What are Ritalin and Adderall?
Adderall and Ritalin are two of the most common stimulant medications to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Doctors also prescribed these medications to people with narcolepsy. These medications work by blocking the reuptake of certain neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) by the neurons (brain cells).
Adderall and Ritalin increase the availability of the neurotransmitters called norepinephrine and dopamine in the central nervous system. Norepinephrine is found to play a crucial role in a person’s ability to concentrate, while dopamine is responsible for emotions and movement control. Therefore, by boosting the level of these brain chemicals, Adderall and Ritalin alleviate ADHD symptoms by improving alertness and one’s ability to focus while lessening impulsive behavior.
Stimulant medicines like Ritalin and Adderall are also used to increase wakefulness in people with narcolepsy (a condition characterized by overwhelming daytime sleepiness and sudden sleep attacks).
Who needs them?
A doctor may prescribe Ritalin or Adderall to a person with ADHD as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. According to the charity Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), a comprehensive treatment plan will include:
Education about ADHD and its causes
Education about diagnosis and treatment options
Behavioral therapy to teach a person how to manage the symptoms of ADHD
Medication, such as Ritalin and Adderall
General mental health counseling for the individual and their family
Changes to a person’s education to account for their ADHD
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a combination of behavioral therapy and medication for children aged 6 years and older.
For children under the age of 6 years, they only recommend behavioral therapy as it is as effective as medication. ADHD medication typically has more side effects in young children.
How strong is Adderall compared to Ritalin? Is Ritalin weaker than Adderall?
Ritalin vs. Adderall differ in how quickly they act and how long the effect of the medicine lasts. Ritalin is a faster-acting drug, meaning Ritalin’s side effect takes place sooner. It reaches its peak levels in the body within 1 hour. Adderall, on the other hand, takes around 3 hours to reach its peak levels. In other words, Ritalin starts working more quickly compared to Adderall. Both Adderall and Ritalin are available as oral immediate-release and extended-release tablets.
However, while Ritalin starts working faster, Adderal stays in the body longer. The effects of Ritalin last for around 2 to 4 hours. A longer-acting formulation called Ritalin LA is available, the effects of which last for approximately 8 hours. In comparison, the effects of the immediate-release Adderall is 4 to 6 hours, while the extended-release formulation of Adderall can last up to 12 hours.
Although the medical community generally sees Ritalin and Adderall as safe drugs when a person takes them according to a doctor’s instruction, they can both have some significant side effects.
The two drugs can cause some of the same side effects like:
Loss of appetite
Raised blood pressure
Belly pain or nausea
They also come with warnings about the chance of heart problems, mental health problems, seizures, blurred vision, and circulation problems in your fingers and toes.
With Adderall, men also may notice changes in their sex drives, impotence, frequent erections, or erections that last longer than usual. Some people who take it might have hair loss or rhabdomyolysis, a dangerous condition in which muscles break down.
Are they addictive?
The FDA classifies both medications as scheduled || controlled substances. That means you can depend on them. But that may be less likely with the long-acting forms because they’re designed to release their medicine slowly. If you’ve had a problem with drug or alcohol abuse in the past, talk to your doctor about whether you should take stimulant medications.
Can people use them together?
A doctor would not generally advise a person to take Adderall and Ritalin together. There is little research on how these medications interact with each other. As the drugs work similarly, taking them both could increase the chances of a person developing significant side effects or other complications.
The dosage for both Ritalin and Adderall can vary between individuals. According to CHADD, a doctor will often determine the correct dosage for a person through a trial introduction of the medication. The doctor will begin by prescribing a small amount of one of the medications. They can then steadily increase the amount to reach a balance between the effectiveness of the drug and the extent of its side effects.