Ritalin vs. Adderall for ADHD: Which Is Stronger?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder characterized by a pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It can wreak havoc in the lives of those who have it. There is no known cause for it, though there are some risk factors that may contribute to it. These are:

  • Genes
  • Exposure to smoking, alcohol, or drug use during pregnancy
  • Exposure to high levels of lead or other environmental toxins at a young age
  • Brain injuries
  • Low birth weight

Individuals with ADHD may also struggle with depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, and substance abuse. ADHD treatment most often entails medication and psychotherapy. The combination of these is usually the most effective.

Adderall and Ritalin are both prescription central nervous system (CNS) stimulants used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy. Both medicines are commonly taken by both children and adults to improve ADHD symptoms.  Adderall contains the ingredients amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, and Ritalin contains methylphenidate.

There are similarities and differences between both medications. In order to answer the question of which one is stronger, we will examine each medicine.

What Is Adderall?

What Is Adderall?

As mentioned above, Adderall contains amphetamine, which is a stimulant. It activates the receptors in the brain and increases the activity of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine. Dopamine is known to increase the feeling of pleasure and increase attention and movement. Norepinephrine is known to affect blood vessels, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and blood sugar. Those main ingredients in Adderall help increase attention and reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity for those with ADHD.

What Is Ritalin?

What Is Ritalin?

Ritalin is also a CNS stimulant prescription drug. Its main ingredient is methylphenidate, and it is not an amphetamine. This means its effects are milder than Adderall’s. It also targets dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain to lessen ADHD symptoms. Ritalin might be beneficial in increasing attention and decreasing hyperactivity and impulsiveness for those with ADHD.

Differences Between Adderall and Ritalin

ritalin vs adderall

There are some pronounced differences between Adderall and Ritalin, which are good to know.

Both drugs can cause the same side effects when the medications are first taken. These are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Stomach upset or pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Nervousness
  • Dizziness

Both drugs have the potential to cause tolerance, dependence, and later addiction if they are misused or abused, and both drugs have withdrawal effects if they are abruptly stopped.

Do Adderall and Ritalin work the same?

Adderall and Ritalin work differently. Both come in short and long-acting formulations.

As noted on WebMD:

  • Adderall begins to work in four to six hours
  • Ritalin begins to work in three to four hours.

The longer-acting or extended-release formulations of the medications are also different.

  • Adderall lasts from eight to 12 hours
  • Ritalin lasts from four to eight hours.

Ritalin starts to work faster than Adderall, which also means that an individual may need to take more doses of it during the day and evening.

Adderall or Ritalin – Which One Is Stronger?

Neither medicine is stronger than the other. Adderall stays in the body longer and contains amphetamine. Ritalin begins to work faster than Adderall. Due to the amphetamine in Adderall, it carries more risk for serious side effects, like irregular heartbeat or pulse and a fast pounding heartbeat, as noted on Drugs.com.

Adderall or Ritalin – Which One Is Stronger for Children?

If your child was diagnosed with ADHD, you might be wondering which medicine works best or is the stronger of the two. A study that researched this found that low doses of Adderall were “functionally more potent” than of Ritalin and that the lower dose resulted in effects that were comparable to the higher dose of Ritalin. 

ADDitude Magazine, a respected source in the ADHD world, notes in an article that “Roughly 85% of patients will achieve symptom control using amphetamine (Adderall) or methylphenidate (Ritalin).” However, it is always wise to consult with your pediatrician to determine which medicine would be better for your child. The general rule of thumb is that if one does not work well, try the other.

Adderall or Ritalin: – Which One Is Better for Adults?

Medical research conducted and published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal reports that Adderall might be more effective for adults, and Ritalin would be a better first choice medicine for children and adolescents. Again, it is best to consult with your primary doctor to determine which drug would be better. You may find that Ritalin is more tolerable than Adderall.

Can ADHD Drugs Harm the Brain?

ADHD drugs do not necessarily “harm” the brain. If they are misused or abused, they can disrupt communication between brain cells and produce the feeling of euphoria, as indicated in this report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). That feeling can lead to addiction.

In another study on the effects of ADHD drugs on the brain, it was reported that “long-term use of ADHD stimulants in individuals with ADHD (this is important) does not appear to be associated with brain damage, but rather the opposite, they appear to promote “normalization” of certain structural deficiencies.”

Why Would a Doctor Prescribe Ritalin Over Adderall?

It is almost 80% effective versus Adderall’s 75%, and it does not contain amphetamine. Adderall contains amphetamine, which is an ingredient that can be addictive. It is prescribed more often for children and teens than adults. It comes in brand-name and generic formulations.

Which One Is More Addictive:- Adderall or Ritalin?

Adderall increases dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical in the brain and many people abuse the drug to reach “euphoria,” which can occur if a larger dose is taken or if the drug is crushed, inhaled, or injected. It also carries a perceived thought that is not risky.

Ritalin also increases dopamine and when a person feels “euphoria,” they might keep taking the drug to feel that effect. Larger doses and taking it in other ways can lead to addiction.

Both Adderall and Ritalin can cause addiction if they are abused. Fortunately, there is help for those who have a substance use disorder to stimulants at Vista Pines Health.

Treatment for Stimulant Addiction

Treatment for Stimulant Addiction

Individuals who may be misusing or abusing Adderall or Ritalin are at risk of becoming chemically dependent or addicted to the drugs. The more they are used, taken in doses higher than prescribed, or used for recreational purposes, the more likely the individual will need medical assistance. 

Stimulants can cause heart-related problems, raise blood pressure to dangerous levels, and more. This report found that “substance and alcohol abuse were about six times more likely in cases with ADHD.”  Also noted in the report is that an estimated 50% of adolescents and adults with substance use disorders had a lifetime diagnosis of ADHD.

Vista Pines Health, a mental health and substance use treatment center in South Florida, provides ADHD treatment along with substance use disorder treatment. The first step for the ADHD client with an addiction to stimulants is detox. Detox is conducted on-site and is medically monitored to ensure the safety and comfort of the client. Medical personnel are readily available to administer any medications and fluids as the body undergoes the process of discharging all toxins. Detox is paramount in addiction treatment as it works to bring the body and brain back to normalcy.

Once detox is complete, the client will be given an assessment to determine their level of addiction and what other pressing needs, physically and mentally, they will need. Together with medical and addiction specialists, you will create a treatment plan. The plan will include evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, coping skills, mental health education, and addiction and relapse prevention education, and individual and group therapy. Your stay with us will likely be more than 30 days.

Throughout your stay at Vista Pines Health, you will feel at home, and your dignity will be respected. If you have outside medical appointments, we provide transportation to and from them. We know that the cost of treatment is often a major obstacle for people when it comes to getting treatment. It doesn’t have to be. 

Most insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) cover mental health and substance use treatment. Also, many private insurance carriers also provide that coverage. Be sure to check your insurance plan to see what is covered. We accept most major insurance plans and are in-network with a few. If you don’t have insurance, we encourage you to contact us, and perhaps we can work out a manageable payment plan.

ADHD medications are effective when they are taken as prescribed. When abused, they can cause many medical problems and lead to addiction. Addiction ruins lives and takes lives. Don’t let that happen to you.

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