Ritalin Vs. Adderall: Understanding Your ADHD Prescription

October 20, 2021
ADHD Prescription


One in every six Americans will develop ADHD during their lifetime. Treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is primarily made up of stimulant medications. Ritalin and Adderall have made their mark on the mental health scene these past few years.

For faster recovery and symptom management, your doctor will probably prescribe ADHD medication after your diagnosis. The FDA has approved two of the most effective ADHD drugs, Ritalin and Adderall. Both of these drugs are widely used for ADHD treatment. There are numerous similarities and differences between Ritalin and Adderall, so let’s dig in and find out more about them!

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1. What Are the Similarities and Differences between Ritalin and Adderall?

Several medications are effective at treating ADHD symptoms, including Ritalin and Adderall. We want to clarify any confusion about whether Ritalin and Adderall belong to the same class of drugs or not. Both Ritalin and Adderall function by stimulating the brain, so their mechanisms are similar. In essence, both drugs can help to treat ADHD.

Here is a look at the differences and similarities between the two medications.


What Is Ritalin?

Ritalin is among the most commonly prescribed medications to treat ADHD. This is a stimulant medication. When it comes to ADHD, it is known for reducing hyperactivity and improving focus. Narcolepsy is another disorder for which Ritalin often gets prescribed. Since 1995, Ritalin has been used extensively as a potent ADHD drug approved by the FDA.


Ritalin Generic

Methylphenidate hydrochloride is the generic name. It belongs to the stimulant group of drugs, affecting some of the brain’s most crucial chemicals.


Ritalin Dosage Forms and Strengths


Check out the facts table for a better understanding.


Ritalin Fact Table


Basic compound Methylphenidate
Ages approved for the use of the medicine
  • Children aged six and older
  • Adolescents
  • Adults
  • Short-acting and immediate-release tablets are available in 5, 10, and 20 mg.
  • In 20 mg, Ritalin SR (Sustained Release) is available 
  • Ritalin LA (Long-Acting) is available in In 10, 20, 30, and 40mg
Possible considerations Growth in childhood may or may not be affected
Ritalin half-life
  • 2-3 hours for immediate release
  • 4-6 hours for sustained release
  • 10-12 hours for extended-release
Any side-effects associated with the drug use Yes
Generic availability Yes


How Does Ritalin Work?

Ritalin is used to treat ADHD, narcolepsy as well as depression. This medication reportedly works by altering certain chemicals in the brain. ‘Dopamine’ and ‘Noradrenaline’ are the two chemicals that Ritalin targets. It inhibits their reuptake and increases levels of the chemicals in the brain. Dopamine and Noradrenaline both play a significant role in mood regulation and behavior. The use of this medication enhances your brain’s ability to process impulses and regulate brain functions.


Benefits of Ritalin for Adults with ADHD

Using Ritalin to treat ADHD has many advantages. Some of these benefits are listed below, but there are others as well.

  • Develops a better sense of focus
  • Getting tasks done
  • Enhanced productivity

It is not easy to understand why focus increases. ADHD patients taking Ritalin have better focus, but scientists are not yet sure how it works. A possible explanation is that Ritalin contains Methylphenidate, which can affect dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine levels in the brain.

The drug affects the reward pathways in the brain by increasing dopamine release. This increase of dopamine is what causes an improvement in focus.

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How to Use Ritalin?

To get a prescription, you must already have a diagnosis of ADHD from a healthcare professional. Your doctor will evaluate your case and see if you are a good candidate for Ritalin. Ritalin is only meant to be used for people who need it, not as a “party invitation.”

Every time you request a refill, read the drug manual and obey the instructions given by your physician. Depending on your recovery and severity of symptoms, your doctor may change your dosage over time.

Additionally, you should not exchange your prescribed brand names with others. It may affect the effectiveness of the drugs. The switch will affect your treatment plan ultimately.

Take this drug with food 2 to 3 times a day, as directed by your physician. Take your medicine for about 40 to 45 minutes before eating any food. Be sure to take this medicine regularly so you can gain maximum benefit from it. 


Adult Ritalin Dosage

Immediate-Release (IR) Tablets: 20-30mg twice or thrice a day, taken 30-45 minutes before meals. The maximum IR dosage is 60mg a day.

Extended-Release (ER) Tablets:  20mg tablets taken once a day. Works for 8 hours. The maximum ER dosage is 60mg a day.


Know Ritalin’s Warning and Considerations before Opting for It!

A comprehensive treatment plan for ADHD usually includes Ritalin. Still, a few warning signs should be considered before taking the medication. These medical conditions make it risky for you to take Ritalin:

  • Glaucoma
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Severe anxiety
  • Chronic depression
  • Intense agitation

Because of its methylphenidate constituent, Ritalin is a habit-forming drug, and overdoses can cause severe withdrawal symptoms and addiction. Also, the side effects of stimulant medications, such as Methylphenidate, have extended to several other illnesses such as strokes, heart issues, and high blood pressure.

In the case of side effects or allergies, you should consult your physician immediately. There are some inactive ingredients in Ritalin, which can cause allergy problems for some people.       


Precautions About Ritalin


Possible Drug Interactions

The side effects of taking Ritalin can be severe if you take certain drugs at the same time. If you are starting any medication immediately, it may have severe side effects. Tell your doctor everything you know about your medical history. Ritalin interactions with MAO inhibitors are the most dangerous.

MAO inhibitors are drugs that inhibit the action of the MAO enzymes by blocking their activity—hence, they enable more effective signaling as less neurotransmitter is broken down. The MAO inhibitors include a classic class of antidepressants. These drugs include isocarboxazid, linezolid, methylene blue, moclobemide, phenelzine, procarbazine, rasagiline, selegiline, and sulfonamide.

MAO inhibitors prevent the breakdown of molecules called monoamines, such as dopamine and serotonin. The MAO inhibitor action prevents monoamine neurotransmitters’ negative feedback (disinhibition) by inhibiting the reuptake of neurotransmitters or preventing their release from the endings of neurons on which they act.

Combining dexmethylphenidate with Methylphenidate can be potentially dangerous. Angioedema and anaphylactic reactions are among the most common side effects.


Ritalin Side Effects

There are many side effects associated with Methylphenidate, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anger
  • Agitation
  • Blurred vision
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Cardiac abnormalities
  • Cerebral hemorrhage

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What Is Adderall?

Just like Ritalin, Adderall is also a brain stimulant, but instead of only one, it contains two compounds. The two main components of Adderall are amphetamines and dextroamphetamine. It reduces hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Psychiatrists have been prescribing these ADHD meds for decades. Long-term studies on Adderall showed that it helps reduce the symptoms of ADHD in up to 70% of patients. Amphetamine is a stimulant drug, so this is a form of medication to be used only with routine caution and after a thorough evaluation and diagnosis. 


Adderall Generics

Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine are the generic names commonly used for Adderall. Check out the table of facts.


 Adderall Facts Table 


Basic compound
  • Amphetamine
  • Dextroamphetamine
Ages approved for the use of the medicine
  • Children age six and over
  • Adolescents
  • Adults
Adderall dosage
  • Instant Release:  5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 20, 30 mg
  • Extended-Release (XR) 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 36 mg
Possible considerations Growth in childhood may or may not be affected
Effectiveness of the drug
  • 2-4 hours: Immediate release
  • 8- 12 hours: Extended-release
Any side-effects associated with the drug use Yes
Generic availability Yes


Adderall Effects and Mechanism of Action for the Treatment of ADHD

It helps people with ADHD concentrate so they can complete tasks more effectively. Adderall works by blocking the chemicals in the brain, like dopamine and norepinephrine, which affect mental state and moods.

Adderall is not a “thinking” pill, but it can help individuals focus on their work, by improving their outcomes. Though it can be used off-label to treat other disorders, including narcolepsy and depression, it primarily manages attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms.

Adults are given around 10 milligrams three times a day. It does not have any narcotic properties, making it an excellent choice for children who cannot tolerate other drugs. In addition to its cognitive conditioning effects, Adderall also helps relax the mind, reduce anxiety, and improve focus.


Adderall Dosage Forms and Strengths


How to Use Adderall?

You should only use Adderall if your doctor prescribes it. In the event of unusual side effects, let your doctor know immediately. Make sure you follow your doctor’s advice when changing your medications or other treatment options. 

Take Adderall by mouth. It depends on your doctor’s prescription whether you should take it with food. It is usually taken once or up to three times a day. The use of this drug in the evening causes insomnia, so consider taking it in the morning.

Addicts with ADHD should take Adderall at the following dosage:

Adderall IR:

  • Take 5mg orally twice a day at the beginning
  • The daily dose can be raised in 5mg increments every week as part of the maintenance regimen
  • In rare cases, a higher dose than 40mg a day will be necessary

Adderall XR:

  • Take 20mg once per day as an initial dose


Adderall Warnings and Precautions

The inactive ingredients in Adderall are similar to those in Ritalin, and they are capable of causing allergic reactions in the future. Hence, it is crucial to discuss all aspects of your medication with your doctor.

People who suffer from underlying conditions such as Raynaud’s disease, mental disorders, irregular heartbeat, hyperthyroidism, cardiomyopathies, glaucoma, liver seizures, and kidney diseases should steer clear of Adderall. It would help to have a transparent discussion regarding your family and medical history to ensure that any red flags are cleared first. 

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should take special care when taking Adderall. Nursing mothers may pass Adderall on to their babies through breast milk. Complications may also affect the fetus and mother while the pregnancy is in progress.

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Possible Drug Interactions

Interactions between Adderall and other drugs are not something to be taken lightly. There may even be consequences for how the drug is supposed to work due to drug interactions—they may make the drug fatal.

In addition to Ritalin, Adderall also interacts with MAO inhibitors. MAO inhibitors produce similar reactions in the case of Ritalin and Adderall. There is also the possibility that Adderall contains some ingredients that can elevate your blood pressure. To guarantee that you get the right dosage of Adderall, tell your doctor all of the prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs you’re taking.  

Addiction to stimulant drugs is common. Don’t take too many pills, don’t give them to others. Adderall dependence and addiction can lead to severe consequences.


Adderall Side Effects

Adderall can cause the following side effects:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Overdose-related sudden death
  • Tremors
  • Mood changes
  • Trilochotominia
  • Anger
  • Euphoria
  • Blurred vision
  • Anorexia
  • Skin rashes

Although both drugs share numerous similarities, they also differ distinctly. Among the main differences is the dosage. Typically, the Ritalin dosage prescribed is usually lower than the Adderall dosage.


Precautions About Adderall


2. Is Ritalin Weaker than Adderall?

A common question that parents and individuals alike ask is: Which one is the better choice: Adderall or Ritalin? Essentially, both drugs are considered to be amphetamine derivatives. The short answer is that they’re not really comparable because they’re similar in their effects but different in their chemical structures.

While the two drugs have a lot in common, there are some key differences. These differences can be attributed to their molecular composition. Ritalin is considered a short stimulant and works by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Adderall, on the other hand, is regarded as a stimulant with a longer-acting time.

For one thing, the extended-release version of Ritalin gives off effects that last for about 6 to 12 hours, whereas Adderall lasts 8 to 12 hours in the extended-release formula. Both Ritalin and Adderall are stimulant medications for ADHD, and they come in short and long-acting tablets. 

Analyzing side effects is just as important as evaluating the intended effects. Adderall, for instance, has a more negative impact on libido than Ritalin, and Ritalin is associated with more stomach upsets and gastrointestinal problems than Adderall.

Similarly, their effects on pre-existing conditions differ as well. Adderall can aggravate any of these conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Heart diseases
  • Hyperthyroidism

However, Ritalin exacerbates symptoms and worsens the following conditions:

As well as negatively impacting pregnancy, both drugs lead to addiction and substance abuse in vulnerable people.

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3. Which Is Better for Adults, Ritalin or Adderall?

Research has shown that Ritalin may be better for children and adolescents while Adderall is more effective for adults with ADHD or narcolepsy. It’s essential to evaluate these options with a doctor since treatment depends on your overall condition.

When determining which the better drug out of the two is, it is imperative to look at various aspects of the two as one medication may have a greater impact than the other.


Adderall Vs. Ritalin for Studying

Adderall and Ritalin are both stimulants that help increase wakefulness, focus, and concentration. Adderall is thought to be more potent than Ritalin. The difference is in the way each drug affects the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.

But in comparison with Ritalin, there is very little research on Adderall’s effectiveness in increasing academic performance. Experts say that in contrast to Ritalin, Adderall has a longer half-life, increasing its productivity and efficacy.

An analysis of the drug courses of two drugs was conducted on children with ADHD as part of a study. Consequently, the results showed that Adderall produced better results, enhancing academic performance, behavior assessment, and negative behavior by parents as compared to Ritalin. Furthermore, the study investigated the effectiveness of Adderall doses in comparison to Ritalin (low) doses.


Ritalin Vs. Adderall Weight Loss

Weight loss is one of the significant areas where Ritalin and Adderall get abused. These medications are known to curb hunger, making them two of the most popular diet pills out there. Using drugs to lose weight for a long time has the side effect of making individuals keep using them long term, which eventually causes addiction and harm to their bodies. Ritalin can be helpful for weight loss in some cases. But, the most significant side effect is sleep problems, which may lead to weight gain again. 


Common Signs of Ritalin Abuse


Ritalin Vs. Adderall Dosage

First, the doses of these drugs vary dramatically, and second, their effects can be different based on each person’s specific needs. There are short-acting and long-acting versions of these drugs. Although Adderall and Ritalin contain the same active ingredients, there is a slight difference in dosage, making Adderall more frequently prescribed.

 Ritalin dose has the following variation:

  • Instant release
  • Sustained release
  • Long-acting

Whereas Adderall dose has the following variations:

  • Instant release
  • Extended-release


Ritalin Vs. Adderall High

As CNS-acting drugs, Ritalin and Adderall stimulate the brain by sending signals throughout the whole body. Consequently, following the use of the drug, you may feel euphoric, energetic, and confident – in short, ‘high.’ Although they both behave pretty much similarly on the central nervous system, Adderall doses are much higher than Ritalin doses.

This could explain the fact that you feel high more often when taking Adderall compared to Ritalin. Additionally, although high doses of either pill may lead to side effects, these side effects vary depending on your physical reaction to stimulants or any other health conditions that you might have.


Ritalin Vs. Adderall Price Comparison

Generic and brand versions of Adderall are available. Adderall XR costs about $7.60 per capsule, whereas the generic version costs between $ 4.65 and $ 5.33 per capsule. In contrast, Ritalin tablets cost approximately 78 cents for a 5mg tablet and $1.10 for a 20mg tablet.

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4. When Are Ritalin and Adderall Used for ADHD Treatment?

Get diagnosed by a certified health expert if you suspect you have ADHD symptoms. Ritalin and Adderall for ADHD can only be prescribed by licensed health professionals who have assessed the severity of your condition.


How Do You Get Diagnosed with ADHD?

Your physician might ask you about your symptoms during a mental health check-up, such as:

  • How long have you been experiencing these symptoms?
  • Is there another member of your family who has similar symptoms?
  • Is your daily life affected by your symptoms?
  • What other health problems do you have?

Your mental healthcare provider will perform an evaluation and diagnose ADHD and write a treatment plan for you, including therapies and counseling in addition to medications. For symptom management and recovery, ADHD stimulants are pretty effective. However, Ritalin and Adderall are not the only stimulants for ADHD. Other stimulants include Focalin, Concerta, and Dexedrine


Are Adderall and Ritalin Safe to Take Together?

Adderall and Ritalin are generally not recommended for use together. The interaction between these two medications is not well understood. Taking both drugs could result in significant side effects or other complications since they work similarly.


Who Should Not Use Ritalin and ADHD?

ADHD medication is not recommended for people who have underlying heart disease, eye problems, glaucoma, Tourette’s syndrome, tics, psychosis, or other psychiatric disorders.

Other people that should consult with a doctor before using Ritalin and Adderall include lactating and pregnant women, people taking MAO inhibitors, and other drugs that may cause adverse drug interactions.


Conditions Treated by Adderall


Ritalin Vs. Adderall Comparison Summary


  Ritalin Adderall
Drug nature Stimulants Stimulants
Main component methylphenidate hydrochloride (MPH) dextroamphetamine and salts from dextroamphetamine
Side effects
  • Abdominal pain
  • Agitation
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Cardiac abnormalities
  • Cerebral hemorrhage
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Fatigue
  • Palpitations
  • Cardiac issues
  • Sudden death due to drug overdose
  • Tremors
  • Anger
  • Euphoria
  • Blurred vision
  • Anorexia
  • Skin rashes
  • Instant release
  • Sustained release
  • Long-acting
  • Instant release
  • Extended-release
Price Tablets cost around;

  • Each 5mg tablet costs 78 cents
  • 20 mg tablets cost $1.10.
  • $7.60 is the cost per capsule of Adderall XR
  • Generic versions cost approximately $ 4.65 to $ 5.33 per capsule.
Drug interactions
  • MAO inhibitors
  • MAO inhibitors
  • Antihypertensive drugs

Methylphenidate hydrochloride (MPH) is Ritalin’s primary ingredient, which is also present in other ADHD medications. It has side effects, and the effectiveness rate isn’t very high as compared to Adderall. Therefore individuals may choose Adderall as their stimulant drug of choice.

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The two main components of Adderall are dextroamphetamine and its salts. There is no doubt that this medication has high potency for managing ADHD symptoms. Beware that if taken in excess dosages than prescribed, Ritalin and Adderall are stimulants that can become addictive. Although the drugs Ritalin and Adderall are both used to treat ADHD, the final decision will depend on your doctor after a complete evaluation of your symptoms and medical history.

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