Hooked on Adderall? It’s Time to Try Adaptogenic Herbs Instead
Adderall has quickly become the drug of choice for college students around the nation. The prescription stimulant, typically used for things like ADHD, has been making its rounds on campuses over the last few years. And from all appearances, the popularity—and problem—is only growing.
A 2012 study revealed that nearly one-third of college students were taking Adderall. Between 2006 and 2014, Google searches for Adderall increased steadily, showing growing interest as more students became aware of the “study drug.” One study found that the number of student tweets that mentioned “Adderall” was three times greater toward the end of the semester.
There’s no denying that Adderall is popular. But why is that a problem?
The health risks of your Adderall kick
Adderall is one of several popular stimulants that are increasingly abused by the 18-25 year old crowd as a way of boosting memory, concentration, alertness and motivation. The number of non-medical uses has risen by 67%; emergency room visits due to misuse of the drug have increased by 156%. All this despite the number of written prescriptions remaining the same.
A growing body of research suggests Adderall is an unsafe way of boosting your cognitive function. Because it’s still a drug, it can have some particularly dangerous effects when used outside of its intended and prescribed use—especially when users obtain it from people other than their doctor.
In the short-term, Adderall side effects include poor sleep, high blood pressure, stroke and increased risk for mental health problems like depression, aggression and bipolar disorder. Research has shown that long-term effects can be even more severe, even including major cardio repercussions.
Why adaptogenic herbs are a better bet
Adderall use is growing. But students (and anyone else) looking for greater memory, mental function, alertness and vitality don’t have to turn to the pill.
A growing stack of research shows that supplements like adaptogenic herbs and nootropics share the positive benefits of Adderall, without the same risk. Here’s what you need to know about adaptogens and how they can boost your brainpower, your mood, your energy and your wellbeing.
What exactly are they? Adaptogens are a natural substance that acts as a thermostat for the body. It essentially monitors, balances and regulates the fluctuations of hormones, including cortisol, the “stress hormone.” Although many of them share the same qualities—enhanced cognitive function and focus—each adaptogen also has its own unique qualities, making adaptogen cocktails the next big thing. Adaptogens have been an integral part of both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, and are now being touted by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, who swears by them as part of her health routine.
Researchers have also explored the benefits of adaptogens. Studies have shown that adaptogens actually do decrease cortisol levels and have anti-fatigue, anti-depressive, nootropic and neuroprotective qualities. Clinical trials also confirmed that they boosted alertness and stress tolerance and decreased mental exhaustion. Pharma studies that dove deeper into the molecular side of adaptogens confirmed these findings.
Said David Hoffman, author of the Herbal Handbook: “An adaptogen enables (the body) to avoid reaching a point of collapse or over-stress because it can adapt ‘around’ the problem. … The core of their action appears to be in helping the body deal with stress.”
Popular adaptogens for focus and brain function
The demand for cognitive-enhancing, mood-moderating products like adaptogens is growing, and 2018 will see new adaptogen and nootropic products hitting the market. Here are a few popular adaptogens to keep on your radar:
- Ashwagandha is used to decrease stress and anxiety while improving memory. This adaptogen is also used as a cognitive-enhancing nootropic.
- Rhodiola rosea reduces adrenal (and mental) fatigue and exhaustion, cuts stress and helps you be more focused and alert. One study showed that rhodiola caused a 20% boost in performance among doctors working late-night shifts. It’s also used as a nootropic. The Soviets first began studying rhodiola as a way to improve the performance of their Olympians and soldiers during the Cold War.
- Bacopa monnieri is also used as a natural nootropic and cognitive enhancer. It’s often taken for longevity and to reduce anxiety, stress and depression. It can also improve your memory.
As always, if you’re taking any medications or are under a doctor’s care, it’s crucial to check with your physician before incorporating any supplements into your diet. This will help reduce the risk of negative interactions between supplements and drugs.
Once you have the okay to incorporate them into your life, adaptogenic herbs can be a great way to improve your cognitive abilities—without the risks of a prescription drug like Adderall.