuticals to manage the condition. I have a very similar condition as you but I was prescribed strattera. Adderrall was too much for me as a stimulant and I couldn’t take it. The strattera hasn’t even kicked in yet and is affecting my mood. I’m much more irritated lately. I would like to try just using nootropics but from what you wrote it sounds like that won’t be enough. Any advice?

    David Tomen
    February 23, 2017

    Gary, I honestly did not want to leave the impression that ADD could not be managed with nootropics alone. I believe in many cases ADD and ADHD can be managed using nootropics without the use of prescription stimulants. For personal reasons I chose last year to try managing my ADD symptoms using only Mind Lab Pro, Aniracetam and Sulbutiamine. By most measures this experiment was a resounding success.

    But I have what many would consider a high stress line of work. I’m expected to put out a constant stream of high quality copy. Manage a company. And maintain the best relationship with my wife and family I possibly can. In most other lines of work I don’t think this would have been an issue. Intuition however told me that something was missing. And that’s when I decided to again use methylphenidate (Ritalin) daily. But at a slightly lower dose than I had been using.

    I’m not a doctor and cannot suggest that you do not use your prescribed meds. But I am suggesting that depending on your unique issues you may be able to manage ADD symptoms with the right combination of nootropics. If you do try this experiment, it will take at least 2 or 3 months to see if it works for you.

    Finally, do the research. Find out why Strattera was causing irritability. I’m guessing it was amping up your norepinephrine levels too high. That neurotransmitter may not be your issue. For example, through a lot of experimenting I found that my issue was low dopamine levels. And/or a lack of dopamine receptors or receptors not working as they should. I needed to raise dopamine and increase dopamine receptors. Which I’ve been able to do with a combination of nootropics and Ritalin.

    Please report back on what you decided to do and how it worked for you. These types of comments and conversations are helpful to a lot of people.

      Sparkle K
      March 9, 2018

      Hi David!

      I am commenting on this one because the mention of Strattera. I’m a 35 year old woman with ADHD.

      I was finally diagnosed when I was 26 after over a decade of severe symptoms, including recurring depression. They wondered if I had a personality disorder (!) at one point!

      I was prescribed Ritalin (Adderall is not available in Norway where I was diagnosed), but after 2 years of little success, and odd side effects like hyper sexuality and increased anxiety I switched to Adderall. That worked for a while, but I struggled with such intense crashes in the afternoons.

      I have now been on Strattera for a month, and it feels good most of the time, but I get crashes and brain fogs many afternoons, still. It doesn’t make sense to me.

      Is the stack you’ve outlined here safe to try while taking Strattera, and can it help with the crashes and the brain fog?

      Thank you so much for amazing information. I’ve just found your site and I’m all over it! Thank you!

        David Tomen
        March 9, 2018

        Sparkle, I designed this nootropic stack for exactly the reason you mentioned. And that is supporting the prescription ADHD meds you are using. And preventing the crash late afternoon.

        Please do some research and learn exactly how Strattera and the other ADHD meds work in your brain. They encourage your brain to release more dopamine. But if that dopamine is not there you get into trouble.

        I have been using 800 mg NALT, 800 mg of ALCAR and a tablespoon of coconut or MCT Oil about 4 pm everyday. And I do not experience a stimulant crash. Please study this post again carefully. And learn how I dose this nootropic stack throughout the day. Thousands use this stack and it works for most people. I hope it works for you too.

        May 16, 2019

        That may have answered my question, but I just want to clarify: when exactly do you take ALCAR with a stimulant regimen? i’m prescribed adderall now, just got some ALCAR, and am wondering if I should generally only take it in the late afternoon or evening when the adderall is wearing off. I use NAC, which is kind of magical, but I found if I take it concurrently with the adderall, it severely blunts the effects; but if I take it in the evening when I’m starting to get brain fog from the addy wearing off, its like putting on glasses for the first time with bad vision. things just clear up, calm down, and center. I know NAC is a powerful supplement so I dont epect the same from ALCAR, I’m just wondering about the timing. thanks!

        David Tomen
        May 17, 2019

        Jonny, I suggest dosing ALCAR when you use Adderall and then later in the afternoon along with L-Tyrosine to prevent the stimulant crash.

        I personally use ALCAR morning, noon and around 4 pm. Read the review on ALCAR to you can see exactly the benefits it’s providing to your brain and why it’s so important to the ADD and ADHD brain:

      Neli Silva
      February 19, 2019

      Hi David.
      My 7 year old son was diagnosed with ADHD. The doctor prescribed Ritalin, but in only two days of medication, he had side effects and Paradoxal effect of Ritalin, the symptoms of ADHD became worse and he became tachycardic, aggressive, depressed, anxious and with headache. Ritalin was 5 mg per day and the drug was contraindicated. He has a hard time at school, can not finish the lessons in a timely manner and has no attention to the teacher’s explanations. I wonder what nootropics I can give him and dosages. He does not use prescription medicine. Thanks.

        David Tomen
        February 20, 2019

        Neli, there is no easy answer to your question because you need to find out the cause of your son’s ADHD symptoms. ADDitude magazine has a good way of explaining what may be going on here:

        You could have success with something as simple as a high quality multivitamin, B-Complex vitamins, SAM-e, DMAE, magnesium and others. I suggest starting with the safest, natural supplements and see if that works. The move on to other nootropics as you get a better understanding of how complex this issue really is. Trial and error and patience is the only way to get to the bottom of this with your son.

    September 24, 2018

    I Know this post is kind of old. But I was diagnosed at the age of 19. I didn’t seek treatment until 29, because managing my own company, master’s degree and family exacerbated the symptoms, including committing many careless errors that could’ve cost me my LLC’s reputation. I did multiple things before recurring to medication (lists, meditation, yoga, ADHD podcasts, and nothing). So I decided to go to a psych and was immedietly started on Vyvanze, I was initiated on a very high dose due to my bizarre hyperactivity (I am more on the hyperactivity side, but I am also inattentive and I don’t even know which one is worse), but the secondary effects were horrible, my pupils dilated, tachycardic, shaky hands, I felt like crying all the tima, I had a terrible case of anxiety (I never really knew what anxiety was until Vyvanze). I cut the dose in less than 2 weeks, because although I did concentrate, I had a hyper focus and was more hyper than ever (Family said I didn’t shut up plus I developed insomnia which I never had). I was taken off from Vyvanze and initiated on Straterra. Straterra started to work at about 6-8 weeks after initiation. I felt great!, (I was on a child dose of 18mg! Probably b/c I am thin but at some point dose should’ve been up tritated to 60mgs, slowly), however, not even 5 months into the treatment I developed a moderate hypertension that escalated quickly into a mod/severe one (ranged from 145/95 – 160/110), so I decided to call it a quit (Clinical Trials for Straterra added a box warning of hypertension and Cardiovascular events- including sudden cardiac death). I loved feeling concentrated and calm, but I am honestly not willing to put my cardiovascular health at risk at the age of 31 (I have no other co-morbidities, I exercise, meal prep, and weigh 115). I think this is one of the most complete guide/information related to ADHD I’ve ever found online, so I will soon be trying Nootropics in hopes it helps at least a little. Thanks David and Gary, I recommend having you’re B/P and pulse checked every now and then.

      David Tomen
      September 24, 2018

      Jessica, I followed the protocol in this post exactly as described for one full year while NOT using methylphenidate. And it worked very well. I could likely have continued to treat my Adult ADD with this protocol naturally but chose to add methylphenidate again.

      This stack was designed to support the use of prescription stimulants for all the reasons outlined in this post (which was updated June 2018). But works amazingly well on its own.

      I suggest that you research exactly how each of these prescription stimulants works. Because it will help you understand what may be going wrong. Strattera for example is a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Which means it boosts norepinephrine in your brain and body. Which could account for the hypertension. (Wikipedia is great for this type of research:

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