Ritalin Vs. Adderall: Side Effects, Addiction, and More

Ritalin and Adderall are two of the most popular stimulant medications, and they’re commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Because these drugs treat the same issue, many people do not understand the difference between them. Today, we’re going to look at Ritalin vs. Adderall in relation to how they work, their side effects, and their risk of addiction.

Who Needs Ritalin and Adderall?

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While Ritalin and Adderall are reasonably safe when taken as prescribed, people with ADHD are not the only ones receiving them. Recreational drug users often seek out these drugs to feel more alert or increase their productivity. And given the effects of these drugs, it’s not hard to see why.

Physicians prescribe stimulants to treat ADHD symptoms, which can include lack of restraint, absent-mindedness, and feelings of constant boredom. To address these issues, stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall:

  • Improve focus
  • Lower feelings of unwarranted excitability
  • Lessen irritability
  • Stabilize moods

How do they do it? Both drugs are central nervous system stimulants, or CNS stimulants. They create norepinephrine and dopamine throughout your CNS connections, which makes your brain work faster. This creates great effects for children and adults with ADHD, but it also creates the “high” that leads people to abuse these drugs.

Unfortunately, these CNS stimulants also come with negative side effects. Some of the common Ritalin and Adderall side effects include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic headaches

While they have similar effects, these drugs work in very different ways. And those differences affect everything from dosages to who should be taking these drugs.

Differences and Similarities Between Adderall and Ritalin

When looking at Ritalin vs. Adderall, the first thing to consider is their chemical composition. Where Ritalin’s drug component consists of methylphenidate hydrochloride, Adderall’s active ingredient is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. These differences in ingredients drastically alter how one takes these drugs.

Notably, Ritalin does not last as long as Adderall. This is because Adderall often comes in an extended release or sustained release form, meaning your body slowly breaks down the medication throughout the day. Known as Adderall XR, this version of the drug lasts for about four to six hours. Compared to Ritalin’s effects, which only last two to three hours, many people feel that Adderall is the best choice. However, a long-acting drug may not be inherently better.

Many people prefer Ritalin because it allows them to better manage the drug’s side effects. For example, they may take it early enough that it does not disrupt their sleeping or eating patterns. Additionally, one analysis found that Ritalin worked better than Adderall for children. Ultimately, the best thing to do is reach a mutual decision with your healthcare provider. Because when you take CNS stimulants without following a doctor’s explicit instructions, you endanger both your mental and your physical health.

Ritalin and Adderall Addiction

When people abuse Ritalin or Adderall, it typically starts as a way to get more done. That’s why young adults are especially at risk for developing an addiction to these drugs. However, while it may start innocently enough, many people quickly lose control of this new habit.

As you continue to use CNS stimulants, you may feel tempted to take higher and higher dosages. For example, you might start out on 5 mg of Adderall, then decide that you want even more of that high. This could lead to you taking more pills or seeking out higher dosages, like 30 mg pills. Not only will this increase your risk to experience negative side effects, but this slippery slope could lead to a long-term addiction. Unfortunately, many people don’t see the dangers of abusing Ritalin or Adderall.

While neither has proven to be more addictive than the other, both of these drugs can cause addiction. Because these drugs come prescribed by a doctor, there’s a perception that they’re inherently safe. And while that’s true to some extent, in that they are safe to take as recommended, these are still habit-forming drugs. Taking them recreationally or increasing your dose without a doctor’s approval could cause long-lasting addiction issues.

If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction to Adderall or Ritalin, look at your local addiction treatment options. Effective drug addiction treatment will include each of the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to help you develop new, healthier thought and behavioral patterns
  • Addiction education to help you understand how addiction forms and teach you new coping mechanisms
  • Relapse prevention therapy to equip you for a lifelong recovery
  • Co-occurring disorders counseling to address both your addiction and mental health issues that led to addiction

Find Stimulant Drug Treatment

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When it comes to Ritalin vs. Adderall, both carry serious addiction concerns. If you need help overcoming your addiction, you’re not alone. The Vance Johnson Recovery Center is ready to serve the Las Vegas community in any way that we can.

Would you like to learn more about how we can help you recover from CNS stimulants? Reach out to our admissions specialists at 772-877-0041, or fill out a digital contact form. Recovering from these stimulants is challenging, but remember, you’re not alone in your search for long-term healing.

About the author

Located in dynamic Las Vegas, Nevada, the Vance Johnson Recovery Center (VJRC) a 44-bed facility is run by a skilled multi-disciplinary team of medical and behavioral health professionals that includes nurses, counselors, and doctors, along with complementary and alternative medicine specialists to provide our clients with a transformational experience that encompasses mind, body, and spirit. Our approach is holistic and grounded in research and evidenced-based best practices that help people develop the awareness and skills required to achieve and sustain recovery.

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