While Adderall is considered more addictive, Ritalin has more adverse side effects, particularly during long-term use. This comparison examines the applications, efficacy, dosage, side effects, withdrawal and abuse potential for Adderall and Ritalin, psychostimulant drugs prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
Ritalin and Adderall have broadly similar applications. Both drugs are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Some doctors also prescribe them for depression and obesity.
In addition, Adderall is sometimes prescribed to treat sleep cycle disorders. Ritalin can be used to treat postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and treatment-resistant cases of lethargy. Ritalin can also be used to help individuals who are dependent on methamphetamine.
In the following video Psychiatrist Dr. Edward Fruitman, M.D. and Medical Director of Trifecta Health Medical Center explains how he decides whether to prescribe Ritalin or Adderall to adults who have ADHD.
Adderall is available in either tablet or extended-release capsule form. The tablets are usually meant to be taken 2-3 times every day at 4-6 hour intervals. For individuals aged 6 or over, dosage begins with 5mg once or twice daily and can be increased by increments of 5 mg every week. The dose rarely exceeds 30 mg. The capsule is taken once a day in the morning and should be swallowed whole, or opened and the contents sprinkled on apple sauce. Adults taking the capsule usually receive a dosage of 20 mg a day, while children and adolescents usually start with 10 mg a day before the dosage is increased.
Ritalin is available in immediate-release tablets, intermediate-acting extended release tablets, or long-acting extended release capsules. The regular tablets are taken two to three times a day, preferably 35 to 40 minutes before meals. All should be taken before 6pm. The intermediate-acting release tablet should be taken once or twice a day, in the morning and early afternoon, 30 to 45 minutes before food. The long-acting extended release capsule is taken once a day in the morning. All must be swallowed whole or split open and sprinkled onto apple sauce. The average dosage is 20 to 30 mg per day, but some people may receive up to 60 mg.
A study published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1999 compared the efficacy and time-course of Ritalin and Adderall. Researchers found that Adderall was generally more effective than Ritalin after a few hours, especially for low doses. Generally, lower doses of Adderall produced effects comparable to higher doses of Ritalin, and clinical recommendations favored Adderall for long term treatment.
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Adderall may cause a temporary decrease in growth rate but does not affect eventual adult height. It may decrease appetite, leading to weight loss. It can cause insomnia, [Cluster Headache vs Migraine|headaches]], increased muscle tension, irritability, and anxiety, as well as an increased risk of cardiac problems.
The most common side effects of Ritalin are nervousness, drowsiness and insomnia. Less common side effects include abdominal pain, loss of hair, chest pain, appetite loss, blood pressure change, dizziness, euphoria, headache, hypersensitivity, nausea, and somnolence. It can slow growth rate in adolescents. Studies suggest that 6% of children who use Ritalin become psychotic after months or years of use; these symptoms fade after they stop taking the drug. Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder typically have earlier onset of the disorder if they took Ritalin in childhood.
Ritalin should also not be taken during pregnancy or within two weeks of taking any MAOI medications. It should also not be combined with tricyclic antidepressants or be taken by patients with severe arrhythmia, hypertension, liver damage, drug-seeking behavior, or pronounced nervousness. Special care should be taken in patients with epilepsy, as it can lower the seizure threshold. When combined with adrenergic drugs, it increases the risk of liver toxicity, and when combined with SSRIs like Zoloft or Lexapro, it can cause hypertension, hypothermia and convulsions.
Adderall is a habit-forming drug. When an individual stops taking Adderall, they may experience extreme fatigue, insomnia, irritability and mental depression.
Ritalin withdrawal can occur if an individual stops taking the drug suddenly. The symptoms include psychosis, depression, irritability and a temporary worsening of the original ADHD symptoms.
Adderall and Ritalin are both often used by college students to increase concentration. Adderall is the more popular of the two.
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