ADHD and Nootropics: A Comprehensive Guide to Cognitive Enhancement

Nootropics are a class of substances that enhance cognitive function, memory, and attention (5). They have gained popularity in recent years as an alternative or complementary treatment for ADHD. This article explores the case for people with ADHD using nootropic supplements, providing an overview of the scientific evidence.

Updated May 22, 2023


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults, characterized by symptoms such as inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity (1). Although the exact causes of ADHD remain unknown, genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a significant role (2). Current treatments primarily focus on prescription medications, such as stimulants like methylphenidate and amphetamines, as well as non-stimulants like atomoxetine (3). However, not everyone with ADHD responds well to these medications, and they can also produce adverse side effects (4). As a result, there has been increasing interest in alternative treatments, such as nootropics, to help manage ADHD symptoms.

The Case for Nootropics in ADHD Management

Addressing Nutrient Deficiencies

ADHD has been linked to various nutrient deficiencies, which may exacerbate symptoms (6). Some nootropics, like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, have been shown to help correct these deficiencies and improve ADHD symptoms. For example:

A study found that children with ADHD had lower levels of zinc, and supplementing with zinc improved their symptoms (7).
A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation could improve ADHD symptoms in children (8).
L-carnitine, an amino acid, has been shown to improve symptoms in some children with ADHD (9).
Enhancing Neurotransmitter Function
Many nootropics target neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which are thought to play a role in ADHD (10). Some examples include:

L-tyrosine, a precursor to dopamine and norepinephrine, has been shown to improve cognitive performance in individuals with ADHD (11).
Bacopa monnieri, an herbal supplement, has been found to increase serotonin levels and improve cognitive function in individuals with ADHD (12).
Sulbutiamine, a synthetic derivative of vitamin B1, has been shown to increase dopamine levels and improve attention and memory in animal studies (13).

Improving Cerebral Blood Flow

Some nootropics work by enhancing cerebral blood flow, which can improve cognitive function and potentially alleviate ADHD symptoms. Examples include:

Vinpocetine, a derivative of the periwinkle plant, has been shown to increase cerebral blood flow and improve cognitive performance in healthy adults (14).
Ginkgo biloba, a popular herbal supplement, has been found to improve blood flow to the brain and enhance cognitive function in individuals with ADHD (15).
Reducing Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress has been implicated in ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders (16). Some nootropics have antioxidant properties that can help reduce oxidative stress and improve ADHD symptoms, such as:

N-acetylcysteine (NAC), an amino acid derivative, has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and improve symptoms in children with ADHD (17).
Alpha-lipoic acid, a powerful antioxidant, has been found to improve cognitive function and reduce oxidative stress in animal models of ADHD (18).

Promoting Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis

Neuroplasticity and neurogenesis are essential for optimal brain function and learning (19). Some nootropics have been shown to promote these processes, potentially improving ADHD symptoms:

Lion's mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) has been found to promote neuroplasticity and neurogenesis in animal studies, which may translate to improved cognitive function in individuals with ADHD (20).
Phosphatidylserine, a phospholipid, has been shown to improve cognitive performance and support neuroplasticity in individuals with ADHD (21).

Complementing Traditional ADHD Treatments

Nootropics may also be beneficial when used alongside traditional ADHD treatments, as they can enhance the efficacy of these treatments or help mitigate their side effects. For instance:

A study found that co-administration of omega-3 fatty acids with methylphenidate led to a greater reduction in ADHD symptoms compared to methylphenidate alone (22).
Theacrine, a natural stimulant, has been shown to improve focus and attention without causing the side effects associated with traditional stimulant medications (23).

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Safety and Efficacy Considerations

While there is growing evidence supporting the use of nootropics for ADHD management, it is essential to consider their safety and efficacy. Some nootropics may have side effects or interact with medications, and not all nootropics have been studied extensively in ADHD populations (24). Therefore, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any nootropic regimen, particularly if you are already taking prescription medications for ADHD.

Moreover, the quality of nootropic supplements can vary significantly, and some may contain impurities or inaccurate dosages (25). To ensure the best results and minimize potential risks, it is essential to choose high-quality supplements from reputable manufacturers and follow the recommended dosages.


In conclusion, nootropics present a promising alternative or adjunct treatment option for individuals with ADHD. They can address nutrient deficiencies, enhance neurotransmitter function, improve cerebral blood flow, reduce oxidative stress, promote neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, and complement traditional ADHD treatments. However, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects and optimal dosages of various nootropics in ADHD populations.

Before incorporating nootropics into an ADHD management plan, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure their safe and effective use. By selecting high-quality supplements and following recommended dosages, individuals with ADHD may find nootropics to be a valuable tool in managing their symptoms and improving overall cognitive function.


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