In recent years, the use of Adderall has grown immensely—but not just for ADD and ADHD. According The New York Times Magazine’s new cover story, “Generation Adderall,” the scary truth is that the prescription stimulants—a mixture of amphetamine salts—has now become the go-to drug of choice for millennials looking for everything from increased productivity at work to more energy and alertness during a night out.
In 2012, roughly 16 million Adderall prescriptions were written for adults between ages 20 and 39. And that same year, over 116,000 people went to rehab to try to quit the drug. While many people rely on it for medical reasons, its reputation for being overprescribed and abused is growing.
The question still remains: How can you get that uninterrupted focus, energy, and alertness in a safe and healthy way? Ehsan Ali, MD, whose Beverly Hills Concierge Doctor makes him an on-demand doctor to the stars (think house calls to Lana Del Rey, Liam Hemsworth, and Bella Thorne), says there are some natural alternatives that can work.
He says a number of supplements and vitamins can help you gain clarity, kick butt on your work projects, and even replace your afternoon coffee habit. Just remember, he says, to always eat before taking any supplements.
Originally published October 14, 2016, updated February 8, 2018.
Scroll down to the see Dr. Ali’s suggestions for five healthy alternatives to Adderall.
1. For focus
The amino acids found in protein—specifically the amino acid, tryptophan—can actually help create the neurotransmitters in your brain that make you feel calm and focused, Dr. Ali explains. Whether you take your protein in a capsule, powder, or tofu scramble, he recommends having 500 mg daily for increased focus.
Adderall alternative: Protein
2. For creative stimulation
Ranging from a smoothie add-in to party drug, cacao has a variety of uses (arguably the best: making chocolate). In a controlled—and healthy—dosage, raw cacao can also be extremely stimulating to the brain and can help foster creativity and focus, Dr. Ali explains. He recommends taking 2 tablespoons daily.
Adderall alternative: Cacao
3. For brain health
While Adderall is often used as a way to improve focus and attention during work or school, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to promote similar effects by improving brain health. Dr. Ali recommends taking a supplement, or adding more fish, chia seeds, and walnuts into your diet. Adding at least 2,500 milligrams a day to your diet will make a huge difference, he says.
Adderall alternative: Omega-3 fatty acids
4. For reducing impulsiveness
One of the main problems people face while trying to stay focused is fidgeting or a wandering mind. When you heighten your zinc levels, however, it can help reduce your impulsiveness—allowing you stay on task, explains Dr. Ali. He recommends adding in a 20 milligram zinc supplement into your diet, or upping you intake of zinc-filled foods, such as spinach, beef, shrimp, or kidney beans.
Adderall alternative: Zinc
5. For calming
Although often used to help treat insomnia, magnesium can be incredibly beneficial to those who suffer from ADD or ADHD, explains Dr. Ali. When you need help from fidgeting, restlessness, or hyperactive movement, he recommends adding in a daily magnesium supplement, which reputedly relaxes the body and mind—leaving you to focus on the task at hand.
Adderall alternative: Magnesium
Looking for more ways to boost productivity? These foods will literally give you new brain cells. And find out what the deal is with vitamin sprays—and if you should add them to your routine.
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