- Adderall vs. Ritalin quick comparison of differences
- What is Adderall? What is Ritalin?
- Are Adderall and Ritalin addictive?
- What is the dosage for Ritalin vs. Adderall?
- What are the side effects of Adderall vs. Ritalin?
- What drugs and supplements interact with Adderall vs. Ritalin?
- In what forms are they available?
- Are these drugs safe to take if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
Adderall vs. Ritalin quick comparison of differences
- Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) are central nervous system stimulants.
- Both medications are prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
- Both drugs have the potential to cause addiction, and patients may have withdrawal effects if they stop taking the drugs suddenly.
- Both Ritalin and Adderall have some common side effects, for example:
- The main differences between Ritalin and Adderall are that Adderall may have more serious side effects because it is an amphetamine, while Ritalin is not.
- Ritalin and Adderall may interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Do not take MAOIs two weeks prior to treatment with Ritalin or Adderall as there could be serious adverse interactions.
What is Adderall? What is Ritalin?
Both drugs work by changing the amounts of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. They can help increase a person’s attention and focus, decrease impulsiveness, improve organization, improve listening skills, and help control behavior problems.
Both drugs are recommended along with a treatment program for ADHD that may include counseling and other behavioral therapies.
Doctors also prescribe Ritalin and Adderall to treat a sleeping disorder called narcolepsy, to help people stay awake during the day.
Both drugs have a potential for misuse/abuse and addiction that can lead to dependence.
Are Adderall and Ritalin addictive?
Both Ritalin and Adderall can be habit forming and addictive, even when taken at the dosage your doctor or other heath care professional has prescribed. Both drugs should be prescribed cautiously in patients with a history of substance abuse. Withdrawal from both drugs should be supervised by a health care professional. Overdose of Adderall or Ritalin can lead to cardiac arrest and death.
What is the dosage for Ritalin vs. Adderall?
Adderall usually is taken once or twice a day. Doses should be separated by at least 4-6 hours. The recommended dose is 2.5 to 60 mg daily depending on the patient's age and the condition being treated.
Adderall XR is taken once daily. The recommended dose is 5-40 mg daily administered in the morning. The entire contents of the Adderall XR capsules may be sprinkled into applesauce and consumed immediately. Amphetamines should be administered during waking hours and late evening doses should be avoided in order to avoid insomnia.
Ritalin, Ritain XR dosage
The dose of Ritalin is adjusted based on patients' responses. It may be given once, twice, or three times daily depending on formulation. The recommended dose for Concerta is 18-72 mg once daily.
The recommended dose for Ritalin LA is 10-60 mg once daily and for regular Ritalin the recommended dose is 10-60 mg daily in 2 or 3 divided doses.
Latest Mental Health News
What are the side effects of Adderall vs. Ritalin?
Adderall side effects
Side effects of amphetamines include excessive stimulation of the nervous system leading to:
- Convulsions (seizures)
- Blood pressure and heart rate may increase, and patients may experience palpitations of the heart.
Other important side effects include:
- Sudden death
- Heart attack
- Manic episodes
- Aggressive behavior or hostility
- Growth suppression (long-term use)
- Withdrawal symptoms
Priapism, a painful and nonpainful penile erection lasting more than 4 hours have been reported in pediatric and adult patients treated with stimulants. The erection usually resolves when the drug is stopped. Prompt medical attention is required in the event of suspected priapism.
Ritalin side effects
The most common side effects with Ritalin are:
Insomnia can be limited by taking the drug before noon. For children taking Ritalin for ADHD, the most common side effects are loss of appetite, abdominal pain, weight loss, and sleep problems. The rate and severity of these side effects are less than that seen with dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine).
Other important side effects of Ritalin include:
- Chest pain
- Involuntary movements
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
There have been rare reports of Tourette's syndrome, a syndrome in which there are uncontrollable tics such as grimacing occurring with Ritalin use. Because of the potential for side effects, Ritalin should be used with caution by patients who have relatives with Tourette's syndrome or have the syndrome themselves, or who have severe anxiety, seizures, psychosis, emotional instability, major depression, glaucoma, or motor tics.
Sudden discontinuation of long-term Ritalin therapy may unmask depression. Gradual withdrawal, under supervision, is recommended.
Priapism defined as painful and nonpainful penile erection lasting more than 4 hours, have been reported in pediatric and adult patients treated with stimulants. The erection usually resolves when the drug is stopped. Prompt medical attention is required in the event of suspected priapism.
What drugs and supplements interact with Adderall vs. Ritalin?
The stimulation effects of Ritalin on the central nervous system (CNS) can be additive when used with other chemicals and medications that stimulate the CNS, such as caffeine (found in coffee, tea, or cola drinks), and pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine (found in many cough-and-cold preparations).
The combination of Ritalin or Adderall and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), for example, isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and procarbazine (Matulane), should not be taken with Ritalin since a hypertensive crisis (severely high blood pressure) may occur. Moreover, Ritalin should not be given to any patient within 14 days of receiving such an inhibitor.
Ritalin may reduce the blood pressure lowering effects of medications used to treat hypertension. As a result, blood pressure needs to be monitored when starting or stopping Ritalin in patients who are receiving medications to control blood pressure.
Antacids may increase absorption of amphetamine salts and increase their effectiveness and side effects.
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
In what forms are they available?
Adderall is available in the following forms and preparations.
- Adderall tablets: 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 20, and 30 mg.
- Adderall XR capsules: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 mg.
Ritalin is available in the following forms and preparations.
- Tablets: 5, 10, and 20 mg (Ritalin)
- Sustained-release tablets (Ritalin SR): 20 mg.
- Long acting tablets (Ritalin LA): 20, 30, and 40 mg.
- Extended release tablets (Concerta): 18, 27, 36, and 54 mg.
- Chewable tablets (Methylin): 2.5, 5, and 10 mg.
- Solution (Methylin): 5 mg/5 ml, 10 mg/5 ml.
- Extended release tablets (Methylin ER, Metadate ER): 10, 20 mg.
- Extended release capsules (Metadate): 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 mg.
Are these drugs safe to take if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
- Amphetamines like Adderall should not be used during pregnancy. Infants who are born to mothers dependent on amphetamines exhibit symptoms of withdrawal and have an increased risk of low birth weight.
- There are no adequate studies of Ritalin in pregnant women.
- Both Ritalin and Adderall are excreted in breast milk, so doctors and researchers do not know if these drugs are safe to take while breastfeeding.
Adderall (dextroamphetamine, amphetamine) and Ritalin (methylphenidate) are drugs that stimulate the central nervous system or CNS, and are prescribed to treat ADHD in children and adults.
Common side effects of both drugs include:
- Stomach ache
- Vision problems
- Nausea or vomiting
- Increase in blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Side effects unique to Adderall include:
- Hair loss
- Difficulty having an orgasm
Side effects unique to Ritalin include:
Multimedia: Slideshows, Images & Quizzes
Sleep Disorders: Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, and More
Learn about the different types of sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. Explore the symptoms, causes, tests and...
ADHD/ADD in Adults: Symptoms & Treatments in Pictures
Most people don't associate adults with the term ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) but it is a common disorder in...
ADHD Symptoms in Children
What is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)? Learn to recognize ADHD symptoms in children.
ADHD in Children: Better Parenting
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder seen in children. Parents can learn tips and techniques to...
Managing Concentration Killers: Smartphones, Social Media, and More
Finding it hard to concentrate? If you lack focus and attention, it may be internet addiction or the negative effects of social...
Childhood ADHD Quiz: Test, Symptoms & Medication
Find out causes, symptoms, and treatments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a widespread behavioral condition...
Adult ADHD Quiz: Symptoms & Test
What are the symptoms of adult ADHD? Take this quiz to learn what it means for an adult to suffer from ADHD and what can be done...
Adult ADHD: Organization and Time-Management Tips in Pictures
Learn daily living tips for adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). If you have ADHD or you just need to get...
Related Disease Conditions
Sleep Disorders (How to Get a Good Night's Sleep)
A number of vital tasks carried out during sleep help maintain good health and enable people to function at their best. Sleep needs vary from individual to individual and change throughout your life. The National Institutes of Health recommend about 7-9 hours of sleep each night for older, school-aged children, teens, and most average adults; 10-12 for preschool-aged children; and 16-18 hours for newborns. There are two stages of sleep; 1) REM sleep (rapid-eye movement), and 2) NREM sleep (non-rapid-eye movement). The side effects of lack of sleep or insomnia include: Irritability Tiredness Feeling sleepy during the day Concentration or memory problems Lack of sleep and insomnia can be caused by medical conditions or diseases, medications, stress, or pain. The treatment for lack of sleep and insomnia depends upon the cause.
13 Tips for Parenting a Teen With ADHD
Parenting a teenager who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be challenging. Parents can use specific strategies to help their teen cope with school and homework. Special care should be taken to help an ADHD teen drive safely and avoid alcohol and drug use.
Childhood ADD or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children)
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) causes the following symptoms in children: excessive activity, problems concentrating, and difficulty controlling impulses. There are three types of ADHD: the predominantly inattentive type, the predominantly hyperactive/impulsive type, and the combined (inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive) type. Stimulant medications are the most common medication used to treat ADHD.
Adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
About 2%-6% of adults have ADHD, a common behavioral problem. Symptoms include impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention. Treatment may involve ADHD education, attending a support group, skills training, and medication.
Narcolepsy (Definition, Symptoms, Treatment, Medication)
Causes of narcolepsy, a chronic disease of the central nervous system, have not been fully determined. Some theories include abnormalities in hypocretin neurons in the brain or an autoimmune disorder. Symptoms of narcolepsy include: excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, hypnagogic hallucinations, sleep paralysis, disturbed nocturnal sleep, and automatic behavior. Diagnosis of narcolepsy is based on a clinical evaluation, specific questionnaires, sleep logs or diaries, and the results of sleep laboratory tests. Treatments of narcolepsy symptoms include medication and lifestyle changes.
Sleep and Sleep Disorders in Children and Teenagers
Sleep needs in children and teenagers depend on the age of the child. Sleep disorders in children such as: sleep apnea, parasomnias, confusional arousals, night terrors, nightmares, narcolepsy, and sleepwalking which can affect a child's or teen's sleep. Healthy sleep habits and good sleep hygiene can help your infant, toddler, preschooler, tween, or teenager get a good night's sleep.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Teens
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in teens is a disruption of neurocognitive functioning. Genetics contribute to ADHD. Symptoms of ADHD in teens include inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity, or a combination of these. Treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy, behavior therapy, medication, or alternative therapies.
Parenting a Child With ADHD
ADHD is a behavioral condition with characteristics that include hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. Parenting a child with ADHD presents a variety of challenges. Treatment options for children with ADHD include medication and behavioral therapy.
Treatment & Diagnosis
Medications & Supplements
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
"amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Rx)." Medscape. 2017.
"methylphenidate (Rx)." Medscape. 2017.