Citicoline is one of the top nootropics in the world today. Not only is Citicoline (often referred to as CDP-Choline) a primary ingredient in many top nootropic stacks (such as Mind Lab Pro), but it is often used alone for purposes ranging from brain injury recovery to helping prevent cognitive decline associated with age.
However, despite being one of the most popular nootropics in existence, few people properly understand how Citicoline works.
In fact, it appears that most of the people using Citicoline on a daily basis have no idea how Citicoline works.
One question we see coming up time and again is “does Citicoline work like Adderall?”
Let’s try to answer this question in a little more detail. To do that, let’s look at what Citicoline is, how it works, and how it compares to Adderall.
What is Citicoline & how does it work?
Citicoline is a naturally occurring compound in the human brain. It is a compound of choline and cytidine, and it acts as an intermediary in the synthesis of phosphatidylcholine and acetylcholine from choline.
We call compounds like Citicoline cholinergic. A cholinergic is a compound which effectively raises the levels of acetylcholine and phosphatidylcholine in the brain. This is important, as both of these compounds are extremely important for proper brain function, brain cell health, and normal brain development.
Acetylcholine is your primary executive neurotransmitter. It is responsible for cognitive functions including speech, muscle contraction, working memory, information processing, decision making, and more.
Phosphatidylcholine is a vital structural component of brain cell membranes. Without phosphatidylcholine, you cannot make anmy new brain cells!
Citicoline has also been found to increase brain cell energy by increasing ATP levels, promoting brain cell development by donating cytidine, and helping the brain to recover after traumatic brain injury.
Citicoline is among the most effective cholinergics in existence. Supplementing with Citicoline has been found to rapidly increase acetylcholine and phosphatidylcholine levels. It does so without causing any side effects, nor any long-term health risks.
What is Adderall & how does it work?
Adderall is a prescription drug used to treat ADD and ADHD.
Adderall is not actually the name of the drug, but rather a brand name for a patented collection of amphetamine salts. These amphetamine salts all take slighlty different lengths of time to take effect; some make amphetamine much faster acting, while others slow the action down and prolong the effects over several hours.
In people with ADD or ADHD, amphetamine salts in the form provided by Adderall have been found to be highly effective for reducing symptoms such as impulsive behaviors, ticks, loss of focus, distractibility, irritability, and difficulty remembering new information.
However, Adderall is not exclusively used by people with ADD or ADHD. Adderall is one of the most abused drugs in the US and Canada, and it is increasingly being abused in the EU, UK, Australia, and South Africa. People without ADD/ADHD are using Adderall – without a prescription – to boost mental energy, focus, concentration, and stamina.
The reason it is so widely abused is simple: Adderall is extraordinarily effective at increasing energy levels, focus, alterness, and information processing speeds.
Adderall, as amphetamine, is a stimulant. It works in exactly the same way as most other stimulants: by increasing excitability in the central nervous system (CNS).
In simple terms, Adderall triggers the release of a neurotransmitter and hormone called norepinephrine. This powerful neurochemical controls your “fight or flight” response. When you release norepinephrine, your body funnels all resources to escaping the perceived threat; your brain goes into overdrive, your focus sharpens, your reaction times get faster, your decision making improves, fatigue is elminated, and your physical energy levels increase rapidly.
Adderall also triggers the release of dopamine, which increases motivation, drive, confidence, and overall cognitive performance.
Does Citicoline work in the same way as Adderall?
Clearly, Citicoline does not work in the same way as Adderall at all! Citicoline and Adderall are two completely different nootropics; they have different mechanisms of action, and different effects.
Adderall is a powerful stimulant. It works by increasing central nervous system activity via norepinephrine release, and by raising dopamine production. Adderall drastically sharpens focus, but it also significantly increases energy levels.
Citicoline, by contrast, is not a stimulant at all, but a cholinergic. It works by increasing neurotransmitter output, just like Adderall, but the neurotransmitters it raises are very different to norepinephrine!
Whereas Adderall raises norepinephrine levels, Citicoline increases acetylcholine; the brain’s primary executive neurotransmitter. Acetylcholine is responsible for carrying out things like information processing, working memory, verbal fluency, and so on.
So Adderall gives you much more energy, whereas Citicoline improves the quality of your cognitive function.
Like Adderall, Citicoline does increase energy levels. But the difference is that Citicoline increases mitochondrial efficiency rather than just overloading you with stimulants. So Citicoline increases mental energy by making your brain cells bettr at metabolising energy from food; it is not a CNS stimulant like Adderall.
Adderall vs Citicoline: Which is better?
We strongly advise avoiding the use of prescription pharmaceuticals and study drugs like Adderall if you do not have a prescription from a doctor for the treatment of ADD or ADHD.
Instead of using powerful stimulants like Adderall, we recommend using natural Adderall alternatives available over the counter.
Using natural nootropics can give you all of the benefits associated with Adderall without any of the downsides. Nootropics like Citicoline are actually much more effectie than Adderall if you don’t have ADHD, and are considerably safer.
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.