ADHD Medication: Benefits and Side Effects

Ritalin, Adderall, Modafinil, Armodafinil; Smart Drugs & Caffeine:  Dangers

When it comes to increasing the levels of dopamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin in the brain, there are a variety of prescription and non-prescription options available. 

One of the most well-known prescription options are drugs like Ritalin, Adderall, Modafinil, and Armodafinil, which are commonly used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

These drugs work by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, but they also come with a range of side effects and potential risks.

Caffeine is another popular option for increasing brain function, and it is often considered a “smart drug” or “nootropic” due to its ability to improve focus and cognitive performance. 

However, it is important to note that caffeine can also have negative effects, such as anxiety and insomnia, if consumed in excess.

One of the most important things to consider when thinking about using these drugs or supplements to improve brain function is the potential risks and side effects. 

These drugs are not without their consequences, and it is important to understand the extent to which they can carry the same side effects as drugs of abuse, such as a high propensity for addiction and abuse. 

Additionally, some of these drugs can also cause sexual side effects, such as difficulty achieving an erection, as well as intense libido without the ability to perform. 

It is also important to note that some of these drugs are not legal in some places and it is important to determine that for yourself.


Cannabis is a topic that has been widely studied and debated in recent years. 

One interesting aspect of cannabis use is its relationship with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

Many people with ADHD use or abuse cannabis, which may seem counterintuitive as ADHD is characterized by a lack of attention. However, recent research has shown that cannabis increases dopamine transmission in the brain, leading to a state of calm and alertness.

A recent paper, entitled “Decreased Spontaneous Eye Blink Rates in Chronic Cannabis Users, Evidence for Striatal Cannabinoid Dopamine Interactions,” demonstrates this relationship in an interesting way. 

The study found that the rates of eye blinking change depending on the duration of cannabis use. Specifically, those who have not used cannabis at all or have only used it for about two years have much higher rates of eye blinks compared to those who have used it chronically for 10 years. 

This suggests that long-term cannabis use may lead to increased focus, but it also comes with a cost: memory depletion.

It’s important to note that while cannabis has medical purposes and is legal in some places, it is illegal in others. 

Additionally, Huberman is not a proponent of cannabis use and is not a user himself. However, the findings of this study provide an intriguing insight into the relationship between cannabis and attention.

Ginko Biloba 

Ginkgo Biloba is a supplement that has been claimed to improve the symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but studies have shown that it is not as effective as prescription drugs like Ritalin and Adderall. 

Ginkgo Biloba is not appropriate for many people, including Dr. Huberman, as it can cause splitting headaches even at low doses due to its potent vasoconstrictive and vasodilating properties. The effects of the compound can vary depending on when it is taken.

Modafinil & Armodafanil: Dopamine Action & Orexin

Modafinil and armodafinil are drugs that are gaining popularity for their ability to increase focus and attention.

They are used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, as well as to help people stay awake for long periods of time.

These drugs are actively used by the military and first responders and are becoming increasingly popular among college students as an alternative to Adderall and Ritalin.

Modafinil and armodafinil are weak dopamine reuptake inhibitors, which means that they increase the amount of dopamine available at the synapse, the gap between neurons.

Unlike Ritalin and Adderall, which lead to big increases in dopamine, modafinil and armodafinil have a milder effect on the dopamine system. They also activate other systems in the brain, such as the orexin system, which regulates hunger and sleepiness.

The orexin system is also disrupted in narcolepsy, which is why modafinil is one of the primary treatments for this condition.

Modafinil was previously very expensive, however, armodafinil is a cheaper alternative that works similarly.

However, the effects of these drugs can vary from person to person. Huberman personally experienced the cognitive effects of armodafinil, and while it may be useful for some people, it may not be suitable for others.

Acetylcholine: Circuits Underlying Focus; Alpha-GPC

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is crucial in generating muscular contractions and movements in the body.

It is also released from two sites in the brain, the pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN) and the nucleus basalis, to activate particular locations in the brain and bring about a tremendous degree of focus.

Drugs that increase acetylcholine transmission, such as alpha-GPC, can improve cognitive functioning and offset some of the effects of age-related cognitive decline.

Alpha-GPC is a form of choline that increases acetylcholine transmission.

Studies have shown that dosages as high as 1,200 milligrams per day can improve cognitive functioning, however, typically people will take between 300 and 600 milligrams when using it to study or enhance learning.

It is important to check with a doctor to ensure the safety margins are appropriate for you before taking alpha-GPC.

L-Tyrosine, (PEA) Phenylethylamine 

L-tyrosine and PEA (phenylethylamine) are two over-the-counter compounds that are actively used for the treatment of ADHD and to improve focus. 

L-tyrosine is an amino acid that acts as a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine, and it has been found to lead to increases in dopamine levels and improve focus. 

However, dosages can be tricky to dial in and it may have negative effects on people with underlying psychiatric or mood disorders. PEA, also known as phenylethylamine, is a related compound that also increases dopamine levels and is being explored for its effects on cognitive focus and ADHD. 

It’s important to approach these compounds with caution and to consult a doctor before taking them. 

Additionally, it’s useful to research and get more information about these compounds on websites such as, which provides detailed information about their effects and how they relate to ADHD and cognitive focus.

Racetams, Noopept 

Racetams, including the popular compound Noopept, are becoming increasingly popular as a way to improve cognitive function.

However, it’s important to note that these compounds are illegal in some countries and only available over-the-counter in others. Consulting with a doctor is crucial, especially for those with ADHD.

Noopept, in particular, has been shown to be effective when taken at a dosage of 10 milligrams twice daily.

It works by tapping into the cholinergic system, similar to alpha-GPC, and has a slightly higher affinity for certain receptors. Studies have shown that it can be helpful for those experiencing difficulty focusing due to prior concussions or other vascular events.

This is an emerging area of research and there is still much to be learned about the efficacy and safety of racetams.

However, for those interested in atypical treatments for ADHD and cognitive improvement, it’s worth investigating further.

For a comprehensive review of various drugs including racetams, Adderall, Ritalin, and more, readers can check out the 2016 review article by Ahn et al. published in the journal Neuroplasticity.

This study is available online for free and provides information on the effects, drawbacks, and legal status of these compounds. Additionally, it includes information on how these compounds interact with neurofeedback and other cognitive therapies.

Wrapping Up

There are a variety of options available for increasing brain function, including prescription drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, as well as non-prescription options like caffeine. 

However, it is important to understand the potential risks and side effects associated with these drugs, as well as their similarities to drugs of abuse. 

It is always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any kind of supplement or drug to improve brain function. 

Additionally, the relationship between cannabis and ADHD is complex, and research suggests that long-term use may lead to increased focus, but also memory depletion. 

Ginkgo Biloba is not as effective as prescription drugs and may cause headaches. 

While Modafinil and Armodafinil are known to increase dopamine and orexin, it is important to consult a doctor to know the appropriate dosage and if they are suitable for you.

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