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  • Ritalin is the brand name for methylphenidate and Adderall is the brand name for a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Both drugs are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Both are widely abused.

    When abused, Ritalin and Adderall can produce a euphoric feeling and a high level of energy. Because they are both central nervous system stimulants, they work in a similar way, but there are some differences between them as well.

    Differences Between Ritalin & Adderall

    The main differences between Ritalin and Adderall lie in how they affect you and may be more apparent depending on how they’re abused.

    Most people abuse Ritalin and Adderall orally (by swallowing them) or nasally (by crushing the pills and snorting them—also called “insufflation”). 

    Snorting Adderall or Ritalin produces a quicker and more intense effect, so you may find a bigger difference between the two if you take them that way.

    Ritalin High Vs. Adderall High

    Some people report that a methylphenidate high is similar to a cocaine high. Ritalin has a quick onset and doesn’t last as long as Adderall, but it causes a strong feeling of euphoria. The comedown can be severe, marked by fatigue and physical discomfort.

    Adderall takes longer to be effective but it lasts longer too. You might find that an Adderall high is milder than a methylphenidate high, with a lower level of euphoria. The comedown from Adderall can cause less discomfort as well.

    Adderall Vs. Ritalin Side Effects

    Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) can have many of the same side effects as Ritalin (methylphenidate). However, there are a few that are more likely to occur with each drug specifically.

    Common Adderall side effects may be:

    • bladder pain
    • difficult or painful urination
    • pain in the side or lower back
    • dizziness

    Common Ritalin side effects might include: 

    • chest pain
    • joint pain
    • skin rash or hives

    Similarities Between Ritalin & Adderall

    There are many similarities between Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (dextroamphetamine/amphetamine). They’re both prescription stimulants that target the same areas of the brain and they’re used to treat the same medical conditions. 

    Other similarities include how they’re abused, side effects, and how dangerous they can be.

    Adderall & Ritalin Are Both “Study Drugs”

    Both Adderall and Ritalin are commonly called “study drugs.” As ADHD medications, they treat inattention by providing stimulation to increase focus and energy. This prevents the brain from being distracted by outside stimuli. 

    Both drugs are widely abused on college campuses and in high schools by students without ADHD symptoms who want a concentration boost. 

    Ritalin & Adderall Side Effects

    As stimulant medications, Ritalin and Adderall share many of the same side effects. Common side effects that can occur with either drug include:

    • rapid heart rate
    • high blood pressure
    • fever
    • muscle cramps
    • blurred vision
    • slow growth or weight loss
    • loss of appetite
    • insomnia
    • stomach pain
    • tics (uncontrolled body movements)

    Adderall & Ritalin Are Both Controlled Substances

    Adderall and Ritalin are both Schedule II controlled substances. They’re labeled as dangerous, addictive, and frequently abused. They’re also both prescription drugs and are considered safe to use under medical advice.

    You Can Overdose On Ritalin Or Adderall

    You can overdose on both Ritalin and Adderall by taking them too much, too often, or in ways other than prescribed. If you combine the two or mix them with other drugs, your overdose risk is even higher.

    Ritalin and Adderall both come in immediate-release and delayed-release forms. Ritalin LA (long-acting) and Adderall XR (extended-release) allow half of a dose to be released immediately and the other half to take effect a few hours later. 

    This works when they’re taken orally, but if you snort them you risk getting the whole dose at once (an overdose).

    Ritalin & Adderall Are Both Addictive

    Both Ritalin and Adderall affect the brain’s reward system, causing higher levels of “feel-good” neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. If you abuse these drugs, your brain becomes dependent on them for its reward system to work properly.

    With long-term substance abuse, your brain changes. It tries to balance the effects of the drugs by producing less natural brain chemicals and letting Adderall or Ritalin regulate dopamine levels. 

    Without the drugs, you’re likely to experience cravings and a mental imbalance that makes it hard to quit. Once you’ve become mentally dependent (addicted), you may need help from a formal treatment program.

    If you’re struggling with addiction to Ritalin or Adderall, explore treatment options with an Ark Behavioral Health specialist today. Our comprehensive drug rehab programs can be tailored to your needs so you can overcome addiction and reclaim your mental health.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Mayo Clinic - Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine (Oral Route)
    Mayo Clinic - Methylphenidate (Oral Route)
    National Institute for Biotechnology Information - Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
    U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration - Drug Scheduling

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on February 14, 2023
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