What Are the Differences and Similarities Between Ritalin vs Adderall?

Curious about the differences between Adderall vs Ritalin? Wondering why Adderall and Ritalin are popular street drugs? Want to know more about why these two drugs are used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

What Is Ritalin vs What Is Adderall?

Ritalin and Adderall are both prescription medications that are central nervous system, or CNS stimulants. They work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain, which in turn helps to improve attention and reduce impulsive behavior among people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADHD)- a neurological condition that impairs neurotransmitter activity.

When Adderall and Ritalin are used as prescribed by people who have been diagnosed with ADHD, these drugs are generally effective and safe. However, like all types of CNC stimulants, Ritalin and Adderall are popular street drugs among people who use them to improve their athletic performance, pull all-nighters before exams, or lose weight.

How Are The Similarities Between Ritalin vs Adderall?

Ritalin and Adderall have a number of similarities, including:

  • Both are listed as Schedule II controlled substances in the U.S. – the same level as morphine, cocaine, and opium
  • Ritalin and Adderall are mainly used to treat ADHD, but can also be prescribed to treat narcolepsy
  • Both of these drugs are available in short-acting and slow-release tablets
  • Adderall and Ritalin have a high potential for misuse and addiction

What Are The Differences Between Ritalin vs Adderall?

The major difference between these two drugs is the fact that:

Ritalin contains methylphenidate, while Adderall contains a mix of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Amphetamines (Adderall) work by boosting existing levels of dopamine in the brain; by contrast, methylphenidate (Ritalin) works by suppressing the re-uptake inhibitors. This prevents dopamine from being “used up”.

Side By Side Comparison Between Ritalin vs Adderall

Here is a side by side comparison chart between Adderall vs Ritalin. They are very similar but with some key differences. Because Adderall is amphetamine based it has a tendency towards greater dependency than Ritalin. Also, weight gain or loss is another key factor, see the chart below.

adderall vs ritalin side by side comparisionSo it just depends on how you plan to use the drug. People who have actually been diagnosed with ADHD and take prescription medication to manage the symptoms of their condition tend to respond better to methylphenidate-based medications such as Ritalin. This is because it’s effective at boosting neurotransmitter activity without many of the physiological side effects that come with amphetamines.

By contrast, people without ADHD who use prescription drugs to get high often prefer Adderall, the amphetamine-based drug, since it stimulates both neurological and physiological systems to provide a whole-body boost.

For example, one of the biggest complaints medical users have about Ritalin is unwanted weight gain. Ritalin tends to act as an appetite suppressant for a while, but once patients develop a tolerance, they can actually end up experiencing ‘rebound’ symptoms often characterized by overeating.

By contrast, people who take Adderall report loosing weight on the drug. This is because Adderall contains amphetamine, a.k.a. “speed”, which amps up your metabolic rate by increasing your heart rate, which makes Adderall a popular street drug among people looking to shed excess pounds.

My son takes Adderall for ADHD and lost a lot of weight. We have to MAKE him eat most of the time.”

What’s More Dangerous – Adderall vs Ritalin?

the differences and similarities between adderall vs ritalinBoth of these drugs come with some serious, and potentially dangerous, side effects. Like all CNS stimulants they’re known to be highly addictive, and when taken for recreational purposes, Adderall vs Ritalin can cause vomiting, speeding heart rate, seizures, and shortness of breath.

Because Adderall is often the drug of choice among people looking for a stimulant to improve their academic, professional, or athletic performance, Adderall is sometimes mixed with mega-doses of caffeinated beverages like energy drinks – this can have deadly consequences for users. Combining amphetamines with other stimulants (known as ‘stacking’) can lead to cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, or other life-threatening side effects.

About the author

Robert M. has been in recovery since 1988. He is a sponsor and loyal member of AA. He has been working in the drug and alcohol field for nearly 20 years. During that time, he has written industry blogs and articles for a variety of industry websites including Transitions, Malibu Horizons, Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches and Lifeskills of Boca Raton.

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