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Adderall vs. Ritalin

Medical and Pharmacy Editor:

Are Adderall and Ritalin the Same Thing?

Both Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) and Ritalin (methylphenidate) are central nervous system stimulants used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Methylphenidate (also sold as Concerta) isn't an amphetamine and its effects tend to be milder than those of Adderall. Patients also report a more pronounced effect on cognitive function and thought processes when taking Ritalin as opposed to Adderall, which comes with a number of effects on the body such as increased heart rate and others.

One of the major dangerous side effects of both Adderall and Ritalin is the potential for addiction and withdrawal symptoms. Other side effects include the increased heart rate mentioned above, irritability, reduced appetite, nausea and others.

Neither Adderall nor Ritalin should be taken within two weeks of a patient's last dose of any monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) to avoid a harmful reaction. Both medications also interact badly with blood pressure medications, among other drugs. People taking either Adderall or Concerta should also avoid caffeine.

What Are Possible Side Effects of Adderall?

Serious side effects include:

  • slowing of growth (height and weight) in children
  • seizures, mainly in patients with a history of seizures
  • eyesight changes or blurred vision
  • Serotonin syndrome. A potentially life-threatening problem called serotonin syndrome can happen when medicines such as Adderall are taken with certain other medicines. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome may include:
    • agitation, hallucinations, coma or other changes in mental status
    • problems controlling your movements or muscle twitching
    • fast heartbeat
    • high or low blood pressure
    • sweating or fever
    • nausea or vomiting
    • diarrhea
    • muscle stiffness or tightness

Common side effects include:

  • stomach ache
  • decreased appetite
  • nervousness

Adderall may affect your or your child's ability to drive or do other dangerous activities.

Talk to your doctor if you or your child have side effects that are bothersome or do not go away.

This is not a complete list of possible side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What Are Possible Side Effects of Ritalin?

Common side effects of Ritalin include:

  • nervousness
  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • sleep problems (insomnia)
  • stomach pain
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • palpitations
  • headache
  • vision problems
  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • sweating
  • skin rash
  • psychosis, and
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • or
  • cold feeling in your hands or feet.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant prescription medicine. It is used for the treatment of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Adderall may help increase attention and decrease impulsiveness and hyperactivity in patients with ADHD.

Adderall should be used as a part of a total treatment program for ADHD that may include counseling or other therapies.

Adderall is also used in the treatment of a sleep disorder called narcolepsy.

Adderall is a federally controlled substance (CII) because it can be abused or lead to dependence. Keep Adderall in a safe place to prevent misuse and abuse. Selling or giving away Adderall may harm others, and is against the law.

Tell your doctor if you or your child have (or have a family history of) ever abused or been dependent on alcohol, prescription medicines or street drugs.

What is Ritalin?

Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant prescription medicine. It is used for the treatment of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Ritalin may help increase attention and decrease impulsiveness and hyperactivity in patients with ADHD.

Ritalin should be used as a part of a total treatment program for ADHD that may include counseling or other therapies.

Ritalin is also used in the treatment of a sleep disorder called narcolepsy. is a central nervous system stimulant prescription medicine. It is used for the treatment of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Ritalin may help increase attention and decrease impulsiveness and hyperactivity in patients with ADHD.

Ritalin should be used as a part of a total treatment program for ADHD that may include counseling or other therapies.

Ritalin is also used in the treatment of a sleep disorder called narcolepsy.

Riltalin is a federally controlled substance (CII) because it can be abused or lead to dependence. Keep Ritalin in a safe place to prevent misuse and abuse. Selling or giving away Ritalin may harm others, and is against the law.

Tell your doctor if you or your child have (or have a family history of) ever abused or been dependent on alcohol, prescription medicines or street drugs.

What Drugs Interact With Adderall?

Tell your doctor about all of the medicines that you or your child take including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Adderall and some medicines may interact with each other and cause serious side effects.

Sometimes the doses of other medicines will need to be adjusted while taking Adderall.

Your doctor will decide whether Adderall can be taken with other medicines.

Especially tell your doctor if you or your child take:

  • anti-depression medicines including MAOIs
  • blood pressure medicines
  • seizure medicines
  • blood thinner medicines
  • cold or allergy medicines that contain decongestants
  • stomach acid medicines

Know the medicines that you or your child take. Keep a list of your medicines with you to show your doctor and pharmacist.

Do not start any new medicine while taking Adderall without talking to your doctor first.

What Drugs Interact With Ritalin?

Tell your doctor about all of the medicines that you or your child takes including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Ritalin and some medicines may interact with each other and cause serious side effects. Sometimes the doses of other medicines will need to be adjusted while taking Ritalin.

Your doctor will decide whether Ritalin can be taken with other medicines.

Ritalin should not be used in patients being treated (currently or within the proceeding two weeks) with MAO Inhibitors (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors). Because of possible effects on blood pressure, Ritalin should be used cautiously with pressor agents.

Methylphenidate may decrease the effectiveness of drugs used to treat hypertension. Methylphenidate is metabolized primarily to ritalinic acid by de-esterification and not through oxidative pathways.

Human pharmacologic studies have shown that racemic methylphenidate may inhibit the metabolism of coumarin anticoagulants, anticonvulsants (e.g., phenobarbital, phenytoin, primidone), and tricyclic drugs (e.g., imipramine, clomipramine, desipramine). Downward dose adjustments of these drugs may be required when given concomitantly with methylphenidate. It may be necessary to adjust the dosage and monitor plasma drug concentration (or, in case of coumarin, coagulation times), when initiating or discontinuing methylphenidate.

How Should Adderall Be Taken?

  • Take Adderall exactly as prescribed. Your doctor may adjust the dose until it is right for you or your child.
  • Adderall tablets are usually taken two to three times a day. The first dose is usually taken when you first wake in the morning. One or two more doses may be taken during the day, 4 to 6 hours apart.
  • Adderall can be taken with or without food.
  • From time to time, your doctor may stop Adderall treatment for a while to check ADHD symptoms.
  • Your doctor may do regular checks of the blood, heart, and blood pressure while taking Adderall. Children should have their height and weight checked often while taking Adderall. Adderall treatment may be stopped if a problem is found during these check-ups.
  • If you or your child take too much Adderall or overdoses, call your doctor or poison control center right away, or get emergency treatment.

How Should Ritalin Be Taken?

  • Take Ritalin exactly as prescribed. Your doctor may adjust the dose until it is right for you or your child.
  • Ritalin is usually taken 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Take Ritalin 30 to 45 minutes before a meal.
  • From time to time, your doctor may stop Ritalin treatment for a while to check ADHD symptoms.
  • Your doctor may do regular checks of the blood, heart, and blood pressure while taking Ritalin. Children should have their height and weight checked often while taking Ritalin. Ritalin treatment may be stopped if a problem is found during these check-ups.
  • If you or your child takes too much Ritalin or overdoses, call your doctor or poison control center right away, or get emergency treatment.
Reviewed on 10/15/2018

Reference:
FDA. Adderall Drug Information.
https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/021303s032lbl.pdf
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. Ritalin Drug Information.
https://www.pharma.us.novartis.com/sites/www.pharma.us.novartis.com/files/ritalin_ritalin-sr.pdf

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