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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 both 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. They are popular street drugs among people who use them to improve their athletic performance, pull all-nighters before exams, or lose weight.
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
- Mainly used to treat ADHD, but can also be prescribed to treat narcolepsy
- These drugs are available in short-acting and slow-release tablets
- They have a potential for misuse and addiction
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 helps prevents dopamine from being “used up”.
Side By Side
Here is a side by side comparison chart between these two drugs. 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.
So 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.”
Both 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.
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