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Brain stimulants are widely used to combat the mental health diagnosis known as ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. By simply taking a little pill, those who are distracted can quickly be centered and accomplish their tasks with ease. Look at any statistics and see how widely used drugs like Concerta, Adderall and Ritalin are being given to those diagnosed with attention problems.
These pills are commonly used to allow children and adults alike to have the focus and concentration they need. Give the same pill to someone who doesn't have a hyperactivity problem, and it will act as speed. Stimulants have the opposite effect on the brain of those with ADHD. While it seems that these drugs are doing great things for our children who are bouncing off the walls, what is it really doing to the brain?
Brain Stimulants for Studying
They are labeled under the umbrella of a "smart drug." They are known to improve both concentration and alertness. There are natural enhancers that will also work, but doctors don't often point their patients in that direction. They are eager to write a script for a stimulant enhancer, as it is what Western Medicine does. The problem is that these enhancers come with long-term side effects that cannot be ignored. They do a great job at improving mental focus, but they can also decrease the brain's plasticity. For those who aren't familiar with plasticity, it allows a person to switch tasks with ease. The ability to be adaptive and have flexible behaviors can be destroyed by the regular use of these stimulants.
It has to do with the way the drugs work on the system. Ritalin, or methylphenidate in its generic form, works by escalating the amount of neurotransmitters in the nervous system. It's like caffeine only much more potent. The National Institute of Drug Abuse counsel was asked to weigh in on the matter. They concluded that used properly, these drugs do help people. However, when the drug is abused or not taken properly is when there can be trouble.
Effects of Stimulants on the Brain
Stimulants can cause side effects that include restlessness, panic, and anxiety; not to mention the fact that they can speed up the heart. Headaches are also reported with continued use. While these are the immediate side effects, they also have some long term effects to be weary of. These "smart drugs" have a way to push people beyond their limits. A study was conducted at George Washington University using lab rats. They found that these stimulants have long term effects on both the learning and memory circuits. The rats were unable to switch between tasks, as their memory was affected after prolonged use.
Teenagers' brains are more vulnerable due to the fact that they are still growing. Their frontal lobes mature last. Unfortunately, this is the area that the stimulants affect the most. Though most parents think that their child stops maturing and growing in their late teens, the brain is continuing to develop into their 20's. It has been determined that this is why young adults have such poor decision-making abilities and tend to be a bit impulsive.
Brain Stimulant Foods
Nature has a wide bounty of things that can be used to provide stimulation to the brain. When a person suffers from anxiety and panic disorder, it has been proven that exercise and eating foods like bananas can increase serotonin levels. Of course, so many are eager to get a prescription for an antidepressant and fix the problem that way. Sure, antidepressants work well. The only problem is that the body soon gets used to the dosage and needs more to feel the same effect. However, there are no side effects and by fixing it naturally, the body is in no harm.
When it comes to stimulants, there are also foods that can provide that boost the brain needs. Sugar and caffeine are two categories that have been studied. Some soda has more caffeine than others. Take for instance Mountain Dew; it has 55 grams of caffeine. A study was done in New Brookhaven Labs that showed that drinking a cup of coffee or a can of soda can be just as effective as taking a brain stimulant. While it works, it's probably not the most natural way to treat ADHD and some could argue over the consumption of sugar.
So many people put their focus on serotonin and norepinephrine, but dopamine plays a big part in the overall process of being alert too. This pleasure-producing chemical can dip when a person is feeling stressed or sick, and it will cause the inability to concentrate. Integrative Psychology did a study on natural sources of dopamine and how effective they can be in increasing focus and mental clarity. It was found that many foods have natural dopamine in them, they are:
- Lima Beans
- Sunflower Seeds
- Brown Rice
- Flaxseed Oil
- Wheat Germ
It is possible to have the focus needed by eating a healthy diet. While some may argue that it isn't enough for some children, dietary control is much better than taking stimulants that may have the potential to cause some serious damage long term.
Brain Stimulant Supplements
For some, diet modifications do provide a margin of improvement in mental clarity, but it is not the only answer. All natural brain stimulants can provide very similar results to that of the amphetamines and not have the side effects. Many have seen noticeable improvements in their memory, clarity, mood, and overall ability to learn new things. These herbs are:
This substance is only found in animals and is a nitrogenous organic acid. It has become the go-to supplement for brain stimulation. Not only is it known to improve brain function, but many body builders use it to enhance their physique. It sends the brain into a state of energy homeostasis, which is overall very beneficial.
This supplement alters the ACH transmitters and receptors within the brain. Doctors have been telling their patients with Schizophrenia and severe depression to take this supplement for years. It boosts acetylcholine function and improves the overall mental clarity a person needs.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fatty acids and Omega-3's have been hyped for the past decade. Studies have found that taking these simply supplements, usually found in fish oil, can stave off mental decline that comes along with aging. It's most beneficial when taken at levels between 1,200 mg to 2,400 mg per day, which equates to about 2 fish pills.
- Bacopa Monnieri
This creeping perennial is native to India. Its use has been documented for centuries. It helps with cognitive function, enhanced memory, and overall learning ability. Many people take this supplement when they want to stave off dementia in the golden years. Its effectiveness has been documented and well reported.
- Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo is made from the Chinese maidenhair tree. The leaves contain powerful substances called flavonoid glycosides and terpenoids that have been used for centuries. Many dementia and Alzheimer patients use this supplement to help with memory and cognition.
- Asian Ginseng
Chinese medicine has long raved about the benefits of Ginseng for mental clarity. It is known to improve working memory, as well as bring about a general calmness and improved mood. It's widely used among the Asian community, and its popularity is growing in the US too.
- Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea helps in a different way than other natural herbal remedies. It works by improving cognition and memory, but its real benefits are the way it helps those who often feel sluggish and anxious. It is getting more and more attention as one of the most beneficial herbs for replacing stimulant usage.
Breaking Away From Stimulants And Using Natural Remedies
When a parent is first told their child has ADHD, the doctors are eager to put their children on a stimulant. The parent has options. They can try to control their child's condition with diet, or they can use a combination of diet and herbal remedies. There are supplements that combine many of these ancient herbs into one convenience pill that seems to work wonders. Do much research before placing you child on dangerous stimulants. They may be good in the short term, but their ability to damage the heart and cause problems within the frontal lobe cannot be ignored.