Differences Between Adderall and Ritalin, Side Effects, FAQs, and More

Differences Between Adderall and Ritalin

Stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are often used for ADHD. These drugs work well to control hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness. They have a beneficial impact on one’s mood and aid in boosting energy and focus levels.

Controlling ADHD symptoms is the ultimate objective of both of these drugs. You should be aware of certain minor variations in their use, dosages, costs, and adverse effects, however. With the most recent information available on both drugs, this article will address all the important differences between Ritalin and Adderall and dispel any questions you may have.

A Brief History of Adderall vs. Ritalin

The primary ingredient of Adderall, amphetamines, were the first stimulants to be created in Germany in 1887. Because these medications boosted energy, confidence, and attentiveness during battle, Bavarian military men first utilized them. They were later extensively used in World War 2 [1*]. When they were employed as inhalers for nasal congestion and their stimulating qualities were observed in youngsters, they gained clinical notoriety in the 1930s.

A Brief History of Adderall vs. Ritalin

In 1996, Adderall was released into the market, and its extended-release variant, Adderall XR, was made accessible to the general public in 2001.

There’s an intriguing backstory behind Ritalin. The main ingredient in Ritalin, methylphenidate, was first created in a Swiss laboratory by chemist Leandro Panizzon. Its medicinal qualities were unknown at the time. Consequently, Leandro took the medication and began administering it to his wife Margarita, also known as Rita. Rita’s low blood pressure was pleasantly impacted, therefore he called the medication Ritalin in honor of his wife.

Ritalin was first prescribed to elderly people who were worried and sad. Afterwards, it was used to calm down hyperactive kids. Ritalin LA is the long-acting form that is sold on the market, similar to Adderall.

Ritalin vs. Adderall: Distinctions and Parallels


The composition of chemicals

The active component that gives Ritalin and Adderall their therapeutic effects is the primary distinction between the two drugs. Ritalin chemically includes methylphenidate hydrochloride [2*], whereas Adderall is made up of a combination of four amphetamine salts: D-amphetamine sulfate, D-amphetamine saccharate, D, L-amphetamine aspartate, and D, L-amphetamine sulfate.

Method of Action

Dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are the neurotransmitters that are increased in the brain by amphetamines (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin). To extend the duration of their effects, they do this by a variety of strategies, including as halting the metabolism of certain neurotransmitters and interfering with their movement throughout the brain. Moreover, amphetamines encourage dopamine to be released from synaptic vesicles, an action that methylphenidate may not enhance.

Length of Action

The length of time that Adderall and Ritalin last to take effect is another significant distinction. Ritalin is a short-acting medication that takes 1-2 hours to reach its peak concentration in the body and has a 2–3 hour half-life, or how long it takes for the active ingredient in a medication to decrease by half. Adderall, on the other hand, reaches its peak concentration in two to three hours and has a longer half-life of around six hours.

Their dosages are thus modified appropriately. Ritalin has to be taken many times a day to maintain its therapeutic benefits, while Adderall may be taken once or twice a day.

But currently, slow-release versions of these medications are also offered; these include the Ritalin extended-release (Ritalin LA), Adderall extended-release (Adderall XR), and Ritalin sustained-release (Ritalin SR). Ritalin SR’s parent firm has since stopped selling it. Since these medications stay active in the body for extended periods of time, they reduce the many dosage concerns. Ritalin LA treats the symptoms for eight to ten hours, whereas Adderall XR lasts for ten to twelve hours.

Doses Available

Oral pills of 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, and 30 mg of Adderall are available. Oral capsules with the following dosages of Adderall XR are available: 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg. Oral pills of 5 mg, 10 mg, and 20 mg of Ritalin are available. Oral capsules containing 10, 20, 30, and 40 milligrams of Ritalin LA are available.

Price and Coverage for Insurance

Depending on whether you are purchasing the brand-name or generic version, Ritalin and Adderall have different prices. It also depends on how these medications are covered by your insurance plan. The generic form of Adderall typically costs $45 for a month’s supply, whereas the generic Adderall XR costs $184. For a month’s supply, the brand versions of these medications cost $113 and $236, respectively. Typically, the cost of each Adderall dosage is the same.

A month’s supply of the generic form of Ritalin, methylphenidate, typically costs $31. The price of the branded Ritalin varies according on the dose, ranging from $18 to $53. The cost of a month’s supply of branded Ritalin LA is around $170.

The generic forms of Adderall and Ritalin are often covered by insurance programs, including Medicare. Make contact with your insurance provider for full specifics about the coverage of these medications.

*Note: The ultimate cost of the prescription may vary based on your insurance plan and pharmacy; these are the typical wholesale rates for Adderall and Ritalin.


Overview of the Key Benefits of Adderall and Ritalin

Class of DrugsCentral nervous system stimulantCentral nervous system stimulant
Method of Actionraises the amount of neurotransmittersraises the amount of neurotransmitters
chemical makeupMethylphenidateSalts of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine
Forms accessibleRitalin

Ritalin LA

Adderall XR
Doses AvailableRitalin pills (5 mg, 10 mg, and 20 mg)

10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, and 40 mg capsules of Ritalin LA
5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, and 30 mg pills of Adderall

5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg pills of Adderall XR
Usage Agesix years of age or olderthree years of age or older
Length of ActionRitalin: two or four hours.

Ritalin LA: eight to ten hours
Adderall: four to six hours

Adderall XR: ten to twelve hours
Average Price for a month’s supplyVersion generic ($31)

Versions by brand ($18 to $170)
Version generic ($45 to $184)

Type of brand ($113 to $236)

Uses of Ritalin vs. Adderall

The main indication for both Ritalin and Adderall is ADHD. Furthermore, the FDA has authorized them for the treatment of narcolepsy. Let’s examine how these medications aid in the treatment of these and other ailments.


In the US, persistent neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD are rather frequent. A 2016 CDC report [3*] states that this disease has been identified in around 6.1 million youngsters in the United States. Untreated ADHD may persist throughout adulthood, posing several challenges for sufferers in carrying out their daily tasks. Estimates put the incidence of ADHD in adults at 4.4% [4*].

Three groups comprise the main symptoms of ADHD: impulsivity, inattentiveness, and hyperactivity. A person may exhibit mostly hyperactive/impulsive symptoms, inattentive symptoms, or a combination of both depending on the kind of ADHD.

In around 70% [5*] of instances, Adderall and Ritalin are equally effective at treating and reducing all forms of ADHD symptoms. They support improved focus and decrease in impulsive and hyperactive behavior, which promotes friendlier social interactions as well as increased productivity at work or in the classroom.

Regarding dosage, the recommended first dose of Adderall for ADHD is typically 5 mg to 40 mg given once or twice day, preferably in the morning and at lunch. However, Ritalin is often given as a 20- or 30-milligram pill twice or three times a day initially, to be taken in the morning, lunch, and afternoon for ADHD. Ritalin LA and Adderall XR, on the other hand, have longer-lasting effects and may be used once daily.

Note: Depending on each patient’s unique therapeutic requirements, dosages are established individually and may vary while a patient undergoes therapy. When in doubt about the dose, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor.


A neurological condition known as narcolepsy [6*] is characterized by excessive, recurrent daytime tiredness and drowsiness. Although the actual origin of this illness is unknown, autoimmune mechanisms are thought to have a role in its development.

To address this disease, pharmaceutical treatment with modafinil is combined with behavior modification. In the event that the aforementioned medicine is unable to control narcolepsy symptoms, stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are often the next best options. They improve people’s motor activity and aid in keeping them awake throughout the day.

These medications have certain off-label applications in addition to these authorized ones.

Disorders of Depression

Depression problems may be treated with Adderall and Ritalin. Patients who may benefit from these medications in addition to antidepressant treatment include:

Because tolerance rapidly develops against their antidepressant qualities, they are typically taken for a brief period of time—two to four weeks—to treat depression.

After brain damage

Brain damage may result from infections, trauma, tumors, or strokes [7*]. Neurological deficiencies may result from it, such as issues with motivation, awareness, motor skills, and cognitive processes. After a brain injury, Ritalin and Adderall may aid in the recovery of these abilities and raise the likelihood that patients will engage in rehabilitation programs. To determine their efficacy in certain situations, further study is necessary.


Many different medical disorders might lead to fatigue. Studies [8*] are being conducted on stimulants, including Ritalin and Adderall, to alleviate tiredness in people suffering from multiple sclerosis, a degenerative condition affecting the brain and spinal cord. However, due to potential adverse effects, its usage may be restricted in some individuals.

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome [9*] may also utilize these medications.

Being overweight

Adderall and Ritalin inhibit appetite, which may lead to anorexia. They may thus be used to treat obesity and aid in weight reduction. Nevertheless, the effects of this appetite suppressant wear off after only a few weeks of treatment. Therefore, unless there is an urgent need for their usage, stimulants are typically not suggested for weight reduction due to the negative effects.

Manic Depressive Disorder

Typically, stimulants are used as second- or third-line treatments for bipolar illness. According to a literature study [10*], there may be benefits to methylphenidate (Ritalin) for treating some types of bipolar illness that manifest as traumatic brain damage or frontotemporal dementia. Further research is necessary since their utility in bipolar disorders is still debatable.

Ritalin and Adderall usesFDA-Sanctioned ApplicationOff-Label Utilization
Bipolar Disorder✔️

Compare Adderall vs. Ritalin: Side Effects and Interactions

The adverse effects of Adderall and Ritalin are almost identical, albeit each individual experiences them to varying degrees of severity. Typical adverse effects include of:

In addition to the typical adverse effects listed here, Ritalin and Adderall may also induce certain uncommon but serious side effects.

Heart Problems

Blood pressure and heart rate are raised by stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin. Patients who already have a cardiac problem or high blood pressure are more vulnerable to having a heart attack or stroke as a result of this. A study [11*] found that people using Ritalin or Adderall had the same chance of experiencing a cardiovascular incident. Consequently, before using any stimulants, it is imperative that you tell the doctor about all of your medical and drug histories.

Psychological Issues

Long-term use of high dosages of Adderall or Ritalin might cause psychotic symptoms such delusions and hallucinations in certain users. These medications may also result in extreme anxiety, panic episodes, and paranoia. They are thus used with caution in individuals who are already coping with other mental health issues.

Disorders of Movement

There is a connection between the development of movement disorders such Tourette syndrome and tics and Ritalin and Adderall. But this side effect normally goes away on its own in seven to ten days and is self-limiting. Tics brought on by ritalin may last for many months before going away.

Distinctive Vascular Illness

It is possible for Adderall and Ritalin to reduce blood flow to the hands, feet, legs, and arms. This side effect is typically insignificant, but sometimes these medications might cause peripheral vascular disease (PVD). If PVD is not treated in a timely manner, it may lead to tissue loss and possibly amputation.

Serotonin Syndrome

Stimulants may raise the risk of serotonin syndrome because they raise serotonin levels in the brain, as do several other serotonin-enhancing medications like antidepressants. Among its symptoms include delirium, convulsions, vertigo, restlessness, etc. This danger is negligible at therapeutic levels, however.

Overdosage on Drugs

Ritalin and Adderall often don’t result in major side effects when taken at recommended therapy dosages. Nevertheless, there is a chance of taking an overdose of these medications, which may be lethal, because of their misuse potential. Rapid breathing, an irregular pulse, disorientation, delusions, tremors, panic attack, convulsions, and coma are some of the severe signs of stimulant overdose.

Drug Abuse and Dependency

When used for extended periods of time at high dosages for purposes other than medical needs, Ritalin and Adderall carry a significant risk of drug dependence. It may result in psychological and physical reliance, both of which may lead to addictive behavior. It is more common among those who use illegal drugs and college students who utilize it to stay focused during study sessions.

Common Adverse Reactions to Adderall and RitalinRare and Dangerous Ritalin and Adderall Side Effects

mouth dryness

Lack of sleep



The diarrhea



Heart palpitations

increased perspiration

stomach ache

appetite decline

Loss of weight

Rapid Heartbeat
elevated blood pressure

cardiac issues



extreme anxiety

Attacks of panic


Tourette syndrome


Diseases of the peripheral vessels (PVD)

Serotonin syndrome

Increase in glaucoma symptoms

An increase in hyperthyroidism

Bruxism (inappropriate teeth clenching)

Formication: unusual feelings on the skin

Overly emotional states or emotional instability

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of all the negative effects that Ritalin and Adderall might induce. If you have any questions about the side effects, don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist or doctor.

Drug Interactions Between Adderall and Ritalin

Adderall and Ritalin interact with several drug types in a similar way. Stimulants lower the metabolism of medicines, increasing their plasma levels. These consist of primidone, phenytoin, warfarin, and tricyclic or tetracyclic antidepressants, among others. Additionally, they could make certain antihypertensives less effective, such losartan, lisinopril, etc. The most frequent medication interactions involving stimulants are shown below.

MedicineClass of DrugsPotential Interaction between Ritalin and Adderall


MAOIsThe hypertensive crisis

The isoflurane

anestheticsHeart instability, or irregular heartbeat


medications that lower blood pressureReduced antihypertensive effectiveness


Beta-Blockerscardiac issues


Depression-fighting drugsSerotonin syndrome

Because Adderall may raise corticosteroid levels in the body, it may also make it difficult to measure corticosteroids in the body.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of all potential medication interactions between Ritalin and Adderall. For further information, please speak with your pharmacist or physician.

Adderall and Ritalin contraindications

Ritalin and Adderall use is contraindicated in a few absolute and relative ways. When a therapy is absolutely contraindicated, it signifies that there are potential threats to a patient’s life and should be avoided. The following are absolute contraindications for both stimulants:

Currently using MAOIs or have stopped using them in the last 14 days.
Conversely, relative contraindications restrict the use of a certain therapy to certain individuals and should be used with considerable care. Ritalin and Adderall relative contraindications are:

FAQs: Ritalin vs. Adderall

Which medication, Adderall or Ritalin, works better?

In most situations, Ritalin and Adderall are equally effective in reducing the symptoms of ADHD. A meta-analysis [12*] of 133 randomized studies suggests that Adderall could be the better choice for adults because of its safety and effectiveness. Ritalin, on the other hand, could be more appropriate for young people. However, depending on how each patient responds to the therapy, there may be a range of reactions to these treatments.

Is it possible to take Adderall and Ritalin together?

Since no known interactions between Adderall and Ritalin have been documented, it is unknown how these two medications interact. That does not, however, mean that Ritalin and Adderall have no interactions and may be used simultaneously without risk. There is a chance for major side effects, such an overdose, since both medications function to generate the same result. Therefore, physicians advise against taking them both at once.

Is it possible to go from Ritalin to Adderall?

If one drug is not functioning well or is having serious adverse effects, it is feasible to go from Ritalin to Adderall and vice versa. It need to be taken as directed by a physician, with appropriate dosage modifications.

Which drug is more potent, Adderall or Ritalin?

At the same dosage, Adderall is often twice as strong as Ritalin; for example, 5 mg of Adderall is equivalent to 10 mg of Ritalin. This implies that in order to have the same therapeutic effects as Adderall, you must take twice as much Ritalin. But only a doctor, after a thorough assessment of your symptoms, can decide how much medication is appropriate for your situation.

Is it safe to use Adderall or Ritalin when pregnant or nursing?

Further study is required to determine if Ritalin and Adderall usage during pregnancy and nursing is safe or detrimental. Because stimulants may result in birth malformations, experts advise avoiding taking them during pregnancy, particularly during the first three months.

Is it possible to take alcohol and Adderall together?

Drinking alcohol while taking Ritalin or Adderall might exacerbate nervous system adverse effects include irritation, sleepiness, anxiety, and memory problems. It is thus not advised to combine alcohol and stimulants.

How can I get Adderall or Ritalin?

Due to strict regulations, you need a doctor’s prescription to purchase Adderall and Ritalin from pharmacies. Apart from going to the doctor in person, telemedicine services may also be used to get a prescription for Adderall and Ritalin. If specific requirements are satisfied,

Last Remarks

Strong stimulant drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are used to treat ADHD and a few other ailments. Their prices, forms, doses, and medication interactions vary somewhat. Because of the potential for abuse, they are strictly regulated pharmaceuticals. However, they often successfully manage ADHD symptoms when taken as directed by a physician and at therapeutic dosages.

Adult ADHD patients may benefit from the individualized treatment regimens that our medical specialists have created. You may schedule an appointment and speak with one of our physicians at any time if you have any concerns about ADHD drugs, such as Adderall and Ritalin.