Skip to main content
Medically Approved

How to increase dopamine for ADHD

twitter share buttonfacebook share buttonlinkedin share buttonemail article button
Dopamine and ADHDBoosting dopamineMedicationsOther optionsSummary
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often linked to not getting enough dopamine. Managing your dopamine levels can help improve symptoms such as hyperactivity and impulsivity.
Medically reviewed by Nicole Washington, DO, MPH
Written by Charlotte Parker
Updated on

ADHD is a neurobehavioral condition that can affect people of all ages.

Dopamine is a hormone that functions as a neurotransmitter. It can help improve your attention span, focus, motivation, and mood. This makes it important to carefully manage your dopamine levels.

Researchers have been investigating its connection with dopamine for many years.

Dopamine and ADHD

Young adults on a sandy beach at sunset holding hands and dancing in a circle which could one answer on how to increase dopamine adhd

ADHD is linked to not getting enough dopamine. People with ADHD may have lower dopamine levels or changes to how their dopamine receptors work. Dopamine imbalances make the main symptoms of ADHD worse, making it harder to pay attention, manage impulses, and stay calm and focused.


Difficulty staying focused on tasks is common in ADHD. Dopamine helps with attention by helping brain cells communicate. When dopamine is not properly absorbed, or if your levels are low, you may find it challenging to stay focused, especially if you have ADHD.

Hyperactivity and impulsivity

Dopamine imbalances contribute to hyperactivity and impulsivity in ADHD. Restlessness, difficulty sitting still, and acting without thinking are typical symptoms. Having sufficient dopamine levels can make it easier to manage these behaviors.

Motivation and reward

Dopamine plays a vital role in your brain’s reward system, providing pleasure and motivation when you achieve goals or complete tasks. In ADHD, the brain’s reward system may not function effectively due to dopamine issues. This makes it harder to stay motivated and experience the same level of reward as others.

Boosting dopamine without medication

You may find that there are some nonmedical ways to increase dopamine levels.

Lifestyle strategies

Taking simple measures in your daily routine, such as exercising regularly (where possible), getting enough sleep, and practicing stress reduction techniques may help increase dopamine levels. In turn, this may help manage ADHD symptoms.

Mindfulness and meditation

Taking up yoga or meditation to enhance self-awareness and regulate emotions may also be beneficial. Research suggests these practices positively influence dopamine regulation and reduce ADHD symptoms.


Eating a nutritious diet that includes foods rich in amino acids like tyrosine and phenylalanine can help with dopamine production.

Examples of foods containing these nutrients include meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy products, whole grains, bananas, almonds, avocados, eggs, chicken, and fish.


Consuming dopamine directly is unlikely to alleviate ADHD symptoms as it does not easily cross your blood-brain barrier. Still, supplements like tyrosine and phenylalanine may help.

Fish oil, vitamin D3, magnesium, and zinc may also provide a small boost to your dopamine levels.

It is best to check with a doctor or healthcare professional before taking supplements.


If lifestyle strategies alone are not improving your dopamine levels or your ability to manage your ADHD effectively, medication can help supplement dopamine availability in the brain and support you with managing ADHD symptoms.

Stimulant medication

Stimulant medications are effective in treating ADHD because they can increase dopamine availability in your brain. This helps improve your focus, motivation, and sense of reward. It can also help manage impulsive behavior.

Two stimulant medications that can treat ADHD symptoms and boost your dopamine levels are:

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin): This medication helps by blocking the reuptake of dopamine, which means it stays in the brain for longer, leading to increased dopamine levels. It helps improve focus and attention.
  • Amphetamine (Evekeo): Amphetamine blocks the reuptake of dopamine and enters the brain cells to push out more dopamine. This increases dopamine levels even more and helps with attention and focus.

If you need help covering the cost of medications, the free Optum Perks Discount Card could help you save up to 80% on prescription drugs. Follow the links on drug names for savings on that medication, or search for a specific drug here.

Pill bottle with text 'Starts at $4'

Free prescription coupons

Seriously … free. Explore prices that beat the competition 70% of the time.

Get free card

Nonstimulant medications

Some nonstimulant medications, like atomoxetine (Strattera), can increase norepinephrine levels (sometimes called noradrenalin) in your brain.

Norepinephrine, like dopamine, is a neurotransmitter that improves focus, mood, and memory and helps regulate your sleeping pattern. In fact, your body uses up some of its dopamine to make norepinephrine.

Antidepressants can also support dopamine levels and are sometimes used to treat ADHD. There are different types that can help, including:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and escitalopram (Lexapro). Fluoxetine, sertraline, and escitalopram are among the few SSRIs that show the ability to improve your dopamine levels. Fluoxetine can positively affect ADHD symptoms within 4 weeks, including decision-making, attention span, and memory.
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like venlafaxine (Effexor XR). These drugs not only increase serotonin levels but also raise the amount of dopamine available to your brain. This may improve depression symptoms faster than SSRIs and may also relieve ADHD symptoms.
  • Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs) like bupropion (Wellbutrin). These slow down the absorption of dopamine and norepinephrine in your body, meaning more is available for your brain. This can help improve depression and ADHD symptoms.

It is important to consult with a doctor or healthcare professional to find the most suitable treatment plan for your specific needs.

Other options for managing dopamine levels

There are some other things you can try to help with dopamine levels.

  • Therapy: Behavioral therapies, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), teach new skills that can help you to be more organized, manage your time more effectively, and improve your problem-solving abilities. These can reduce the symptoms of ADHD and dopamine deficiency.
  • Connect with others: Join support groups or communities for people with ADHD to find and share understanding, encouragement, and advice.
  • Parents or caregivers can help: If you are a child with ADHD, your parents or caregivers can join in with therapy to learn how to support you, how to help you manage your behaviors at home, and help create an organized environment.
  • Collaboration with school: Therapists can work with teachers to include classroom modifications, adapted teaching, and personalized plans.


To manage dopamine levels and ADHD effectively, you can combine therapy, lifestyle strategies, mindfulness, a nutritious diet, and support from parents.

When considering medication and supplements, working closely with a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or nutritionist, is the best way to develop a personalized plan that suits your needs.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

Article resources