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Adderall vs. Ritalin: Differences in Side Effects & Dosage

Adderall vs. Ritalin quick comparison of differences

What is Adderall? What is Ritalin?

Ritalin and Adderall are central nervous system stimulants prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

Both drugs work by changing the amounts of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. They can help increase a person’s attention and focus, decrease impulsiveness, improve organization, improve listening skills, and help control behavior problems.

Both drugs are recommended along with a treatment program for ADHD that may include counseling and other behavioral therapies.

Doctors also prescribe Ritalin and Adderall to treat a sleeping disorder called narcolepsy, to help people stay awake during the day.

Both drugs have a potential for misuse/abuse and addiction that can lead to dependence.

Are Adderall and Ritalin addictive?

Both Ritalin and Adderall can be habit forming and addictive, even when taken at the dosage your doctor or other heath care professional has prescribed. Both drugs should be prescribed cautiously in patients with a history of substance abuse. Withdrawal from both drugs should be supervised by a health care professional. Overdose of Adderall or Ritalin can lead to cardiac arrest and death.

What is the dosage for Ritalin vs. Adderall?

Adderall dosage

Adderall usually is taken once or twice a day. Doses should be separated by at least 4-6 hours. The recommended dose is 2.5 to 60 mg daily depending on the patient's age and the condition being treated.

Adderall XR is taken once daily. The recommended dose is 5-40 mg daily administered in the morning. The entire contents of the Adderall XR capsules may be sprinkled into applesauce and consumed immediately. Amphetamines should be administered during waking hours and late evening doses should be avoided in order to avoid insomnia.

Ritalin, Ritain XR dosage

The dose of Ritalin is adjusted based on patients' responses. It may be given once, twice, or three times daily depending on formulation. The recommended dose for Concerta is 18-72 mg once daily.

The recommended dose for Ritalin LA is 10-60 mg once daily and for regular Ritalin the recommended dose is 10-60 mg daily in 2 or 3 divided doses.

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What are the side effects of Adderall vs. Ritalin?

Adderall side effects

Side effects of amphetamines include excessive stimulation of the nervous system leading to:

Other important side effects include:

  • Sudden death
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Depression
  • Manic episodes
  • Aggressive behavior or hostility
  • Psychosis
  • Growth suppression (long-term use)
  • Dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Priapism, a painful and nonpainful penile erection lasting more than 4 hours have been reported in pediatric and adult patients treated with stimulants. The erection usually resolves when the drug is stopped. Prompt medical attention is required in the event of suspected priapism.

Ritalin side effects

The most common side effects with Ritalin are:

Insomnia can be limited by taking the drug before noon. For children taking Ritalin for ADHD, the most common side effects are loss of appetite, abdominal pain, weight loss, and sleep problems. The rate and severity of these side effects are less than that seen with dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine).

Other important side effects of Ritalin include:

There have been rare reports of Tourette's syndrome, a syndrome in which there are uncontrollable tics such as grimacing occurring with Ritalin use. Because of the potential for side effects, Ritalin should be used with caution by patients who have relatives with Tourette's syndrome or have the syndrome themselves, or who have severe anxiety, seizures, psychosis, emotional instability, major depression, glaucoma, or motor tics.

Sudden discontinuation of long-term Ritalin therapy may unmask depression. Gradual withdrawal, under supervision, is recommended.

Priapism defined as painful and nonpainful penile erection lasting more than 4 hours, have been reported in pediatric and adult patients treated with stimulants. The erection usually resolves when the drug is stopped. Prompt medical attention is required in the event of suspected priapism.


Who is at greater risk for developing ADHD?
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What drugs and supplements interact with Adderall vs. Ritalin?

The stimulation effects of Ritalin on the central nervous system (CNS) can be additive when used with other chemicals and medications that stimulate the CNS, such as caffeine (found in coffee, tea, or cola drinks), and pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine (found in many cough-and-cold preparations).

The combination of Ritalin or Adderall and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), for example, isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and procarbazine (Matulane), should not be taken with Ritalin since a hypertensive crisis (severely high blood pressure) may occur. Moreover, Ritalin should not be given to any patient within 14 days of receiving such an inhibitor.

Ritalin may reduce the blood pressure lowering effects of medications used to treat hypertension. As a result, blood pressure needs to be monitored when starting or stopping Ritalin in patients who are receiving medications to control blood pressure.

Antacids may increase absorption of amphetamine salts and increase their effectiveness and side effects.

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In what forms are they available?

Adderall is available in the following forms and preparations.

  • Adderall tablets: 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 20, and 30 mg.
  • Adderall XR capsules: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 mg.

Ritalin is available in the following forms and preparations.

  • Tablets: 5, 10, and 20 mg (Ritalin)
  • Sustained-release tablets (Ritalin SR): 20 mg.
  • Long acting tablets (Ritalin LA): 20, 30, and 40 mg.
  • Extended release tablets (Concerta): 18, 27, 36, and 54 mg.
  • Chewable tablets (Methylin): 2.5, 5, and 10 mg.
  • Solution (Methylin): 5 mg/5 ml, 10 mg/5 ml.
  • Extended release tablets (Methylin ER, Metadate ER): 10, 20 mg.
  • Extended release capsules (Metadate): 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 mg.

Are these drugs safe to take if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

  • Amphetamines like Adderall should not be used during pregnancy. Infants who are born to mothers dependent on amphetamines exhibit symptoms of withdrawal and have an increased risk of low birth weight.
  • There are no adequate studies of Ritalin in pregnant women.
  • Both Ritalin and Adderall are excreted in breast milk, so doctors and researchers do not know if these drugs are safe to take while breastfeeding.

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