The world today is a slave to stimulants. While most governments obsess over the dangers of illegal, recreational drugs, the problem of stimulant abuse (legal stimulant abuse) is arguably just as much of a public health concern.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 7 out of the top 10 drugs abused in America are legal. Of these, it is the legal stimulants that arguably need the most attention, as they are the most widely abused drugs and potentially the most harmful over the long-term.
Worryingly, the stimulant abused epidemic seems to be largely affecting younger people, especially students. Adderall (a prescription drug based on amphetamine used to treat ADHD) is widely abused on college campuses, with some surveys indicating that up to 43% of students use stimulant drugs without a prescription.
It’s little wonder then that people are trying to find natural alternatives to prescription stimulants in order to boost energy levels, increase motivation, sharpen focus, and speed up reaction times (see our Adderall alternatives page for more info).
In this article, we’ll go through what stimulants are, the dangers associated with prescription stiulant use, and some of the side effects associated with natural stimulants. We will then go through some of the best natural, legal, OTC stimulants you can use today. We will explain which nootropics help with ADHD. At the end, we’ll recommend to you the best energy supplement on the market today.
What Are Stimulants?
What is a stimulant anyway?
Siply put, a stiulant is a drug which excites the central nervous system in some way. Stimulants might do this either by actively increasing activity in the CNS, or by blocking processes that are used to slow the CNS down.
Either way, the result is more nerve activity throughout the body, including the brain. This is why stimulants produce both physical and cognitive effects. Most stimulants excite the entire nervous system head to toe; so you get faster decision making, faster reaction times, and reduced physical fatigue all at the same time.
However, not all stimulants are the same.
Some stimulants are much more powerful than others.
So while some natural sitmulants like caffeine will perk you up first thing in the morning, synthetic medications and prescription drugs can be used for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.
Some people use stimulants to treat anxiety, while others use them as a weight management tool (as stimulants suppress appetite). However, these are not recommended strategies for managing either weight gain or anxiety, as stimulants can make both problems worse in the long-run.
It is not uncommon for people to experience euphoric feelings from stimulant use. This is why some stimulants have such a high abuse potential, and the potential for addiction.
Here is a list of drugs commonly used today. All are stimulants:
The first four substances on this list are naturally occurring compounds present in things like tea, coffee, and chocolate. While these are 100% natural substances, they are still stimulants, and their misuse can cause serious problems.
The last three are all synthetic stimulant drugs. All three are derivatives of amphetamine; Adderall, for example, is just a brand name for four amphetamin salts stacked together. These drugs are designed to treat narcolepsy, ADHD and other conditions – they are extremely powerful drugs not to be taken lightly!
Dangers of Abusing Prescription Stimulants
There are serious health consequences to consider before using any stimulant prescription medication, even if it is prescribed by a doctor (and especially if you are thinking of using it without a prescription).
The main danger of using powerful stimulants on a regular basis is addiction. Whether it’s caused by dependence or the avoidance of withdrawal, many peolpe find that they can quickly become completely addicted to stimulants.
Up to 88% of people who take high doses of prescription stimulants experience withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours of the last dose. The temptation is to then use more of the drug to fight off withdrawal symtpoms.
But this problem is not limited to prescription stimulants. Natural stimulants like nicotine can be extremely addictive; some argue that nicotine is the most addictive substance in the world.
The same goes for caffeine. Most people think of caffeine as a harmless drug that helps them stay awake in late afternoon meetings. But caffeine is a powerful stimulant; just a few dozen milligrams produces noticeable physiological effects in almost everybody.
In fact, caffeine may be the most widely abused stimulant in the world right now. Whether it’s to compensate for a lack of sleep, long working hours, or poor diets, lots of people are totally dependent on caffeine to function normally day-to-day.
Being dependent on stimulants can seriously compromise your performance, both mental and phyical. Energy crashes will happen when your caffeine levels dip, and if you don’t have access to the drug you wont be able to function properly.
Not only that, but long-term dependence on stimulants – even natural stimulants – can have serious negative health effects, such as increasing your risk of heart disease, insomnia, and anxiety.
It goes without saying that being dependent on nicotine has very serious consequences for your health, as the main way to get nicotine is through tobacco or other inhaled products. We wont bother going into the adverse effcts of tobacco use here!
Should You Stay Away From Adderall?
Of all the stimulants out there being used without a prescription today, Adderall is probably the most damaging.
This applies to Desoxyn, Vyvanse, and all the other branded forms of amphetamine on the market right now. All of these drugs are designed to treat serious medical conditions, and yet all are routinely use recreationally, or to boost cognitive performance in people without a diagnosed medical condition.
So should you stay away from Adderall?
The answer is yes, absolutely. Adderall is simply a brand name for a collection of four amphetamine salts; some fast-acting, some slow-acting. But amphetamine is amphetamine. The adverse effcts of this drug are serious and numerous.
Adderall is only used as a drug as the negative effects are outweighed by the benefits for people with severe ADHD or ADD.
Using Adderall without a prescription can quickly lead to dependence, addiction, nd withdrawals. Its use can drastically raise the risk of heart attack and stroke. Chronic use causes high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, and anxiety, as well as seizures in some individuals.
At best, Adderall will disrupt your sleeping patterns, further reducing energy levels and increasing mental fatigue.
If you want to enjoy the benefits of Adderall – increased energy, focus and motiation – without these negative effects, we strongly recommend trying natural Adderall alternatives.
Stimulants Side Effects
Most of you will be familiar with the common side effects of stimulant use. You will no dobt have experienced some of these first hand aftr too many cups of coffee on an empty stomach.
As all stimulants work in basically the same way, the side effects of stimulants are generally the same too. They onyl differ in severity between substances.
The negative side effects associated with stimulant use include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Panic attacks
- Muscle cramps
- Jittery feelings
- Low mood
People at a higher risk of heart attack, stroke or heart arrhythmias should compltely avoid any powerful stimulants. You should also avoid stimulants if you are taking any prescribed medication, you use asthma medication, or you are using any other synthetic drugs or recreational drugs, as the interactions with stimulants can be severe.
The abuse potential of stimulants (even legal stimulants) must be taken seriously. In fact, the abuse potential of caffeine is extremely high, and caffeine intake should be carefully monitored and restricted if deopendence is likely.
Legal Stimulants Available Over-the-Counter
One thing should be clear from what we’ve covered so far: stimulants are DANGEROUS!
That’s why natural, legal stimulants are becoming so popular; they offer a completely legal, safe and natural way to increase enery, reduce fatigue and boost mental performance.
Prescription drugs come with a lot of negative effects. Worse still, few people even stand to benefit all that much from using prescription drugs. They risk dangerous side effects for next to no real benefits.
Nootropics (also known as smart drugs), on the other hand, can improve brain function and raise energy levels in a deep, meaningful and sustainable way.
So what are the best legal stimulants to use right now?
Here is our list of the best natural stimulants you can use right now to raise energy levels, sharpen focus and fight fatigue:
All of these substances are 100% legal, natural, and effective. Let’s go through these amazing nootropics and energy supplements in more detail. In each case we’ll explain what they do, how they work, and what the risks are for your average person.
Most people consume some caffeine on a daily basis through tea, coffee, caffeine pills or energy drinks, and even chocolate. The positive effects of caffeine are well known; it rapidly enhances focus, increases motivation, increases reaction times, and reduces fatigue. The real benefit of caffeine is that it starts to work immediately, typically within 20-30 minutes.
Caffeine primarily works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is the brain’s sleep tracking system. Adenosine builds up in the brain throughout the day, making you feel sleepier and sleepier. Eventually, adenosine gets too much and you need to sleep. During sleep, adenosine levels drop back to zero./ By blocking adenosine receptors, caffeine tricks the brain into thinking it is wide awake with no adenosine to get rid of!
Caffeine has other effects too of course. It increases blood flow, reduces oxidative damage, and increases the release of both norepinephrine and dopamine. This makes caffeine a highly effective legal stimulant and a powerful nootropic all rolled into one.
Most of you will know this ingredient better as Dynamine, although this is a specific branded form of methylliberine. Methylliberine is another alkaloid found in common plant foods such as coffee, tea, cocoa, guarana, cola nuts, and yerba mate. Methylliberine has been extensively studied (mostly as Dynamine) and it has been found to have some pretty impressive properties. Above all else, methylliberine appears to be a powerful legal stimulant capable of dramatically increasing mental and physical energy.
Methylliberine appears to be most useful when stacked with other legal stimulants. Several studies have looked at methylliberine both alone and in combination with other stimulants. Most of these studies have found that it has a synergistic effect with stimulants like caffeine and theacrine, producing far greater results than obtained when using the equivalent dose of any one stimulant alone.
Also known as 1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid, theacrine is a purine alkaloid found naturally in great abundance in kucha tea and a small number of other plants. Today, theacrine is commonly used in energy supplements and specialist nootropics for boosting energy. In very similar fashion to caffeine and other related stimulants, theacrine appears to act on adenosine receptors, reducing fatigue and helping to prevent drowsiness and sleep. Theacrine is also said to be a potent anti-inflammatory among other general health benefits, but the only robustly proven benefits are those relating to reducing fatigue and tiredness.
Theacrine is not as potent as caffeine as a stimulant. However, it does appear to have some benefits over caffeine, making it one of the best legal stimulants you can buy today. For one thing, theacrine does not appear to have the same habituating effects as caffeine. Nor does it appear to have the same tendency to cause a rapid build up of tolerance, with studies finding no evidence of tachyphylaxis (decrease in response to a drug over time) as is typical of caffeine. On top of that, theacrine appears to be significantly less toxic than caffeine, with a far higher lethal dose.
Citicoline is arguably the single best natural nootropic (or “study drug”) in existence. As a cholinergic, Citicoline rapidly delivers choline to the brain. Choline is the basic building block of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is tresponsible for carrying out executive cognitive functions (speech, decision making, muscle contraction, etc). By increasing acetylcholine availability, Citicoline improves every measure of executive cognitive funtion.
While Citicoline is not itself a stimulant, many users describe the experience of Citicoline as being similar to stiulants; it rapidly sharpens focus, improves your ability to multitask, and increases mental stamina.
An edded benefit of Citicoline is that it may promote brain cell development and help protect again brain damage following injury. You can learn more about this from our dedicated guide to Citicoline.
Nicotine is synonymous with tobacco. Indeed, tobacco is the main naturalsource of nicotine. But nicotine is also found in appreciable amounts in tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and the coca plant (from which we get cocaine). When used in isolation, without the harmful things that coem with tobacco, then Nicotine is actually a safe and well tolerated stimulant known to reliably increase energy, promote alertness, and increase motivaton.
Nicotine is an extremely powerful stimulant. Within seconds of consumign nicotine, it crosses the blood-brain barrier and stimulates the release of both hormones and neurotransmitters.
Specifically, nicotine triggers the release of norepinephrine and dopamine. Norepinephrine drastically increases alertness and arousal; its job is to prepare the body for action in the face of danger. Dopamine increases motivation and drive. Together, these two neurochemicals provide both CNS sitmulation n enhanced cognitive performance.
Phenylpiracetam is, as the name suggests, a racetam. However, unlike a lot of racetams, Phenylpiracetam is known to have effects similar to stimulants when consumed by humans. As some of you will have deduced from the name, pheylpiracetam is simply piracetam with pheyl group added to its structure. This was done to make phenylpiracetam more potent and faster-acting than piracetam. This is why many people find that phenylpiracetam feels very much like a stimulant – it kicks in almost right away, rapidly sharpening focus, increasing mental processing and enhancing working memory.
A lot of the real nootropics enthusiasts out there will be irritated that we’ve included Modafinil on a list of the best legal stimulants because it isn’t a stimulant at all. Rather, Modafinil is a eugeroic. This means it increases wakefulness and alertness without acting as a CNS stimulant. Modafinil is probably the single most powerful nootropic when it comes to increasing alertness and wakefulness in existence. People who take Modafinil find they can stay awake and focused on complicated mental tasks for hours on end.
Modafinil primarily works by acting as a dopamine reuptake inhibitor. This means it keeps dopamine levels elevated in your brain, increasing motivation, alertness and improving overall cognitive performance. Modafinil also likely acts on several other neurotransmitter systems, but dopamine is clearly the most important.
The only issue with using Modafinil is the fact that it is a prescription drug unavailable for legal purchase over the counter in many countries outside of the US. It is also not a good idea to use Modafinil on a daily basis for prolonged periods of time as inhibiting dopamine reuptake can degrade dopamine receptors and damage neurons over time.
What Legal Drug Is Similar To Adderall?
What over the counter substance is most similar to Adderall?
Many nootropic smart drugs can be considered similar to Adderall in their beneficial effects.
For example, a common nootropic used for ADHD is Citicoline. This compound quickly raises acetylcholine levels in the brain, supporting concentration, processing speeds and focus. Citicoline also increases brain cell energy output (by as much as 13% according to some studies), which further helps people struggling with ADD/ADHD and its related symptoms.
That said, Citicoline by itself is nothing like Adderall. To come close to replicating the effects of Adderall – and therefore to be able to replace Adderall – you will need to combine Citicoline with several other nootropics which deliver the other benefits associated with stimulant-based ADHD medications. A classic nootropic stack said to be similar in effect to Adderall or Vyvanse is Citicoline, Caffeine, Tyrosine and Theanine. Some users add in other natural stimulants like Dynamine and more nootropics like Huperzine A to further supercharge effects.
However, ultimately it needs to be said that no legal drug available over the counter is truly the same as Adderall. Natural nootropic stacks can give you similar benefits to Adderall, Vyvanse and Ritalin, but they will not have the exact same effects as prescription stimulant drugs.
Is There Such A Thing As Legal Speed?
Is there a legal speed available over the counter right now?
Sadly, the answer is no, of course not!
Speed, a slang term for pure amphetamine, is a controlled substance in just about every jurisdiction on the planet. Amphetamine – when used recreationally without medical supervision or a prescription – is an extremely addictive drug highly likely to cause severe side effects.
Anybody claiming to have created an effective and potent “legal speed” is lying to you to sell you a product.
That said, there are supplements which have been explicitly designed to deliver many of the benefits of prescription stimulants such as amphetamine but without posing the same serious health risks. These stacks can be said to be the “best legal speed” on the market.
Right now, the best option for anyone looking for a legal, over the counter alternative to Adderall or Vyvanse is undoubtedly Vyvamind.
Brian Johnson is current Editor of Vagarights.com and a long-time writer for VAGA. A former psychologist, Brian is passionate about improving mental health and finding ways to stave off cognitive decline. He is an expert on nootropics, cognitive enhancement and biohacking more broadly. You can see his work on Google scholar.