Most people have heard of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. And when they think of who might have ADHD, usually the image of a child comes to mind — a kid who doesn’t pay attention in school, and is impulsive or hyperactive. That is often the case. But adults can have ADHD too. In fact, close to 5% of the adults in the U.S. live with ADHD. Unfortunately, very few adults get diagnosed or treated for it.
When adults do get treated for ADHD, it’s usually in the form of a prescription stimulant. This treatment is effective for some, but for many others the old adage of the cure is worse than the disease applies. People suffering with ADHD should become aware of the different ADHD treatment options that are available. Chief among those options are nootropics — substances that can improve cognitive function.
- What Is ADHD?
- ADHD and Anxiety
- Nootropics Are a Natural Treatment for Adult ADHD
- Mind Lab Pro Cognitive Enhancer for ADHD Treatment
What Is ADHD?
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a fairly common childhood neurodevelopmental (having to do with how the brain grows and develops) disorder. ADHD is typically first diagnosed in childhood, and very often carries on into adulthood. Children who have ADHD may have problems controlling impulsive behavior, paying attention, or acting calmly.
The exact cause or causes, and risk factors, for ADHD aren’t well known, though the must current research makes it clear that genetics plays some role. There have been several recent studies that have in fact linked genetic factors to ADHD.
Adult ADHD is less talked about than childhood ADHD. So, a lot of people wonder how an adult “gets” ADHD. The fact is, any adult who has ADHD had it as a child. Some of these adults may have been diagnosed as a child, but many may not have been — they only became aware as an adult that the issues they experience have, and always had, a specific label.
Not all children with ADHD have it as adults — about 40% simply grow out of it as they age. The other 60% or so that don’t outgrow it will always have ADHD — while there are treatment options, they is no permanent cure for ADHD. As far as which adults are more prone to have ADHD, the rate of ADHD in adult men seems to be about the same as it is in adult women.
Adults who have ADHD experience a range of behavioral and cognitive issues that may include any combination of the following:
- Poor planning
- Mood swings and quick temper
- Trouble coping with stress
- Difficulty multitasking
- Problems recalling information
- Inability to concentrate
A person with severe ADHD symptoms may experience all of the above issues. While a person with mild symptoms may have difficulties in one area of life, a person with severe ADHD may have troubles in many areas of life, such as at home, in public, and at school or work.
Sensory Processing Disorder and ADHD
Sensory processing disorder, or SPD is a condition that affects the ways in which the brain processes sensory information. Sensory information, or stimuli, includes things that a person touches, tastes, smells, hears, or sees. SPD can affect any or all senses — it varies from person to person. In most cases a person with SPD is overly sensitive to stimuli, though for some the opposite is true — it actually takes more stimuli than normal to have an impact.
Children are much more prone to SPD than adults, though some adults can have some of the same symptoms. An adult who has SPD most likely experienced symptoms as a child, but as a child was never diagnosed with a problem.
Psychiatrists list ADHD in the DSM-5 — a book they use to classify mental health issues. Medical personal include ADHD in the ICD-10 — a coding system to classify diseases. SPD, on the other hand, isn’t included in either of these references, so a person can’t technically be “officially” diagnosed with SPD. And there is debate in the medical community as to whether SPD is truly a separate disorder, or instead is just a part of ADHD.
ADHD and Anxiety
ADHD and anxiety are two separate conditions. However, for many people these two different health issues come as a sort of package deal. Over 50% of the adults that have ADHD also have some level of anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder is dismissed by many as simply a person feeling anxious now and then, but it’s a mental health issues that often affects a person’s work, relationships, and quality of life.
When a person has anxiety in conjunction with ADHD, some of the person’s ADHD symptoms may be amplified. The person may also experience additional symptoms, as anxiety disorder has its own set of symptoms apart from ADHD, including:
- Difficulties sleeping
- Feeling on edge
- Stress and nervousness
- Constant worrying
For a person suffering with both ADHD and anxiety disorder, proper treatment may both lessen ADHD symptoms and ease feelings of anxiousness as well. That’s good news in that it may be possible to treat both concerns with a single medication — typically the medication prescribed for ADHD. The bad news is that the most commonly prescribed ADHD drugs can come with a host of side effects, and/or may not treat the ADHD to the patient’s satisfaction.
The most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD are stimulants such as amphetamines (like Adderall] and methylphenidate (like Ritalin). While stimulants for ADHD may help treat this condition, for many people a side effect of a stimulant is anxiety. Whether an amphetamine will help a person with ADHD, and improve or worsen a person’s anxiety, can’t be predicted in advance — how well a particular medication works for any one particular person can only be determined by that person trying the medication.
The idea that prescription stimulants can be ineffective in treating ADHD, and may make anxiety disorder worse, is a good argument for the use of nootropics in treating ADHD — some nootropics can give a person more energy, but at the same time nootropics are not considered stimulants.
ADHD and Anxiety in Adults
While mostly thought of as a childhood issues, the fact is that there are close to 10 million adults that have ADHD. Adults with ADHD often have problems with working memory, executive function, and maintaining attention. Unsurprisingly, these problems can lead to difficulties in personal and family relationships as well as challenges at school or work. This combination of mental and emotional struggles and troubled relationships can often lead to substance abuse, conduct or mood disorders, or anxiety and depression.
There are no medications that cure ADHD — in children or adults. Instead, the goal of medications is to ease or lessen the symptoms of ADHD during the time of treatment. That is, treatment is effective only so long as the treatment is in effect. The medications that treat ADHD, such as Adderall and Ritalin, do so by affecting important neurotransmitters — chemical substances that transmit messages between brain cells (neurons). Interestingly (and the premise of this article), several nootropics affect these same neurotransmitters.
ADHD Medication Side Effects
Stimulants are by far the most common type of medication used to treat ADHD. While there are several brand name medications, they all include just one of only two types of stimulants: amphetamine (the active ingredient in Adderall and some other medications) or methylphenidate (the active ingredient in Ritalin and some other medications). Like all medications, these prescription ADHD medicines come with a number of potential side effects. Among the common short-term side effects of ADHD medications are:
- Difficulties sleeping
- Increased heart rate
- Appetite loss
- High blood pressure
There are also a number of health risks and side effects associated with long-term use of ADHD medications, including:
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Skin discolorations
- Abuse and addiction
Nootropics Are a Natural Treatment for Adult ADHD
You’ve just read about the possible short-term and long-term side effects that can occur from the use of traditional prescription ADHD medications. Collectively, those possible side effects make a very compelling case for more natural ADHD treatment options. Nootropics for ADHD are one such treatment option.
ADHD and Neurotransmitter Levels
While medical research has not pin-pointed the exact cause or causes of ADHD, the leading theory is that neurotransmitter imbalances are the primary factor. Of the many neurotransmitters that are always present to some degree in the human brain, the levels of three in particular are associated with ADHD:
- Epinephrine stimulates the brain to think quickly and accurately when undergoing stress
- Dopamine is a key “reward” or “feel good” neurotransmitter
- Norepinephrine is responsible for managing vigilance, attention, and sleep cycles
Collectively, these three “thought-regulating” neurotransmitters are referred to as catecholamines. Healthy catecholamine levels are vital for the brain’s executive functions. Executive functions are high-level cognitive skills that coordinate and control other cognitive behaviors and abilities, including impulse control, working memory, and attention. These are all skills and actions adults use daily to work, learn, and interact with others. Knowing that you can understand how low levels of catecholamines could make a person exhibit the symptoms of ADHD.
Conventional ADHD medications are designed to increase the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine — the two catecholamines that are most closely linked with attention. This is where nootropics come into play — their are several nootropics that also are known to increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels. The difference between stimulant-based ADHD medications and nootropics? The nootropics don’t come with the nasty side effects that are commonly experienced with traditional ADHD prescription drugs.
The Best Nootropics for ADHD Treatment
Cognitive-enhancing nootropics used to treat adult ADHD are a natural, safe, and stimulant-free alternative to traditional stimulant-based prescription medications. There are over 100 compounds considered nootropics — the following are some of the ones that are considered the best ADHD nootropics.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in high concentrations in green tea. This amino acid has the special ability to increase attention, alertness, and focus while, at the same time, bringing about a state of relaxed peacefulness. Knowing this about L-theanine gives perspective as to why green tea has and is widely used in Japan and China to treat anxiety and depression.
L-theanine works in two ways to provide this alert yet relaxed effect. First, L-theanine modulates alpha brain waves. These are mid-level frequency waves that are present when a person is mentally and physically relaxed but not sleepy. Second, L-theanine boosts brain levels of the catecholamine neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Studies show that L-theanine also increases levels of serotonin and GABA, two additional important neurotransmitters. L-theanine’s neurotransmitter-boosting power makes it one of the best nootropics for anxiety.
Social anxiety is a specific form of anxiety that affects over 12% of adults in the U.S. People dealing with social anxiety feel negatively evaluated or judged, so they go to great lengths of avoid most social situations. Social anxiety, which used to be referred to as social phobia, makes attending school or holding a steady job difficult. Many adults with ADHD also experience some degree of social anxiety.
Like ADHD, social anxiety involves an imbalance in neurotransmitter levels — especially an imbalance of catecholamine neurotransmitters. As it is for general anxiety, L-theanine is one of the best nootropics for social anxiety as well.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT or NAT)
L-tyrosine (not to be confused with the just-discussed L-theanine) is an amino acid that helps in the production of dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine — all three of the catecholamine neurotransmitters important for the brain to carry out executive functions (attention, impulse control, and so forth).
L-tyrosine is also important in the regulation of the adrenal glands, the thyroid gland, and the pituitary gland, which all produce hormones that regulate many brain and body functions.
N-acetyl L-tyrosine (also referred to as NALT or NAT) is a form of L-tyrosine that has better solubility in water. This gives NALT better bioavailability — the body absorbs and utilizes NALT better than it does “plain” L-tyrosine. That makes N-acetyl L-tyrosine, or NALT, the preferred form of this amino acid.
Choline (CDP-Choline or Citicoline)
To this point we’ve talked about the three catecholamine neurotransmitters, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, and their importance in treating ADHD. Acetylcholine, or ACh is another key neurotransmitter in terms of treating ADHD in particular, and enhancing cognition in general. Acetylcholine plays a beneficial role in memory, concentration, and several other cognitive functions.
You may not heard of acetylcholine because there are no foods or supplements that contain this brain-produced chemical. There are, however, foods and supplements that contain choline — the main precursor of acetylcholine. A precursor is a substance that gets converted to a different substance. So choline is considered a building block of acetylcholine — an increased choline level corresponds to an increased acetylcholine level.
In addition to boosting acetylcholine levels, choline makes up a large part of cell membranes — including the membranes of brain cells (neurons). And choline supports the production of dopamine and norepinephrine. Low levels of choline have been associated with several brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson disease, schizophrenia, and … ADHD.
As a supplement choline is available in a few different forms. The best type to take is citicoline — also referred to as CDP-choline — because it is the choline type that most easily converts to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Citicoline is sometimes called by its brand name Cognizin®.
Phospholipids are a fatty acids that are an important part of cell membranes. Phosphatidylserine is a type of phospholipid that helps cells maintain fluidity and promotes the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and acetylcholine.
Phosphatidylserine (don’t bother trying to pronounce it, just do what everybody else does and refer to it as PS) may be just one of many types of fats found in cell membranes, but it’s a very abundant and crucial fat. PS plays several roles in the brain, including:
- Contributes to the production of dopamine and acetylcholine (acetylcholine was introduced just above in the Choline section as a neurotransmitter important for reasoning, focus, and memory).
- Helps brain cells react and respond properly to neurotransmitters, hormones, and other messaging chemicals.
- Increases the activity of nerve growth factor (NGF), a hormone important for neuron development, growth, and maintenance.
Studies have shown that supplementing with PS results in significant improvements in ADHD symptoms, including decreases in impulsivity and inattention and improvements in short-term memory.
Maritime Pine Bark Extract
Maritime pine bark (also referred to as maritime, maritime pine bark extract, or its brand name Pycnogenol®), is a Mediterranean pine tree with bark that includes several health-promoting chemicals, including proanthocyanidin. Proanthocyanidin is a type of polyphenol — powerful antioxidants that occur naturally in several editable plants.
Proanthocyanidins — like the one in maritime pine bark — have been shown to improve focus, attention, and mental clarity. Proanthocyanidins also improve blood flow to the brain and within the brain. Maritime’s ability to increase brain blood flow, reduce cell damage, and increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels, make it a potential natural treatment for ADHD.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s mane mushroom — scientific name Hericium erinaceus and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) name Hou Tou Gu — is an edible fungus that is believed to contribute to neurological health.
Like Phosphatidylserine, or PS (discussed above), Lion’s mane stimulates NGF production. NGF, or nerve growth factor, plays a key role in neurogenesis — the development, repair, and regrowth of neurons, or brain cells.
There aren’t studies specifically geared toward lion’s mane and adult ADHD, but there are several studies that demonstrate that this mushroom has very positive effects on focus, short-term memory, and concentration — all of which are cognitive issues common in people with ADHD.
Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi)
Bacopa monnieri, also called brahmi, is a tropical herb that has been used in the ancient Indian Ayurvedic medicine system for a variety of anti-aging and neurological purposes.
The two active components in brahmi, bacoside A and bacoside B, are chemical compounds that have been shown to improve electrical impulse signaling between neurons. This effect — along with its ability to improve cognitive concentration and memory, and instill a calming, peaceful mood — has led many to consider brahmi one of the best ADHD nootropics.
Rhodiola rosea is a flowering plant native to Arctic regions. Like Bacopa monnieri (brahmi), Rhodiola rosea is an important plant in Ayurvedic medicine.
Rhodiola is an adaptogen — a type of herb that increases resistance to stress. The label adaptogen comes from such a plant’s ability to adapt to meet a body’s particular health requirement by regulating the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands.
Rhodiola rosea is beneficial to treating ADHD through its ability to increase levels of the catecholamine neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. It’s also important for ADHD treatment because it stimulates the reticular activating system, or RAS. The RAS is a network of neurons in the brain stem that mediate, or control, behavior.
Rhodiola rosea is known to enhance mood, improve learning and memory, and increase focus and attention — all important factors in dealing with ADHD.
Mind Lab Pro Cognitive Enhancer for ADHD Treatment
Mind Lab Pro is a popular cognitive enhancing blend of nootropics taken by thousands of people daily for a variety of reasons. Students take nootropics to improve their studying, while entrepreneurs might use nootropics to enhance their productivity. Athletes take them to improve their reaction time. People with poor sleep quality, trouble concentrating, stress, or “brain fog” often find the Mind Lab Pro diminishes or eliminates these issues.
What Is Mind Lab Pro?
Mind Lab Pro is a dietary supplement manufactured by Opti-Nutra, a company with labs and manufacturing plant located in the United States. Mind Lab Pro is designed to enhance cognitive functions. Cognition refers to mental processes, includes brain-related tasks such as thinking, judging, understanding, problem-solving. It accomplishes this brain-supplement goal by combining 11 nootropics into a single capsule.
How Mind Lab Pro Reduces ADHD Symptoms
Mind Lab Pro consists of 11 compounds that each have nootropic properties. Included in this list are all eight of the nootropics with known ADHD treatment potential that are described in this article.
While many people take Mind Lab Pro for reasons other than treating ADHD, the array of nootropics in this brain enhancer that combat symptoms common to ADHD suffers make Mind Lab Pro a great supplement choice for anyone struggling with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- L-Theanine is an amino acid. It modulates alpha brain waves to promote calmness, and boosts the catecholamine neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine — the same neurotransmitters conventional ADHD medications increase.
- N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine is an amino acid. It helps in the production of dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.
- Citicoline is a nutrient similar to a B vitamin. It increases the levels of the acetylcholine — a neurotransmitter that plays a role in several cognitive functions.
- Phosphatidylserine is a fatty acid in cell membranes. It increases dopamine, acetylcholine, and nerve growth factor (NGF) levels.
- Maritime Pine Bark Extract is the bark of a Mediterranean pine tree. It includes a polyphenol known to improve attention and focus.
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom is an edible fungus that stimulates nerve growth factor (NGF) production
- Bacopa Monnieri is a tropical herb also known as brahmi. Its active chemicals bacoside A and bacoside B improve electrical impulse signaling between neurons.
- Rhodiola Rosea is a flowering plant found in the Arctic. It is an adaptogen — an herb that increases resistance to stress.