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Ritalin and Adderall – All you need to know

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Understanding the Difference Between Ritalin & Adderall

Ritalin and Adderall are the two most commonly prescribed medications used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  This condition affects around one in ten children within the United States and if your child has been recently diagnosed you will likely want a lot of information before you choose medications.
Both Ritalin and Adderall are stimulant medications which may seem a strange choice when treating ADHD.  However, the drugs work to help concentration so that individuals can focus on their tasks and they also help reduce impulsive behavior.

Adderall and Ritalin are very effective and they work in similar ways.  So what are the differences and how can you make the decision to use one rather than the other?

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What Exactly is Ritalin?

Ritalin is probably the most well-known medication for children with ADHD and it is certainly one of the most commonly prescribed.  As well as ADHD Ritalin is used to treat narcolepsy and sometimes obesity and depression.

The active ingredient in Ritalin is a psycho-stimulant called methylphenidate, which acts on the central nervous system.  In particular, it increases neurotransmitter activity within the prefrontal cortex.  This area of the brain controls concentration, focus and the control of impulses.  It does not affect any other areas of the brain, in particular, it does not impact on the areas that control addiction or arousal.

Ritalin, because of its stimulant properties has been a drug of abuse, especially when it is not taken as prescribed.  When combined with other forms of therapy and treatments Ritalin boasts a success rate of over 70% in the treatment of ADHD.


Understanding What Adderall Is

Adderall is also a psycho-stimulant which impacts the central nervous system and is as effective as Ritalin when used in the treatment of ADHD.  Adderall has been increasing in popularity because it is stronger than Ritalin and because it comes in both instant and extended-release versions the effects can last a lot longer.

Adderall is open to abuse because it contains four amphetamine salts which act on the central nervous system as psycho-stimulants.  Although Ritalin can suppress appetite the presence of the amphetamines salts in Adderall make this effect far more substantial and it is therefore open to abuse by people looking to lose weight.


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There are several side effects common to both Adderall and Ritalin.  These include:

The amphetamine salts in Adderall means that it is considered to be more addictive than Ritalin.  However, when used long term, Ritalin can produce more adverse effects than Adderall.

There are some serious side effects associated with this drug and they include:

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Sudden cardiac arrest

The more serious side effects associated with this drug include:

  • Psychosis
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Problems with long-term use include potential drops in efficacy and/or worsening of symptoms.

Both Ritalin and Adderall are formulated as short-acting and long-acting medications.  There is little difference in dosages but Adderall has become more popular and is prescribed more often than Ritalin.  Ritalin is available as an instant release, sustained release and long-acting, while Adderall is only available as instant and extended-release.

Both of these drugs act to stimulate the central nervous system.  They increase the production and activity of neurotransmitters, specifically norepinephrine and dopamine and increase the speed of transmission of electrical and chemical impulses throughout the body.  This can act to produce feelings of energy, confidence and euphoria.

This ‘high’ is not noticeably different between the two medications because they act in similar ways.  However, Adderall is longer lasting and dosages are higher so the effect may last longer and be stronger than the high experienced with Ritalin.

Recreational users often abuse Adderall and Ritalin to lose weight.  However, as well as losing weight the users may find that they become addicted to the drugs.


Long-Term Effects of Adderall & Ritalin Abuse

If a user abuses stimulants over long periods by taking more than they need they will start to experience several negative side effects.  These include:

Although Adderall lends itself more to addiction, both Adderall and Ritalin are thought of as ‘study drugs’ and as a result are often abused by college students to improve concentration.  These students can become addicted and often find it hard to attend a treatment program because they don’t want to miss class.  A treatment program that incorporates classes is extremely successful in encouraging those who want to quit stimulants but continue with their educations.

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So, What's the Best Stimulant for ADHD?

Although there are some differences between Adderall and Ritalin there has been no conclusive evidence that either drug is better than the other for the treatment of ADHD.  Often effectiveness depends on how well an individual responds to the drug.  Adderall is often favored because it can help treat ADHD in lower doses and its effect lasts longer in the body.

If you think someone may be abusing Ritalin or Adderall it is well worth looking into some treatment options.  Bearing in mind that most people first encounter the drugs as a result of an ADHD diagnosis it is important to find a program that can address ADHD and addiction simultaneously.

Contact Us at The Last House if you or someone you know is struggling from ritalin or adderall addiction.

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