Adderall and Ritalin are two very similar prescription drugs, so much so in fact that many people get them confused. The following provides an overview of Adderall vs. Ritalin and explains their similarities and differences.

Common Uses for Adderall and Ritalin

Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant that’s prescribed to treat the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, as well as narcolepsy. It’s meant as a way to help people with ADHD concentrate more attentively, focus more, stay still and control their actions and behaviors.

Ritalin is also a prescription medication, with the generic name methylphenidate, and it’s used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as well. It’s a stimulant and has the same effects as Adderall in most ways. It can also be used to treat narcolepsy.

When comparing the two, it’s important to note that both have the potential for abuse, addiction, and physical dependence. When these drugs are taken in significant doses, particularly by people who don’t have ADHD, it can make them feel high, energetic, or able to stay awake for long periods of time. These drugs can also suppress appetite temporarily, so some people may abuse them as a way to lose weight.

While there aren’t many differences in general, there are a few small differences in the Ritalin vs. Adderall dosage.

First, Ritalin is available in a few different forms, which are instant release, sustained release, or long-acting. Adderall is only available as an instant release and extended-release.

The instant release version of Adderall is effective for most people for around 3 to 4 hours. The instant release version of Ritalin is shorter-acting in most people, and its effectiveness ranges from 3 to 4 hours.

Also, a 5 mg dose of Adderall is equivalent to around 10 mg of Ritalin. Adderall doses are available starting at 5 mg and going up to 30 mg, with several incremental options in between. When compared to Ritalin dosages, there are only 5 mg, 10 mg, and 20 mg tablets available.

The overall difference is the fact that Adderall is more versatile because of the wider options available.

Side Effects & Risks

When comparing the side effects, you see that they’re very similar to one another, since both are central nervous stimulants that increase the availability of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Both speed up brain activity and other functions, which is why they have the specific side effects they do.

Side effects of Adderall and Ritalin can include sleep and appetite problems, anxiety, increased heart rate, headache, dizziness, and irritability. Some of the more serious possible side effects of both drugs include problems with heart rhythm, addiction, psychosis, and in children, slowed growth.

Are They Safe to Use Together?

People may wonder if it’s safe to take Adderall and Ritalin together, and while there are no specific interactions known between the two drugs, what can end up happening could be like an overdose. If you’re taking two drugs that act in similar ways on the brain and body and have similar side effects, it can amplify these effects, and it can be dangerous.

For example, both are stimulants of the central nervous system, so if you took them together, you might be at a higher risk of experiencing a cardiovascular problem or dangerously high blood pressure. It could also lead to severe mood changes such as anxiety or depression when coming down from the effects of these drugs.

The Dangers of an Adderall or Ritalin High

While Adderall and Ritalin do have therapeutic benefits for people with ADHD, there is also a potential for abuse and addiction with both of these drugs. When they’re taken, particularly at high doses, they create a high which can include feeling euphoric, self-confident, and energetic. Some people also abuse them to lose weight.

The risk of experiencing an Adderall high is likely greater because of differences in dosing and other factors.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.