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Ritalin vs Adderall | Differences, Similarities, Side Effects, and more!

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common condition affecting both children and adults. It can lead to difficulty concentrating, controlling behavior, and maintaining focus. 

While there are many treatments available for ADHD, two of the most popular medications are Ritalin and Adderall. To help you make the best decision for yourself or your child, let’s take a closer look at these two drugs and compare them side by side. 

In the following paragraphs, we will provide a comprehensive overview of all aspects of Ritalin and Adderall, from their similarities to their side effects and more. This comparison will ensure that you have an understanding of both medications in order to make an informed decision about which one might work best for your needs.

What is Ritalin?

Ritalin is a brand name for the prescription drug methylphenidate, which is a central nervous system stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. Methylphenidate is also used to treat narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness.

Ritalin comes in both short-acting tablets that last up to four hours and longer-acting capsules that can last up to six hours. The short-acting form is usually taken two or three times a day while the longer-acting form is taken just once a day. It typically takes about 30 minutes for Ritalin to start working after it has been ingested.  

Chemical Composition of Ritalin

The chemical structure of methylphenidate is C14H19NO2, and it belongs to a class of drugs known as phenethylamines. Methylphenidate works by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which are neurotransmitters involved in attention and focus.

What is Adderall? 

Adderall is a prescription medication used to treat conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and works by increasing levels of neurotransmitters in the brain that are associated with focus and attention – namely dopamine and norepinephrine. 

These chemicals regulate important functions like memory formation, problem-solving skills, motivation, and emotional regulation. By increasing dopamine levels, in particular, Adderall can help people with ADHD maintain more consistent focus over time while decreasing their tendency to be easily distracted or overwhelmed. 

In addition to providing relief from some symptoms of ADHD such as impulsivity or disorganization, Adderall may also provide other benefits such as improved school work performance or enhanced social relationships for those who take it. 

Adderall is available in immediate-release and extended-release formulations, and it is typically taken by mouth in the form of a tablet or capsule. It usually takes an hour or above to kick in the system and its effects can last for up to 12 hours. 

Chemical Composition of Adderall

Adderall has a 1:1 ratio of four amphetamine salts; amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, amphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, and dextroamphetamine saccharate.

The chemical structure of amphetamine is C9H13N, and the chemical structure of dextroamphetamine is C9H13N.HCl. Both amphetamine and dextroamphetamine belong to a class of drugs known as amphetamines. 

Ritalin vs. Adderall: Fact Sheet

If you are considering using either Adderall or Ritalin for your ADHD treatment, here is a table containging all the possible information you need to know about these stimulant drugs.




Generic Name Methylphenidate Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine
Drug Type CNS Stimulant CNS Stimulant
Active Ingredients  Methylphenidate Amphetamine
Used as a treatment for ADHD and Narcolepsy ADHD and Narcolepsy
Available Form(s) Immediate tablets Extended-release capsules Immediate tablets Extended-release capsules
Available Strengths 
  • immediate-release tablet: 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg
  • extended-release capsule: 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, 30 mg
  • immediate-release tablet: 5 mg, 10 mg, 20 mg
  • extended-release capsule: 10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 60 mg
Is it a controlled substance? Yes, schedule 2 controlled substance Yes, schedule 2 controlled substance
Legal Status Only medically prescribed Only medically prescribed
Risk of Withdrawal Effects Yes Yes
Risk of Addiction Yes Yes


Adderall Dosage and Side Effects:

The recommended dose of Adderall for adults ranges from 10 mg to 60 mg per day, depending on the severity of symptoms, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 

Generally, physicians will start therapy with a lower dosage and then increase it as needed over time based on the patient’s response. Common side effects associated with Adderall include loss of appetite, dry mouth, nausea, dizziness, weight loss, headache, and insomnia. 

In some cases, more serious side effects can occur such as irregular heartbeat or dramatic changes in blood pressure. It’s important to speak with your doctor if you experience any concerning symptoms. Long-term use of Adderall has been linked with an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and even death in some cases. 

Additionally, abuse of the drug can lead to dependence, tolerance, and addiction; health experts advise against taking doses higher than what is prescribed by a physician or using more frequently than directed.

Ritalin Dosage and Side Effects:

Ritalin dosage for an adult is generally recommended to start at a low dose, such as 5-10 mg per day for most adults. Generally, it is taken in two or three divided doses throughout the day. 

It is important to note that Ritalin should not be taken in large doses or for longer than prescribed because it may increase the risk of serious side effects and lead to addiction. 

Side effects associated with Ritalin include insomnia, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, weight loss, nervousness, restlessness, and changes in sex drive or performance. 

In rare cases, it has been reported that individuals may experience more serious side effects such as chest pain, an irregular heartbeat, and abnormal heart rhythms. Other serious side effects associated with Ritalin include hallucinations, anxiety disorders, and increased blood pressure or heart rate. 

More severe reactions can occur if the drug is abused or taken in high doses; these reactions can include seizures and even death due to overdose. 

It is also important to note that Ritalin should not be taken if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as it could harm your unborn baby or infant. It should also be avoided if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, or a seizure disorder as it could worsen these conditions. 

Adderall vs. Ritalin: Can You Withdrawal for Either? 

Adderall has a longer-lasting effect than Ritalin; however, it also carries a risk of addiction, making it important to follow instructions from your doctor when taking this medication. Withdrawal symptoms can occur when coming off Adderall after long-term use; these may include fatigue, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, headaches, and stomach pain. 

Ritalin has a shorter half-life than Adderall which makes it necessary to take more doses throughout the day. Generally speaking, Ritalin is less likely to cause addiction than Adderall but is still considered habit-forming; therefore it’s important to always follow your doctor’s advice about dose timing and frequency when taking this medication. 

Withdrawal symptoms associated with Ritalin may include changes in mood or behavior such as irritability or restlessness as well as physical symptoms such as nausea or vomiting. 

When considering whether or not you’re at risk for experiencing withdrawal from either medication it’s important to discuss your personal medical history with your healthcare provider. 

Factors such as age, underlying health conditions, and previous substance abuse issues all play into whether or not you may experience difficult withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuing these medications. 

In general, both Adderall and Ritalin can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal side effects if taken over an extended period of time without proper medical supervision.

Ritalin vs Adderall: Prevalence in the United States

Both drugs have been used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, adults, and adolescents for more than two decades. However, their use has increased dramatically over the last decade and both are now among the most widely prescribed drugs in the US. 

In 2014, 16 million Americans aged 6 and older were taking stimulants, with Ritalin and Adderall comprising 84% of those prescriptions. This same year, over 36 million prescriptions for Ritalin and Adderall were written by healthcare professionals.

While both drugs have skyrocketed in popularity since their introduction to the market, there are distinct differences between them when it comes to their prevalence within certain demographic groups.

When broken down by age group, 4.4% of individuals between 18-25 misused either prescription stimulant drug in the past year which is notable due to the fact that the use of such stimulating drugs is very common among college students.

Bottom Line: Ritalin versus Adderall

In conclusion, if you suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), then your doctor may recommend either Ritalin or Adderall as part of your treatment plan – each has its own unique benefits depending on your individual needs so it’s important that you discuss these options with your doctor before making any decisions about which medication is right for you! 

Since both medications have the risk of dependence and withdrawal, therefore, you should always consult a certified professional to decide how much medication is appropriate and when you wish to stop using the medication.

FAQs on Adderall and Ritalin 

Which is more effective: Adderall or Ritalin?

Both Adderall and Ritalin are equally effective to treat ADHD. Medication’s effectiveness, however, varies from individual to individual. It is important to consider the severity of a person’s symptoms, their age, their genetic history, and any other medical conditions they may have when determining the best treatment for them.

Is there any other medication to treat ADHD than Adderall and Ritalin?

Yes, there are plenty of other medications to treat ADHD such as Concerta, Dexedrine, Evekeo, Focalin XR, etc.

Is it safe to take Ritalin and Adderall together?

There is very little research on this matter. Mixing stimulant drugs, however, is often discouraged by doctors.


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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