-There are Alternatives to Stimulants
-Caffeine and Nicotine May Make Things Worse
*This information is for educational purposes. Make an appointment with us to discuss integrative/holistic treatments for ADD/ADHD and other mental health & wellness concerns, or with your regular medical provider.
At our clinic I have seen hundreds of young adults diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD), or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some are on very high doses of stimulants, with high blood pressure needing other medications to bring it down. Some are in business start-ups, or high stakes jobs, where I worry they might be using stimulants to push past their innate need to rest. Some used additional caffeine or nicotine, and then cannabis to feel less anxious or be able to sleep. Some clenched/ground their teeth and developed gum recession or gum disease requiring expensive dental or oral surgical treatments.
I saw that even when I gave alternatives to stimulants that very few people were interested without consistent encouragement. I know that some people really do need stimulants. I also know that most people could reduce their stimulant use and improve their overall health with alternatives. Could you? See options below.
Did you know that many other conditions could present as if someone has ADD/ADHD?
Mood Disorders – Depression, Bipolar
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Autonomic Nervous System Dysregulation
Sympathetic Overactivity -- Fight/Flight/Freeze
Parasympathetic Underactivity – Calming
Antisocial Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Substance Use Disorder
Additionally, other conditions that are seemingly unrelated can also cause inattention and lack of focus.
Prescription Drugs Interactions
Sleep Apnea and Sleep Disorders
Even commonly used medicines and substances can decrease one’s ability to focus, even if they help in the short-term, like caffeine and nicotine might. These include:
If anxiety or poor sleep results, caffeine may worsen memory/focus
In 3-6 months, addiction:
Reduces dopamine production
Creates mental health challenges
Skip to some treatment options below, or read my story:
When I was a child I was diagnosed with ADHD. My uncle, upon meeting me as a toddler exclaimed, “How in the hell do you stand him?” And my behavior did not dramatically improve in school. My mother did not want me on stimulants. We tried no artificial colors/flavors, no sugar, with no improvement.
Aside: there is still ongoing research into sugar, fructose (fruit sugars) artificial sweeteners, and other foods (see more below), and how they impact the brain and behavior.
Throughout my life I coped with impulsivity and distraction, by occasional bursts of discipline, hyperfocus, and academic goals to still achieve “A” grades, almost exclusively. But in medical school when we talked about Adult ADD/ADHD I checked nearly every box. I sought extensive evaluation by an expert who concluded that he thought my ADD/ADHD symptoms were a result of anxiety. I tried multiple prescriptions, like SSRIs with their sexual side effects, Wellbutrin, and others. Eventually, another mental health prescriber was convinced I had ADD and prescribed a stimulant. Well, a low dose felt like 10 cups of coffee. I was not a classical case.
Fast-forward 20 years, and a brain map* gave a doctor insight, even though I did not tell him any medical history, that I likely had ADD/ADHD symptoms but did not respond to various medications. He instead thought I would feel anxious, and then eventually overwhelmed, and shut down in multiple ways that may present as ADHD. It felt like magic that he could read that from a map* of my brain.
Thus, poor focus is not always ADD/ADHD. The most important foundation is a correct or likely diagnosis, and getting to the root of the symptoms. Also, ruling out possible confounding diagnoses through blood tests and an holistic and thorough medical history with your medical provider.
If you still have a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD then stimulants are not your only option, and an integrative approach is best for: women who may become pregnant, patients that develop side effects like high blood pressure or dental issues, people who want to avoid DEA-regulated prescriptions, and for times of scarcity like now, when we have supply line shortages of medications, like stimulants.
Integrative Treatments that may Improve ADD/ADHD Symptoms
Morning exercise, or at times just before mental focus is needed
Supplements** for specific symptoms along with those of ADD/ADHD
Note: We recommend purchases through reliable** websites linked below, as studies show many supplements do not contain the ingredients listed, and contain harmful contaminants like lead.
SAMe supplement (depressed mood)
Omega-3 (plant-based, krill or fish oil -- high EPA for mood support)
L-theanine 200-400mg (anxious)
Phosphatidyl serine (memory problems)
Bacopa and American ginseng (good sleep but underfocused/hyperactive)
Sound therapy protocols for:
Anxiety and Overwhelm (Calming)
Highly Sensitive People
Sensory Processing Challenges
Attention & Concentration
Food Sensitivity / Food Allergy causes ADD/ADHD symptoms in some people
Dairy, gluten, egg, peanut, soy, legumes, beans, tree nuts, chocolate, corn, citrus, shellfish, turkey, yeast, onion, garlic, green tea, polyunsaturated oils, sulfur containing foods, amino acids, and food additives (including wine), MSG, yellow dye, sodium benzoate
Contact us for help doing an accurate elimination diet
Non-stimulants, such as Atomoxetine (Strattera) and Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
Stimulants, such as Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, and others
In closing, if you have troublesome inattention and lack of focus, or other symptoms of ADD/ADHD, there is help available. Contact us!
*If you would like to receive a brain map, be evaluated for ADD or another mental health concern, or learn more about the alternatives to stimulants listed above then please contact us at 800.651.7126, or through one of our clinic websites -- LIFEMedicineHealth.com or HeartmindMedicine.com -- You are not alone!
***If you found this information helpful please share, or donate to our Health Support Fund to help others who cannot afford to pay for services or supplements. Donate through our secure website payment portal. Thank you for paying it forward!
In Health and Healing…
Brent Jaster, MD