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Ritalin Vs. Adderall: Differences, Side Effects, FAQs & More

Ritalin Vs. Adderall: Dosages, Differences, Side Effects
Written by:

Umar Javed



Ritalin and Adderall are stimulants commonly prescribed for ADHD. These medications are effective in managing impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattentiveness. They also help increase energy and concentration levels while positively affecting a person’s mood.

The ultimate goal of both these medications is the same — to control ADHD symptoms. However, there are some subtle differences in their functioning, doses, uses, cost, and side effects that you should know. This article will cover all the crucial points about Ritalin vs. Adderall and clear all your doubts with up-to-date information on these medications.

The choice of antidepressants is wide: ask our doctor about the most appropriate antidepressants prescribed online in your particular case.

Ritalin Vs. Adderall: A Brief History

Amphetamines (the main chemical compound in Adderall) were the first stimulants developed in Germany in 1887. Initially, these drugs were used by the military soldiers in Bavaria because they increased energy, confidence, and alertness during combat. Later, they were widely used during world war 2 [1*] . Clinically, they became prominent in the 1930s when they were used as inhalers for nasal congestion, and their stimulant properties were noticed in children.

Adderall was introduced in the market in 1996, and in 2001 its extended-release version (Adderall XR) became available to the public.

Ritalin has an interesting story of origin. Methylphenidate (the active chemical compound of Ritalin) was first synthesized in a Swiss lab by a chemist named Leandro Panizzon. At that time, its therapeutic properties were not known. So, Leandro took the drug and started giving it to his wife, Margarita, whose nickname was Rita. It positively affected Rita’s low blood pressure, so he named the drug after his wife, i.e., Ritalin.

Initial medical use of Ritalin was on depressed and anxious elderly patients. Later it was used in hyperactive children to make them calm down. Just like Adderall, it also has a long-acting version available in the market, Ritalin LA.

Ritalin Vs. Adderall: Differences and Similarities


Chemical Composition

The main difference between Ritalin and Adderall is in their active ingredient responsible for their therapeutic properties. Adderall’s chemical composition comprises a mixture of four amphetamine salts (D-amphetamine sulfate, D-amphetamine saccharate, D, L-amphetamine aspartate, and D, L-amphetamine sulfate), whereas Ritalin chemically contains methylphenidate hydrochloride [2*] .

Mechanism of Action

Amphetamines (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin) work by increasing the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, namely dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. They do so by various mechanisms, including stopping the metabolism of these neurotransmitters and disrupting their transport in the brain, so their effects last for a longer duration. Amphetamines also promote the release of dopamine from synaptic vesicles, whereas methylphenidate might not stimulate this effect.

Duration of Action

Another important difference between Ritalin and Adderall is their duration of action. Ritalin is a short-acting drug, which reaches its peak concentration in the body in 1-2 hours with a half-life (the amount of time it takes a drug’s active component to reduce by half) of 2 to 3 hours. In contrast, Adderall has a longer half-life of about 6 hours and reaches its peak concentration in 2 to 3 hours.

As a result, their doses are adjusted accordingly. Adderall is prescribed in a single or twice daily dose, while Ritalin requires multiple dosing throughout the day to sustain its therapeutic effects.

However, now these drugs also have slow-released versions available, namely Adderall extended-release (Adderall XR), Ritalin sustained release (Ritalin SR), and Ritalin extended-release (Ritalin LA). Ritalin SR has been discontinued now by its parent company. These drugs lower the multiple dosing issues as they remain effective in the body for a long time. Adderall XR effects last 10 to 12 hours, whereas Ritalin LA manages the symptoms for 8 to 10 hours.

Available Dosages

Adderall is available as 5mg, 7.5mg, 10mg, 12.5mg, 15mg, 20mg, and 30mg oral tablets. Adderall XR comes in the form of oral capsules in these doses: 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 25mg, 30mg. As far as Ritalin is concerned, it is available in 5mg, 10mg, and 20mg oral tablets. Ritalin LA is available in 10mg, 20mg, 30mg, and 40mg oral capsules.

Every medication has its advantages and drawbacks. Contact MEDvidi prescribers to get a prescription and know more about your medication.

Cost and Insurance Coverage

The cost of Ritalin and Adderall [3*] varies depending on whether you are getting the generic or brand version. It also depends on your insurance plan and coverage of these drugs. Usually, for a month’s supply, the generic version of Adderall costs $45 and the generic Adderall XR is priced at $184. The brand versions of these medicines cost $113 and $236 for a month’s supply each, respectively. All the doses of Adderall usually cost the same.

The generic version of Ritalin (methylphenidate) usually costs $31 for a month’s supply. The branded version of Ritalin costs anywhere from $18 to $53, depending on the dosage, while branded Ritalin LA costs around $170 for a month’s supply.

Insurance plans, including Medicare, usually cover the generic versions of Ritalin and Adderall. For complete details about the coverage of these drugs, contact your insurance provider.

*Note: These are average wholesale prices of Adderall and Ritalin, and the final price of the medication may be higher or lower depending on your insurance plan and pharmacy.

Difference between Ritalin and Adderall


There are a host of similarities between Adderall and Ritalin. Both of them:

  • belong to the to the class of drugs called CNS stimulants;
  • are listed in Schedule 2 by the FDA, making them highly controlled substances;
  • are approved by FDA for treating ADHD and narcolepsy;
  • should be stored at room temperature between 68℉ and 77℉;
  • are prescribed for short-term or long-term treatment, depending on the patient’s symptoms;
  • have a high potential for abuse and withdrawal side effects;
  • can be prescribed online at MEDvidi for adults if the physician deems them necessary to treat the condition.

The dosage is chosen depending on one’s diagnosis, symptoms, health aspects, and other factors. Consult with a specialist today!

Summary of Main Ritalin and Adderall Features




Drug Class

CNS stimulant

CNS stimulant

Mechanism of Action

Increases neurotransmitter levels

Increases neurotransmitter levels

Chemical composition


Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine salts

Available forms


Ritalin LA


Adderall XR

Available Dosages

Ritalin (5mg, 10mg, and 20mg tablets)

Ritalin LA (10mg, 20mg, 30mg, and 40mg capsules)

Adderall (5mg, 7.5mg, 10mg, 12.5mg, 15mg, 20mg, and 30mg tablets)

Adderall XR (5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 25mg, and 30mg capsules)

Age of Use

6 years and older

3 years and older

Duration of Action

Ritalin — 2 to 4 hours

Ritalin LA — 8 to 10 hours

Adderall — 4 to 6 hours

Adderall XR — 10 to 12 hours

Average Cost (per month’s supply)

Generic version ($31)

Brand version ($18 to $170)

Generic version ($45 to $184)

Brand version ($113 to $236

Ritalin Vs. Adderall: Uses

Both Adderall and Ritalin are primarily indicated for ADHD. In addition, they are also approved by the FDA to treat narcolepsy. Let’s look at how these drugs help manage these and other conditions.


ADHD is a chronic neurodevelopmental disorder that is quite common in the US. According to a 2016 CDC report [4*] , around 6.1 million US children have been diagnosed with this disorder. Untreated ADHD can continue into adulthood, causing many difficulties for the patients in performing their day-to-day activities. The prevalence of ADHD among adults is estimated to be around 4.4% [5*] .

The primary symptoms of ADHD are divided into three categories: hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness. Based on the type of ADHD, a person may present with predominantly hyperactive/impulsive symptoms or inattentive symptoms, or a combined presentation of both.

Adderall and Ritalin are both effective in controlling and managing all types of ADHD symptoms in about 70% [6*] of the cases. They help to increase concentration and reduce hyperactive and impulsive behavior, leading to more friendly social interactions and better productivity in work or studies.

As far as dosage is concerned, the usual starting dose of Adderall for ADHD is between 5 mg to 40 mg once or twice a day, taken in the morning and noon. On the other hand, Ritalin is usually prescribed for ADHD as 20 mg or 30 mg tablets two to three times a day at the start, to be taken in the morning, noon, and afternoon. In contrast, Adderall XR and Ritalin LA can be taken once daily as their effects last longer.

Note: Dosages are determined separately for each patient, depending on their therapeutic needs, and can change with treatment. Always contact your doctor for any questions on the dosage.

At MEDvidi, from our expert you can get prescribed online ADHD medication, which enhance the effectiveness of your treatment.


Narcolepsy [7*] is a neurological disorder characterized by frequent, uncontrollable daytime sleepiness and fatigue. It is not exactly known what causes this condition, but autoimmune processes are believed to be involved in its etiology.

Behavior modification is used along with pharmacological therapy with modafinil to treat this condition. Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin are usually the second-line drugs if the above-mentioned medication fails to manage narcolepsy symptoms. They help keep people wakeful during the day and increase their motor activity.

Besides these approved uses, there are also some off-label uses of these drugs.

Are Ritalin and Adderall the same

Depressive Disorders

Ritalin and Adderall may be used for treating depressive disorders. Some of the patients that might benefit from these drugs as augmentation of antidepressant therapy include:

  • Patients with treatment-resistant depression.
  • Elderly patients who cannot tolerate the side effects of standard antidepressants.
  • Patients with comorbid depression and ADHD.
  • Patients with severe depression in which ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) is contraindicated.
  • Depressed patients with extremely low levels of energy.

They are usually used for a short term (2 to 4 weeks) for depression because tolerance develops quickly against their antidepressant properties.

Post Brain Injury

Brain injury can be caused by tumors, trauma, stroke [8*] , or infections. It can lead to neurological deficits, including problems with cognition, motivation, alertness, and motor functions. Ritalin and Adderall may help recover these functions and increase patients’ chances of participating in rehabilitative programs after a brain injury. However, further research is needed to establish their effectiveness in such cases.

The symptoms of depression may slightly vary from one person to another, and a diagnosis can be made only after a comprehensive evaluation.


Fatigue can develop due to a whole host of medical conditions. Stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall are being studied [9*] to help fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis (a degenerative disorder of the brain and spinal cord). However, their use may be limited in these patients because of possible side effects.

In addition, these drugs may also be used in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome [10*] .


Adderall and Ritalin have anorexia-inducing effects as they suppress appetite. As a result, they may be used to help with weight loss and treat obesity. However, this appetite suppressant effect lasts only a couple of weeks of their use. Therefore, considering the side effects, stimulants are generally not recommended for weight loss unless there is an absolute need for their use.

Bipolar Disorder

Stimulants are usually employed as second or third-line medications for managing bipolar disorder. A literature review [11*] concluded that using methylphenidate (Ritalin) in specific forms of bipolar disorder that present with frontotemporal dementia or traumatic brain injury might show positive results. Although their use is still controversial in bipolar cases, warranting further studies.

Uses of Ritalin and Adderall

FDA-Approved Use

Off-Label Use






Bipolar Disorder


Ritalin Vs. Adderall: Side Effects and Interactions

The side effects of Ritalin and Adderall are almost the same, and their intensity differs from one person to another. Common side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Palpitations
  • Increased sweating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fast heartbeat

Apart from these common ones, Ritalin and Adderall also cause some rare and severe side effects disclosed below.

Seek help if you experience any side effects from the medication you take. Contact us to get your treatment plan adjusted.

Heart Issues

Stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall increase the heart rate and blood pressure. This puts the patients at extra risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke, especially in those who already have a pre-existing heart condition or high blood pressure. According to a study [12*] , both Ritalin and Adderall pose the same risk of a cardiovascular event in patients. Therefore, it is vital to disclose all your medical and drug history to the doctor before taking any of the stimulants.

Adderall and Ritalin dosage chart

Psychiatric Problems

People taking Adderall or Ritalin in high doses for a long time can experience psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. In addition, these drugs can also cause severe anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia. Hence, they are carefully used in patients already dealing with other mental health problems.

Movement Disorders

Ritalin and Adderall are linked to the development of movement disorders, such as tics and Tourette syndrome. However, this adverse effect is usually self-limiting and resolves on its own within seven to ten days. Ritalin may be associated with tics that persist for several months before resolving.

Peripheral Vascular Disease

Ritalin and Adderall can decrease the blood flow to the arms, hands, legs, and feet. This effect is usually negligible; however, in some cases, these drugs can lead to peripheral vascular disease (PVD) development. PVD can result in tissue loss and even amputation if not treated timely.

Drug abuse and dependence are serious problems that require professional help. Contact our doctors if you feel mentally unwell.

Serotonin Syndrome

Since stimulants (and some other serotonin-enhancing drugs like antidepressants) increase serotonin levels in the brain, they can also increase the risk of serotonin syndrome. Its symptoms include restlessness, dizziness, delirium, seizures, etc. However, at therapeutic dosages, this risk is minimal.

Drug Overdose

At normal treatment doses, Ritalin and Adderall usually do not cause serious complications. However, due to their potential for abuse, there is a risk of ingesting an overdose of these drugs, which can be fatal. Severe symptoms of stimulant overdose may present with rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, confusion, delusion, tremors, panic attack, convulsions, and coma.

Drug Abuse and Dependence

Ritalin and Adderall have a high risk of drug abuse in people who take them at high doses for a long time for non-medical reasons. It can cause physical and psychological dependence, which can spiral into addictive behavior. It is particularly seen in college students who use it to maintain focus during study sessions and illicit drug users.

Common Side Effects of Ritalin and Adderall

Rare and Serious Side Effects of Ritalin and Adderall

  • Headaches

  • Dry mouth

  • Insomnia

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Anxiety

  • Agitation

  • Palpitations

  • Increased sweating

  • Abdominal pain

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Fast Heartbeat

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart problems

  • Hallucinations

  • Delusions

  • Severe anxiety

  • Panic attacks

  • Tics

  • Tourette syndrome

  • Seizures

  • Peripheral vascular disease (PVD)

  • Serotonin syndrome

  • Exacerbation of glaucoma

  • Exacerbation of hyperthyroidism

  • Bruxism (abnormal clenching of teeth)

  • Formication (abnormal skin sensations)

  • Emotional lability (exaggerated emotions)

Note: This is not a complete list of side effects caused by Ritalin and Adderall. For any queries related to the side effects, please contact your doctor and pharmacist.

Consult with a licensed doctor in your state to know the contraindications of the prescribed medication.

Drug Interactions of Ritalin and Adderall

Ritalin and Adderall similarly interact with many drug classes. Stimulants increase the plasma levels of drugs by decreasing their metabolism. These include tricyclic or tetracyclic antidepressants, phenytoin, warfarin, primidone, etc. They may also decrease the effectiveness of certain antihypertensives such as lisinopril, losartan, etc. Here is a list of some of the common drug interactions of stimulants.


Drug Class

Possible Reaction with Adderall and Ritalin





Hypertensive crisis




Anesthetic agents

Cardiac instability (irregular rhythm)





Decreased efficacy of antihypertensives




Beta Blockers

Cardiac problems





Serotonin syndrome

Adderall may also cause problems in measuring corticosteroids in the body as they may elevate their levels.

Note: This is not a comprehensive list of all the possible drug interactions of Adderall and Ritalin. Please contact your doctor or pharmacist for further details.

Tell your prescriber if you take or recently stopped taking any medications. This information will help to choose the most suitable treatment that will be safe for you.

Ritalin vs Adderall side effects

Contraindications of Ritalin and Adderall

There are some absolute and relative contraindications to using Ritalin and Adderall. Absolute contraindication means using a specific treatment carries life-threatening risks in some patients and should be avoided. Absolute contraindications of both stimulants include:

  • Having structural cardiac defects such as patent foramen ovale (PFO) and atrial septal defect (ASD).
  • Suffering from narrow-angle glaucoma.
  • Struggling with moderate to severe substance abuse disorder.
  • Past known allergy to stimulants.
  • Using MAOIs currently or discontinued their use within the last 14 days.

On the other hand, relative contraindications limit the use of a particular treatment with extreme caution in some patients. Relative contraindications of Ritalin and Adderall are:

  • Having been diagnosed with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia because stimulants can precipitate maniac symptoms.
  • Suffering from a severe tic or Tourette syndrome.
  • Having unstable hypertension. Blood pressure should be controlled first before starting stimulant medications.

Ritalin Vs. Adderall: FAQs

Which drug is more effective, Ritalin or Adderall?

The effectiveness of Ritalin and Adderall in controlling ADHD symptoms is the same in most cases. According to a meta-analysis of 133 randomized trials [13*] , Adderall may be the preferred option in adults due to its efficacy and safety. In contrast, Ritalin may be more suitable for children and adolescents. However, there can be varied responses to these medications, depending on how the individual patients react to the treatment.

Can you take Ritalin and Adderall together?

It is unclear how Ritalin and Adderall interact with each other, as no interactions have been established between these drugs. However, it does not imply that Ritalin and Adderall do not interact with each other at all and are safe to use together. As both the drugs work to produce the same effect, there is a risk for serious complications such as an overdose. Hence, doctors do not recommend taking them together.

Can you switch from Ritalin to Adderall?

Yes, it is possible to switch from Ritalin to Adderall and vice versa if a particular medication is not working out or causing significant side effects. It should be done under a doctor’s advice with proper dose adjustments.

Which is the stronger medication, Ritalin or Adderall?

Generally, Adderall is twice as potent [14*] as Ritalin at the same dose, e.g., 5 mg Adderall equates to 10 mg Ritalin. It means you have to take Ritalin twice as much as Adderall to achieve the same therapeutic benefits. However, only a physician can determine the dosage of drugs for your medical condition after proper evaluation of symptoms.

Can you use Ritalin or Adderall during pregnancy or breastfeeding?

The use of Ritalin and Adderall during pregnancy [15*] or breastfeeding is yet to be proven safe or harmful, and more research is needed on this subject. Therefore, doctors advise against using stimulants during pregnancy, especially during the first three months, because they may be associated with birth defects.

Can you take Ritalin or Adderall with alcohol?

Taking Ritalin or Adderall with alcohol can potentiate nervous system side effects like irritability, drowsiness, anxiety, and memory deficits. Therefore, drinking alcohol with stimulants is not recommended.

How to get Ritalin or Adderall?

Ritalin and Adderall are heavily regulated substances; therefore, a doctor’s prescription is necessary before buying them at pharmacies. In addition to in-person visits to a doctor’s office, you can also get a prescription for Ritalin and Adderall using telehealth services. At MEDvidi, our doctors may prescribe Ritalin and Adderall online if certain conditions are met.

Final Words

Ritalin and Adderall are potent stimulant medications for ADHD treatment and some other medical conditions. There are minor differences in their cost, forms, dosages, and drug interactions. They are highly controlled drugs due to their risk for misuse. However, when used in therapeutic doses under a doctor’s guidance, they effectively control ADHD symptoms in most cases.

Our Medical professionals are experienced in creating personalized treatment plans for adults with ADHD. For any questions related to ADHD medications, including Ritalin and Adderall, you can book an appointment and talk to one of our doctors anytime.


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Written by:

Umar Javed



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This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.