Emory grads say they’ve created a safer studying aid

Focuset an alternative to ADHD drugs

Justin Hertzberg and Jason Neufeld claim to have seen it all too often: students slipping into a bathroom on the lower level of Emory University’s main library to crush a little pill and snort it, then head back to their books for an all-night cram session.

The scene isn’t anecdotal. There’s a growing trend among college students to take Adderall and Ritalin — drugs used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder — to help them study. According to research published last year in the journal Addiction, up to 25 percent of college students have misused ADHD drugs.

Hertzberg and Neufeld set out to level the playing field.

“Neither of us wanted to resort to taking those drugs,” Hertzberg says. “But we thought it was unfair that some students had an advantage by taking them.”

Last month, the two men — both Emory alums pursing post-bachelor degrees at the University of Miami — unveiled their alternative to ADHD drugs. The pill, Focuset, is a blend of natural herbs and vitamins that Hertzberg — and a board-certified psychiatrist — claim is safe and as effective as ADHD drugs.

Hertzberg says Focuset differs from similar supplements by combining caffeine with theanine, an herb known for its calming effects. That helps a person take the energy from the caffeine and channel it, he claims. In addition, Hertzberg says, Focuset is time-released over an eight-hour period.

“You feel a bit more energized, and you can focus,” Hertzberg says. “But it doesn’t give you certain feelings of anxiety and stress. It’s a calm energy.”

The effect of the supplement shouldn’t be much different from drinking a cup of coffee, according to Brian Cummings, an assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of Georgia.

“We know caffeine increases blood flow, which helps you think better,” Cummings says. “But [Focuset] doesn’t contain any of the same drugs found in Ritalin that alters dopamine transport.”

Ritalin and Adderall contain small doses of speed. As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had to approve those drugs. Natural supplements such as Focuset aren’t subject to review by the administration.

Hertzberg hopes to start marketing Focuset on college campuses in the fall.

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