The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient's unique health circumstances and needs.
If you or a loved one has ADHD, you might be considering using medications to treat this mental disorder. Although medications are an effective treatment option for ADHD, many ADHD medications available today can be confusing.
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Ritalin and Adderall are some of the most popular medications for ADHD today. However, most people with ADHD have problems deciding between these two medications.
Continue reading the guide to get detailed information about Adderall and Ritalin.
Doctors usually recommend stimulants to persons with ADHD.
The two most popular choices of stimulants today are:
These two drugs can help people with ADHD to focus and concentrate better on their tasks. Furthermore, these two medications can help you reduce your impulsive behavior.
Whereas Adderall and Ritalin work similarly, there is a subtle difference in formulations and doses. Moreover, there are also significant differences in how fast these medications work and how long their effects last.
Therefore, doctors use the trial and error method to find the dosage and drugs that work better for every person with ADHD.
Let’s dig deeper into both the differences and similarities of Adderall and Ritalin in this guide:
1. Adderall vs. Ritalin: An Overview
First off, let’s look at all the information about Adderall and Ritalin before deciding which of these two medications is better than the other. While these two medications are both stimulants, they are nonetheless different in terms of their active ingredients.
Two main molecules are used in the treatment of ADHD.
These two molecules are:
The 29 leading brands of stimulant ADHD medications offer different ways of delivering these two molecules.
The two most popular types of stimulants are:
Several clinical studies reveal that stimulant medications for ADHD have an 80% success rate in treating ADHD. However, one drug can be better than the other for some people with ADHD.
The reason behind this is that different medications work in different ways. Furthermore, different medications also have different side effects.
What Is Ritalin?
Ritalin is a medication containing methylphenidate, which is proven to help in the treatment of ADHD. The FDA approves methylphenidate in the treatment of ADHD in kids aged between six and twelve years.
It is also effective in treating ADHD in adolescents and adults, especially those below 65 years.
Ritalin comes in tablets that release methylphenidate into the person’s body immediately after ingesting the pill. Ritalin is also available in the form of long-acting capsules. These capsules gradually release methylphenidate into your body after ingestion.
Ritalin can help reduce impulsivity, hyperactive behavior and improve focus. Lack of focus, hyperactive behavior, and impulsivity are the three main symptoms of ADHD.
Ritalin contains methylphenidate hydrochloride as its main active ingredient. The ingredients work by increasing the amount of dopamine in your brain.
Ritalin is a federally controlled product (Schedule II stimulant), according to FDA. Hence, it means that the medication can only be taken through prescription since it is a stimulant with a high possibility of abuse.
Moreover, long-term use of Ritalin can lead to physical and psychological dependence.
How Does Ritalin Work?
Ritalin works by stimulating the central nervous system (CNS).
It activates dopamine, a neurotransmitter that influences:
- Attention span
The latter is an excitatory neurotransmitter that activates the brain.
The neurotransmitter enhances the functioning of various cells, which keeps your body and brain running efficiently.
Ritalin improves the action of neurotransmitters by stopping the reabsorption of these neurotransmitters into the brain’s neurons.
Research conducted by Nora Volkow, MDA and the head of Brookhaven’s medical and biology departments, demonstrates that kids with ADHD have a low level of dopamine in their brains. It is because such kids have excess molecules in their brains.
These molecules suppress dopamine hence, hindering the hormone from serving its purpose. Fortunately, Ritalin can combat these molecules, thus preventing them from lowering dopamine levels.
Furthermore, when you concentrate on a task, the part of your brain concentrating on the job becomes highly active. The other parts of your brain that aren’t working on that particular task also become functional too.
Ultimately, this helps you make new and creative associations.
However, ADHD can make people with this mental disorder lose their focus. This is where Ritalin comes in. The medication intensifies brain activity by bringing the dopamine levels in your brain to normal.
What Is Adderall?
Adderall is a medication that combines dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. These two ingredients are CNS stimulants. They reduce impulsivity and improve focus by increasing the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in your brain.
The FDA approved the use of Adderall for the treatment of narcolepsy and ADHD in 1996.
Adderall also belongs to the group of stimulant medications.
The medications in this category are first-choice medications for the treatment of ADHD. This medication also comes in tablets, which the FDA has approved for treating ADHD in kids aged above three years.
Another formulation of Adderall, known as Adderall XR capsules, is recommended to treat ADHD in kids aged over six years.
Adderall is available in two forms:
1. Immediate Release Version
You have to take this type of Adderall two to three times daily. The FDA recommends that people with ADHD start with a low dosage of about 5 mg once or twice daily.
You can then increase your Adderall dosage gradually to about 40 mg daily. Kids aged three years and above can also take this medication for ADHD treatment.
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2. Extended-Release Capsule
A single dosage of the extended-release capsule can deliver a consistent effect throughout the day. The FDA recommends that you should use about 20 mg of this medication a day.
How Does Adderall Work?
Just like Ritalin, Adderall also works by stimulating the CNS (central nervous system).
The two main ingredients in Adderall are:
These ingredients work by enhancing the functioning of your CNS. The central nervous system controls the pathways in the spinal cord and the brain.
These pathways are responsible for maintaining your bodily systems.
Furthermore, Adderall works by increasing the activity of norepinephrine and dopamine in your brain. Adderall also activates the release of other necessary brain chemicals such as serotonin.
By increasing the activity of your CNS, Adderall can help boost your energy levels. Moreover, the drug can also improve your focus and reduce fidgeting and restlessness.
Since the drug can improve focus and attention, it can help people with ADHD develop better skills and work habits.
Adderall equips people with ADHD to perform better academically, professionally, and socially. Adderall is a prescribed product (Schedule II stimulant), meaning it can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Moreover, the drug has a high potential for misuse and abuse.
2. Adderall and Ritalin: Difference, Price, Dosage and Drug Interaction
Although Ritalin and Adderall have many things in common, still there is so much debate about which one is better to treat ADHD?
Summarizing the difference between both drugs, we can say that; Ritalin works more quickly and reaches peak performance sooner than Adderall.
However, Adderall stays active in your body longer than Ritalin. Adderall works for four to six hours. Ritalin is only active for two to three hours.
Besides the above difference, the other factors that can influence your decision to choose between both drugs could be their cost, dosage, and interaction.
Let’s look at these informative facts about Ritalin and Adderall in detail.
|Approved for Ages
|Children aged 6 and older; Adolescents; Adults
|Children aged 6 and older; Adolescents; Adults
|Covered by Insurance
What Differentiates Ritalin and Adderall?
Being stimulants, both Adderall and Ritalin have several things in common. For instance, these two ADHD medications are prescribed in almost equal dosages. Again, the two are used for the long-term treatment of ADHD.
They are also classified as controlled substances. Nevertheless, both drugs are a distinct choice because they have identical effects on your brain, although they affect the brain differently.
Adderall, for instance, boosts the activity of:
Hence, the drug increases the levels of these brain chemicals. Ritalin, on the other hand, inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine.
Hence, Ritalin increases the levels of these two hormones in your brain in a way that improves your focus. The increase of these hormones in your brain can also motivate you to work better on your daily tasks.
1. Availability and Price
Ritalin and Adderall are both brand-name medications that are also sold as generic drugs. The generic forms of these drugs are, however, sold cheaper than their brand-name versions. In general, these ADHD drugs cost almost the same.
Further, the cost you will pay for both medicines depends on your health insurance policy.
Adderall, for instance, costs about $8 per tablet without insurance. The drug also costs $237.30 monthly for a dosage of a single 5 mg tablet daily. A similar dosage of generic Adderall costs below $25 if you purchase Adderall using a SingleCare coupon.
The retail cost of Ritalin is around $168. 99. You can save a significant amount of money if you use your SingleCare Ritalin card, whereby you will pay $32.97. Ritalin and Adderall are available in most pharmacies countrywide.
Nonetheless, there can be a shortage of these two ADHD drugs, and hence you might not get them in pharmacies all the time.
The dosage that the doctor will prescribe to you depends on multiple factors.
These factors include:
- The severity and type of your condition
- Your age
- Other underlying medical conditions you could be having
- The version of Ritalin and Adderall you take
Ideally, the doctor will start by recommending a low dosage and then adjust the dosage over time. In most cases, the doctor will recommend the short-acting version of Adderall or Ritalin.
However, ensure you take the actual dosage that the doctor recommends to you. The doctor will prescribe a dosage that suits your condition and your needs.
Ritalin is available in dosages of:
- 5 mg
- 10 mg
- 20 mg
Kids aged above six years can start on smaller doses of 5 mg twice a day.
The doctor can gradually increase the amount by between 5 mg and 10 mg per week until the medication delivers the desired effect. The average dose for adults with ADHD is between 20 mg and 30 mg.
Your doctor can switch from immediate-release capsules to extended-release capsules. Such changes allow you to take fewer doses daily, although you will still get the same effect from your Ritalin dosage.
Adderall comes in dosages of:
- 5 mg
- 7.5 mg
- 10 mg
- 15 mg
- 12.5 mg
- 20 mg
- 30 mg
The dosage can differ from one patient to the other depending on their condition and the formulation of the Adderall.
The instructions also vary with the age of the patient. Your doctor might keep changing your dosage in the long run, depending on your ADHD symptoms.
3. Drug Interactions of Adderall and Ritalin
Drug interaction means the effect you experience when you take one medication with another medication.
Drug Interaction can lower the effectiveness of your ADHD medications.
It can also lead to unexpected side effects. Moreover, drug interaction can raise your blood level and lead to toxicity due to certain medicines.
Both Adderall and Ritalin can have a powerful drug interaction with MAOI (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors). MAOIs are a group of medications used for treating depression.
Avoid using Adderall and Ritalin if you have used an MAOI in the last two weeks. The resulting drug interaction can be dangerous.
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Other drugs that can increase the risk of drug interaction include:
Patient’s Review on Adderall and Ritalin
The patient’s reviews for Ritalin can vary from either effective to highly effective. The lowest rating for this drug on a scale of 10 is six.
For Adderall, most patients reported that the drug is effective in dealing with their ADHD symptoms. However, a couple of patients said that Adderall wasn’t effective in dealing with their condition.
3. Can You Take Adderall and Ritalin Together for ADHD?
Patients usually take several drugs for the same condition since each medication may affect different pathways, leading to faster results. Thus, drug combinations could increase the effectiveness of drugs in improving specific symptoms.
Because Adderall and Ritalin effectively treat ADHD, you might be wondering whether combining these two medications can help improve your ADHD symptoms. However, this isn’t a good idea.
Doctors don’t prescribe a combination of Adderall and Ritalin for ADHD.
Let’s see why it isn’t a great idea to combine Ritalin with Adderall:
Why Doctors Don’t Prescribe a Combination of Adderall and Ritalin Together
As we saw in the previous chapter, taking multiple drugs can lead to drug interaction. Such an interaction can lead to adverse side effects. There is sufficient research on the interaction of Adderall and Ritalin.
Therefore, doctors don’t usually recommend combining these drugs to ensure the patient is on the safer side.
Again, doctors may prescribe you another medication if the initial drug isn’t working for you, especially if the drug isn’t effective in reducing your ADHD symptoms. The doctor may also switch to another medication if they think you are already taking another medicine that could cause an interaction with the drugs you are taking.
Switching from one ADHD stimulant to the other can be a straightforward process. Although stimulants are effective in treating ADHD symptoms, these drugs wear off rapidly.
They also have a high possibility of being eliminated from the body depending on their dosage. Stimulants get eliminated from your body between eight and twelve hours. Therefore, it is possible to use one ADHD stimulant for one day and then stop using the medication the other day.
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How to Tell Whether Ritalin or Adderall Is Working for You
The main indication that a medication is working for you is when the drug starts improving your ADHD symptoms. There is a likelihood that any ADHD medication won’t cure your ADHD symptoms.
However, some ADHD medications can make your psychological and physical ADHD problems more manageable.
These signs below can indicate that either Adderall or Ritalin is effective in managing your ADHD problems:
- Finishing tedious or small tasks on time
- A general improvement in recalling details from workplaces or conversations
- Ability to complete small tasks at work
- Ability to take proper care of your personal belongings
- Going to sleep on time
- The ability to finish homework assignments if you are a student
- The ability to avoid distractions such as TV and social media while at work
Side Effects of Adderall and Ritalin
Using ADHD medications can be an effective way of dealing with ADHD symptoms in both adults and kids. Nonetheless, ADHD medications can lead to serious side effects. This scenario is true for both non-stimulant and stimulant ADHD medications.
These side effects may persist even after your body gets used to multiple ADHD medications. Ritalin and Adderall may cause side effects such as appetite loss, which may continue for a long time. The side effects also depend on how you react to medication if you have ADHD.
The side effects of ADHD medication don’t last for long. They occur in a few days till you get used to the ADHD medication you are using to treat your ADHD problem.
However, some other common side effects of ADHD medications, such as loss of appetite, might persist.
There is also a variation in how someone with ADHD experiences side effects. Some persons can experience intense to mild side effects. These side effects can occur whether you are on medication or after the drug is worn off.
Side effects of both Ritalin and Adderall can sometimes last for a couple of days. You may find yourself uncomfortable with your medication. This problem could be a result of your dosage of Ritalin or Adderall.
Here are some common adverse side effects of Adderall and Ritalin as the most popular ADHD medications:
Common Side Effects Of Ritalin and Adderall
Here are the common side effects of both medications:
Most ADHD patients experience frequent bouts of sleep problems. Persons with ADHD will experience sleep problems when they are under medication. However, you can avoid sleep problems by refraining from taking Adderall or Ritalin in the afternoon.
Headaches are one of the most common side effects of Adderall and Ritalin. Fortunately, these side effects disappear within one to three weeks. Nonetheless, you can talk to your doctor if you are experiencing headaches while taking Adderall or Ritalin.
In the meantime, you can try taking medications such as acetaminophen. This medication can help you deal with headaches if you take Adderall or Ritalin to deal with your ADHD problems.
- Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite and loss of weight can occur if you are taking ADHD medications such as Adderall and Ritalin. However, you can avoid this side effect by eating smaller portions of food each day rather than consuming larger quantities of foods.
- Rebound Hyperactivity
The intensity of hyperactivity may increase when the effect of Adderall or Ritalin ends. However, you can manage this side effect by ingesting a long-acting stimulant medication that delivers a more substantial impact than regular Ritalin or Adderall.
Also, adjusting the dose schedules may help you manage your doctor’s plan of taking medication so that its effects don’t end during work or school. Alternatively, you can add more short-acting doses that will combat hyperactivity and lessen the symptoms of ADHD.
- Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is also popularly known as xerostomia. This condition occurs when your salivary glands can’t produce enough amount of saliva. You may experience a dry mouth if you use either Adderall or Ritalin to cope with your ADHD problems.
However, you can manage your dry mouth problem by sipping water from time to time. Alternatively, you can try sucking on a couple of ice cubes to deal with dry mouth while taking Adderall or Ritalin.
Serious Side Effects of Ritalin and Adderall
People who take Ritalin or Adderall to deal with their ADHD problems may at times experience severe side effects. However, these severe side effects are rare among people taking Adderall or Ritalin to treat their ADHD.
Consult your doctor if you experience any of these severe side effects while taking either Ritalin or Adderall.
Scientific research links stimulants with seizures. According to the label on the Adderall XR, people who have a history of having seizures can have a high chance of experiencing seizures if they take Adderall or Ritalin.
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- Raynaud’s Phenomenon and Peripheral Vasculopathy
Adderall XR has a high chance of causing peripheral vasculopathy, which is a condition that slows down blood flow to the legs, arms, and feet.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is associated with the use of stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin. This condition makes blood vessels constrict when you are subjected to stress or cold. This condition mainly affects the toes and fingers.
The affected parts of your body will turn blue or white due to a lack of proper blood flow. Once blood flow resumes, you will experience sensations or throbbing.
- Serotonin Syndrome
Serotonin Syndrome a life-threatening condition that occurs when people with ADHD take a combination of amphetamines with multiple drugs that suppress the serotonin-based neurotransmitters.
Some of the drugs that cause this condition include antidepressants.
Symptoms of this condition include:
- Stunted Growth in Kids
Adderall and Ritalin can interfere with growth progress in kids. Kids can experience stunted growth or lack of weight gain while taking these two medications. Doctors usually recommend kids cease taking Adderall and Ritalin once they experience stunted growth.
Are Adderall and Ritalin Addictive?
As mentioned earlier in this guide, Adderall and Ritalin are prescribed or controlled drugs. That means that these two ADHD medications can be highly addictive. That’s why the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) classifies these medications as ‘Schedule II’ substances.
The DEA classifies these drugs as addictive substances such as cocaine and oxycodone.
Due to their ability to sharpen focus, Adderall and Ritalin have become popular among students and young professionals.
Such people use drugs as a way of aiding their productivity and academic progress.
Some people with ADHD take these medications along with alcohol for recreational purposes. Moreover, both Adderall and Ritalin have a high possibility of misuse and abuse. You should consider any possible warnings or precautions before taking these drugs.
5. Adderall vs. Ritalin: Precautions for ADHD Medications
The benefits of Adderall and Ritalin as ADHD medications outweigh the adverse effects of these medications. However, it is crucial to take into consideration any warnings or precautions before using these two drugs.
In most cases, ADHD medications can have a high chance of causing a severe drug interaction. The drug interaction can be more potent if you are taking Adderall or Ritalin together with other medications.
Furthermore, taking Adderall and Ritalin with other medications can worsen your condition. Thus, choose the proper ADHD medication to be on the safer side.
General ADHD Treatment from The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics)
According to AAP, kids aged between four and five years should go through behavior therapy before starting any ADHD medications.
Nonetheless, medication is recommended if behavior therapy fails to improve their ADHD problems. Ritalin and other ADHD medications that contain methylphenidate are great for kids with ADHD.
FDA recommends behavior therapy and medications for kids aged between six and eleven years.
The FDA further recommends stimulants over other medications such as:
The same recommendations apply to adults with ADHD.
Furthermore, clinical studies suggest the use of stimulants for adults with ADHD. Adults with ADHD can also benefit from taking non-stimulant medications such as atomoxetine. However, such people should be cautious against signs of misuse of non-stimulant medicines.
Warnings for Adderall and Ritalin From The FDA
The FDA has an obligation to protect public health. The FDA does this by ensuring that medications are safe for humans. Thus, the FDA has issued warnings regarding the use of Adderall and Ritalin.
According to the FDA, you should consider these signs below before taking Adderall or Ritalin to treat your ADHD problems:
- Heart-Related Problems
Sudden deaths have been reported among people with ADHD, taking Adderall and Ritalin as their primary medication for ADHD. Such premature deaths are common among people with heart-related problems.
Therefore, it is vital to inform your doctor if you have any heart-related issues before taking Adderall or Ritalin. Again, talk to your doctor if you have hypertension or have a family history of heart-related problems.
Most doctors will examine you if you have any heart-related issues before prescribing Adderall or Ritalin to you or your kid.
- Mental (Psychiatric) Problems
It is another warning from FDA among Adderall and Ritalin users. Some people experience thought and behavior problems after using Adderall or Ritalin.
Long-term use of these two medications can also lead to:
- Aggressive behavior
- Mood disorder
- Hostility, especially among kids
Therefore, the FDA suggests that teenagers go through a medical examination before using any ADHD medication, including:
Talk to your doctor if you have any mental problems such as depression and bipolar disease. Furthermore, avoid taking Adderall or Ritalin if you have a family history of mental problems.
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There is plenty of evidence that shows that patients with a history of seizures are highly likely to suffer from seizures after taking Adderall and Ritalin.
You or your kid should discontinue taking any ADHD medication if you have a history of seizures. Ritalin and Adderall can aggravate your seizure problems.
Apart from the warning issued by the FDA, you should not take Adderall or Ritalin if you have any of the conditions below:
- If you are highly anxious, agitated, or tense
- If you have eye problems such as glaucoma
- If you have Tics or Tourette’s syndrome, or if you have a family history of this condition
- If you are allergic to any active ingredient in Adderall or Ritalin
Below are some of the additional precautions you should take while taking Adderall
- Take Adderall in moderation if you are using the medication with other sympathomimetic drugs
- Your doctor should prescribe the lowest dosage possible of Adderall to reduce the likelihood of overdosage.
6. Myths About Adderall and Ritalin
ADHD remains unknown to most people, including people who suffer from this condition. Most health and medical professionals also don’t fully understand this condition. Thus, there are some common myths about Ritalin and Adderall.
Common Myths About Ritalin- Busted!
Here are some common myths about these two drugs:
- Ritalin Is a Recent Development
It is a common myth that has been circulating among Ritalin users. Nonetheless, Ritalin has been used for more than 45 years.
The other effective medication in dealing with ADHD was Dexedrine, which was popular in the past decade. The shift from Dexedrine to Ritalin occurred because Ritalin has a lower possibility of addiction and abuse than Dexedrine.
- Ritalin Causes People to Abuse Other Drugs
The myth isn’t true for ADHD patients. Research shows that patients who take Ritalin have a lower chance of indulging in substance abuse. In most cases, Ritalin is abused by persons who don’t have ADHD.
- Ritalin Can Put Holes in Your Brain
This myth comes from PET scanned images of people with ADHD brains. These images examine blood flow and heat.
However, the photos don’t reflect the actual image of your brain. In this case, the holes in your brain are the specific brain areas that don’t receive proper blood flow. These are not actual holes that are present in your brain. Thus, this myth isn’t true.
- Ritalin Is So Dangerous to the Extent That Someone Filed a Lawsuit to Stop the Use of This Drug
This myth isn’t true because it doesn’t show all the sides of the claim. Judges have dismissed the four lawsuits filed by people who wanted the courts to stop the use of Ritalin.
- Ritalin Has Similar Effects to Cocaine
Ritalin and cocaine have some chemical similarities. After all, both cocaine and Ritalin are stimulants. However, Ritalin doesn’t produce the same effects as cocaine when used as a prescribed drug.
The drug can only bring a similar effect to cocaine if you inject it directly into your body. Some people have died from injecting Ritalin into their bodies.
Dispelling the Common Myths About Adderall
Here are some common myths about taking Adderall for treating ADHD:
- It Is Legal to Take Adderall Without a Prescription
The fact is that misuse of any drug happens when a person uses a drug against medical or legal guidelines. Some people misuse Adderall to get high. Other people use this drug when they want to have a better focus on their tasks.
There are many legal stimulants, such as caffeine which people use. However, there are subtle differences between Adderall and such stimulants.
- Adderall Can Make You Smarter
Being a stimulant drug, Adderall increases the functioning of your central nervous system.
However, the fact that this medication affects your nervous system doesn’t mean making you more intelligent. Adderall can keep you awake for long hours. However, the drug can’t make you perform better at school.
- Adderall Is Excellent for Weight Loss
Drugs containing amphetamines were recommended for weight loss in the 1940s and 1950s. Doctors, however, stopped prescribing such drugs after the enactment of new drug laws. Taking Adderall can help you lose some weight, although not in a healthy manner.
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There are tons of medications that are used for the treatment of ADHD. The right choice of drugs can vary from one patient to the other, depending on their symptoms.
Thus, you can use either Ritalin or Adderall depending on your doctor’s prescription and other factors discussed in this guide.