Nootropics vs. Adderall: Experts Explain

Whether you’re a college student looking to ace an exam, a busy professional struggling to meet deadlines, or a senior concerned about changes in mental abilities, I think we can all relate to wanting a quick and easy way to boost energy, focus, and productivity.

Let's take a look at nootropics vs. Adderall and provide a comparison of how they work and their potential side effects as well as tips for choosing a safe, high-quality nootropic supplement.

What Are Nootropics?

Beyond prescription stimulants of the central nervous system, there are quite a few Adderall alternatives that are known to boost energy, improve focus and concentration, and boost other cognitive functions in those without ADHD. These are often referred to as nootropics, cognitive enhancers, or smart drugs. While the term nootropics previously referred to specific chemicals that met very specific criteria, it’s now commonly used for any natural or synthetic substances that may improve cognitive performance in healthy individuals.

While nootropics are not recommended for the treatment of ADHD or other disorders, they may have positive effects on energy levels, thinking abilities, creativity, memory, and other cognitive functions in people without ADHD.

Some of the most well-regarded nootropic substances include tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), caffeine, L-Theanine, omega-3 fatty acids, L-Tyrosine, creatine, Rhodiola Rosea, and B vitamins. While some nootropics may be effective alone, two or more nootropic substances may be combined to create something called a “stack.”

In general, nootropic supplements carry a low risk of side effects when taken as directed. However, depending on the brand’s formulation, ingredient quality, and quality assurance/quality control procedures, side effects are possible. While side effects are rarely reported, some have reported the following side effects when taking nootropics:

  • Brain fog
  • Gastrointestinal issues and digestive discomfort
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in mood

What’s Adderall?

Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine, better known as Adderall, is a prescription medication that is frequently prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s also commonly used to improve focus and productivity and boost energy levels in those without ADHD.

Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, two central nervous stimulants that can improve focus and reduce impulsivity by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain.

Potential side effects of Adderall include, but are not limited to:

  • Restlessness
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
  • Changes in mood (e.g., agitation, aggression, irritability, fear, anxiety, mood swings, depression, etc.)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Physical dependence and withdrawal

Nootropics vs. Adderall

When discussing nootropics vs. Adderall, there are a few important differences to be aware of. Here’s a quick summary of the main differences:

Nootropics Adderall

Requires a prescription


All natural ingredients




Effect duration

Up to 12 hours depending
on specific nootropic supplement

Immediate release: 4-6 hours

Extended release: up to 12 hours

Like any other dietary supplements, nootropics are not designed to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure medical conditions. Because of this, they’re not closely regulated by the FDA in the same way prescription drugs are (or they may not be regulated by the FDA at all). Because of this, it’s important to do your research on each brand, their specific formulation, the quality of their ingredients, and quality assurance/quality control procedures.

To ensure you’re getting a safe, high-quality nootropic supplement, always, always, always ask for third-party testing results (sometimes known as a Certificate of Analysis). Third-party testing for quality and safety helps ensure you receive a finished product that is pure, potent, accurately labeled, and free of toxins and other contaminants.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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