Ritalin vs Adderall

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The main difference between Ritalin and Adderall is that Ritalin acts quicker and reaches peak performance sooner, unlike Adderall, which is slower-acting.

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended to be informational and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. Always check with your doctor before using any medications. If you’re concerned about your ADHD symptoms, talk to your doctor.  

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a common neurological disorder. Ritalin and Adderall are two popular medications employed for treating ADHD. Learn the differences between these two medications. 

Ritalin vs Adderall

Ritalin vs Adderall
Methylphenidate Key Ingredient Dextroamphetamine and Levoamphetamine
Treats ADHD, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, and narcolepsy Meant For Used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy
Orally and transdermally  Administration Orally, insufflation, or intravenously
Concerta, Methylin, and Ritalin  Other Names Adderall and Adderall XR
Novartis Manufactured By  Shire
Two to three hours Active Hours Inside The Body Four to six hours 

What is Ritalin?

Ritalin is a synthetic medication used to treat people who have ADHD.

Ritalin is the brand name, but the medicine is also sold under other trade names. It acts as one of the major central nervous system stimulants, which contains a chemical called methylphenidate. 

It stimulates the brain chemicals linked with control and attention called dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine is a brain chemical associated with pleasure, and norepinephrine is associated with activities involving a fight. 

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Ritalin is used to treat ADHD in pediatric patients six years and older. Also, it is used to treat narcolepsy and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. 

Ritalin’s main ingredient is chemical methylphenidate, which improves concentration and boosts cognitive ability. It’s available as a release tablet and can be consumed orally. 

Side Effects of Ritalin 

Methylphenidate is a chemical in Ritalin that helps control actions and improve concentration. Sometimes, users experience side effects while taking Ritalin.

Side effects vary from person to person and include: 

  • Dizziness 
  • Nervousness 
  • Nausea 
  • Back pain
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep 
  • Decreased appetite
  • Stomach pain

Some side effects can be severe and need to be consulted with a doctor immediately. These are:

  • Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Fainting
  • Seizures
  • Changes in vision or blurred vision
  • Agitation

Ritalin vs Adderall

What is Adderall? 

Adderall is a brand name for amphetamine salts-based prescription medication used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.

It contains two main drugs: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. 

It’s the first choice treatment for ADHD as it improves focus, reduces impulsive behavior, and increases attention. Being an addictive drug, it is usually found in two forms: oral tablets and XR oral capsules. 

While oral tablets are an immediate-release form of the drug, oral capsules are an extended-release form. 

Adderall’s Composition

Adderall contains a mixture of different forms of amphetamines and dextroamphetamine.

These are: 

  • Amphetamine aspartate
  • Amphetamine sulfate
  • Dextroamphetamine saccharate
  • Dextroamphetamine sulfate 

Side Effects of Adderall

Adderall is a drug used for treating neurological disorders. Sometimes, users experience side effects, ranging from mild to severe. 

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However, these side effects vary from person to person. Some mild side effects are:

  • Fatigue 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety 
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia 
  • Weight loss

Some severe side effects of Adderall are:

  • Heart problems, including increased heart rate, stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attack
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitated or aggressive behavior
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision

Ritalin vs Adderall

Ritalin vs Adderall – Key Differences

Ritalin and Adderall are common medical prescriptions used to treat ADHD. However, they have got some significant differences. Here is a brief differentiation based on various parameters.

Key Ingredients

The critical ingredient of Adderall is mixed amphetamine salts – Dextroamphetamine and Levoamphetamine. 

In contrast, Ritalin contains Methylphenidate as the Key Ingredient.

Intended Use

Adderall is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. On the other hand, Ritalin is meant to treat ADHD, postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS,) and narcolepsy.

Both Ritalin and Adderall can be used to treat narcolepsy. However, Ritalin is considered a better choice for children and adolescents, while Adderall may be better for adults. 


Adderall is administered orally, through insufflation, or intravenously. In contrast, Ritalin is administered orally and transdermally.  

Other Names

Adderall is available by trade names Adderall and Adderall XR. In contrast, Ritalin is known by the trade names Concerta, Methylin, and Ritalin.

Manufactured By

The Shire manufactures Adderall, while Novartis manufactures Ritalin. 

Active Hours Inside The Body

Adderall works for four to six hours in the body, whereas Ritalin is only active in a person’s body for two to three hours.

Differences Between Adderall and Ritalin

Adderall and Ritalin are two central nervous system (CNS) stimulant medical prescriptions used to treat ADHD. Their main differences are the key ingredients and active hours in the body. 

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While Ritalin has methylphenidate as its key Ingredient and lasts for two to three hours, Adderall has amphetamines and dextroamphetamine and lasts for four to six hours. 

Both of them come in short or long-acting methods.

Talk to Your Doctor

Talk to your primary care physician if you want to explore treatment options for ADHD. If you’re concerned about using prescription drugs like the ones in this article or about drug abuse, reach out to your doctor.


Vanessa is passionate about written communication, especially after beginning her career as a middle school English teacher. She’s an experienced content marketer as well. Vanessa loves to analyze, compare, and contrast, which is why she writes for ContrastHub. Besides writing, Vanessa is a wife, mom, entrepreneur, spicy food enthusiast, comedy nerd and lifelong learner.

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