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Ritalin vs Adderall

When comparing Ritalin vs Adderall understanding each one is important. Both prescription medications act as central nervous system stimulants.

They each work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain, improving attention, and reducing impulsive behavior among people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This neurological condition impairs neurotransmitter activity.

Both these drugs are considered effective and relatively 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
  • lose weight


Ritalin vs Adderall have several similarities, including:

  • Both are Schedule II controlled substances in the U.S. – the same as morphine, cocaine, and opium.
  • Each is mainly used to treat ADHD but can also treat narcolepsy.
  • These drugs are available in short-acting and slow-release tablets.
  • They have the potential for misuse and addiction.

Both can cause;

  • vomiting
  • speeding heart rate
  • seizures 
  • shortness of breath


The significant differences between Ritalin vs Adderall are as follows:

  • Ritalin contains methylphenidate, while Adderall contains a mix of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.
  • They are both CNS stimulants, but Ritalin works quicker, although Adderall is active for a more extended time.

They are very similar but with some key differences. For example, because Adderall is amphetamine-based, it tends to have greater dependency than Ritalin. Also, weight gain or loss is another crucial factor, as shown in the chart below.

It depends on how they plan to use the drug for most people.

  • For example, people diagnosed with ADHD who take prescription medication to manage their condition symptoms tend to respond better to methylphenidate-based medicines such as Ritalin.
  • It effectively boosts neurotransmitter activity without many of the physiological side effects of amphetamines.

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

Weight loss

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 end up experiencing ‘rebound’ symptoms characterized by overeating.

  • By contrast, people who take Adderall report losing weight on the drug. It is because Adderall contains amphetamine, a.k.a. “speed,” which amps up the body’s metabolic rate by increasing heart rate.
  • It is why Adderall is a popular street drug among people looking to shed excess pounds.

One mother remarked, “My son took 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 severe and potentially dangerous side effects.


CNS stimulants are highly addictive especially when taken for recreational purposes. 

Adderall is often the drug of choice among people looking for a stimulant to improve their academic, professional, or athletic performance. Unfortunately, people will often mix 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.


More Information

Stimulant ADHD Medications –

Methylphenidate and Amphetamines – NIH