Approximately one in ten children in the United States are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
ADHD causes individuals to experience difficulty concentrating and controlling impulses. It may also cause individuals to be easily excitable. Stimulant medications are often prescribed to treat ADHD, and while this may sound counterintuitive, these medications improve concentration and reduce impulsive behavior, allowing individuals to focus more easily on tasks. There are a number of medications available to treat ADHD, but Ritalin and Adderall are the two most commonly prescribed. Both Ritalin and Adderall are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants that increase the brain activity of norepinephrine and dopamine, speeding up the transmission of electrical and chemical signals throughout the body. Both medications are available in short-acting and long-acting formulations. While both are effective in treating ADHD and have similar efficacies, there are a number of differences that may influence an individual’s choice.
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Ritalin is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for the treatment of ADHD and is also used to treat narcolepsy. In some instances, it may be used for the treatment of obesity and depression. Ritalin contains methylphenidate, which is a psychostimulant that acts directly on the central nervous system. It primarily boosts the activity of neurotransmitters at the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for maintaining focus, attention, and impulse control. Since it targets the part of the brain specifically, it does not affect the parts of the brain that control arousal and addiction. Although it does not target these parts of the brain, Ritalin does have the potential to be abused, especially when taken in any way other than how it is prescribed. But Ritalin is over 70% effective in treating ADHD, especially when combined with other treatments and therapies.
Ritalin vs Adderall
Adderall is known to be just as effective as Ritalin in treating symptoms of ADHD. The medication contains four related amphetamine salts which act as psychostimulants on the central nervous system. Adderall is available in both an instant and extended release formulas, and has become slightly more popular than Ritalin in recent years due to the facts that it is stronger and its effects last for a longer period of time. Since Adderall contains amphetamine salts, there is a higher potential for abuse and while both medications reduce the user’s appetite, this side effect is more prominent in Adderall. This further increases its potential for abuse among those looking for a weight loss method.
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Side Effects of ADHD Medications
Both Adderall and Ritalin can produce a number of side effects including nausea, vomiting, anxiety, insomnia, migraines, agitation, and skin rashes. Adderall is associated with other side effects including increased heart rate, heart palpitations, and increased blood pressure. While Adderall is considered more addictive, Ritalin can produce more adverse effects, particularly in long-term use. Ritalin can potentially cause psychosis, and recent studies suggest that long-term use may reduce the efficacy of treatment and worsen symptoms.
The Choice is Yours
Despite their differences, many studies conclude that neither Adderall nor Ritalin necessarily work better than the other and the effectiveness of treatment is dependent on the individual. Adderall tends to be favored more in long-term treatment of ADHD symptoms due to its ability to alleviate symptoms at lower doses, as well as its longer duration. Adderall is active for four to six hours while Ritalin is active for two to three hours. For some, the shorter duration of Ritalin’s effects may be preferred so that the effects of loss of appetite and sleeplessness are easier to control. While Adderall has a higher potential for addiction, both medications are popularly misused by those looking to improve concentration and are often abused by college students who use them as “study drugs”.