Drug vs Drug

Ritalin vs Adderall:
Find Out Which is Better For You


Learn about the differences between Ritalin and Adderall and how to choose the best medication for your needs.

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Ritalin vs. Adderall: What Are They?

In the United States alone, over 6 million children have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Characterized by hyperactive and impulsive behavior, ADHD can lead to fidgeting, absent-mindedness and difficulty focusing. To address these symptoms, most doctors will prescribe one of two drugs: Ritalin or Adderall.

Both Ritalin and Adderall are common stimulants that treat ADHD by altering chemicals in the person’s brain. Because of these similarities, many people falsely assume that the two drugs are interchangeable. However, both medications have their own unique dosage requirements and effects — what works for one person may not work for another. If you’re wondering which treatment option is best for you, read through our guide on Ritalin vs. Adderall.

Treating ADHD

Ritalin and Adderall are brand names for two different types of drugs — Ritalin is a form of methylphenidate, while Adderall is a form of amphetamine And dextroamphetamine. Both are central nervous stimulants that treat ADHD by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters, or signaling molecules usually used in treatment of children, in the brain. More specifically, they affect the following neurotransmitters:

  • Dopamine: Dopamine is responsible for mood regulation, concentration and memory recall.
  • Norepinephrine: Norepinephrine can increase alertness and reaction times while lowering aggression.


While they have similar functionalities, both drugs work at different speeds. Typically, Ritalin kicks in faster — however, the effects of Adderall are long-acting. This difference in speed can influence the adverse effects you may experience.

Ritalin vs. Adderall: Weight Loss and Other Side Effects

Like any drug, both Ritalin and Adderall come with the risk of significant side effects. Since they affect the brain in similar ways, many of these effects overlap. It’s common for users to experience the following:

  • Weight loss: Stimulants can lower hunger and make your body burn calories faster.
  • Difficulty sleeping: By increasing concentration and alertness, Ritalin and Adderall may make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Increased blood pressure: Stimulants can increase your heartbeat, which in turn boosts blood pressure.
  • Vision problems: Both Adderall and Ritalin have been linked to blurry vision and minor eye issues.
  • Anxiety: Changing the level of neurotransmitters in your brain can sometimes trigger anxiety or nervousness.


The adverse effects you experience (as well as their extent) varies depending on your metabolism. For example, if you tend to break down drugs quickly, you might metabolize them before they even get a chance to work — in this case, you’ll need medication that can last for a long time (such as Adderall).

Conversely, if you break down drugs too slowly, they’ll remain in your system for longer than usual (which increases the chance of experiencing side effects). In this situation, you’ll want a medication that acts quicker (such as Ritalin).

Ritalin vs Adderall: Dosage

When choosing between Ritalin and Adderall, it’s important to consider the different dosages available. As mentioned earlier, the two drugs are not interchangeable — they work at different speeds, which means the doses of Ritalin does not reflect the doses of Adderall. Here’s a quick breakdown of the options you’ll find.

Ritalin Dosage

When prescribing Ritalin, research shows most doctors choose between the following types:

  • Instant release
  • Duration: 3 to 4 hours
  • Available dosages: 5 mg, 10 mg, 20 mg
  • Long acting
  • Duration: 6 to 8 hours
  • Available dosages: 10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 60 mg
  • Sustained release
  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Available dosages: 20 mg


Instant release works quicker than the other forms, but will also wear off the fastest.

Adderall Dosage

There are two main general recommendations of Adderall acknowledged by the medical community:

  • Instant release
  • Duration: 4 to 6 hours
  • Available dosages: 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg
  • Extended-release
  • Duration: 12 hours
  • Available dosages: 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, 30 mg


In comparison to Ritalin, Adderall has more dosage amount options.

Ritalin vs. Adderall Dosage Conversion

It goes without saying that the higher the dosage amount, the stronger a drug is. However, doses of Ritalin are not equal to Adderall. If you plan to switch from Ritalin to Adderall (or vice versa), you must consider the following factors.


The efficacy of Adderall is approximately twice as strong as Ritalin — 5 mg of Ritalin is about equivalent to 10 mg of Adderall. Thus, if you plan to switch from Ritalin to Adderall, you’ll likely need to increase your dosage. Similarly, if you want to switch from Adderall to Ritalin, your dosage will decrease.


It’s always important to consider how long a drug takes to kick in. If you’re transitioning from a short-acting, fast drug to a slow-acting, long-lasting drug, the dosage amount should be increased to compensate for the new decrease in speed.

Completing The Conversion

Ultimately, determining the right dosage amount isn’t an exact science — doses vary between each individual. To help determine the right medication and dosage for your needs, consider trying pharmacogenetic testing.

Choosing The Best Medication

Selecting the right ADHD medication isn’t easy. How do you know which dosage and duration is right for you? How do you know which medications will (or won’t) cause significant side effects? That’s where ClarityX comes in.

At ClarityX, we use genetic testing (or pharmacogenetics) to determine your ability to metabolize certain medications. Then, we’ll tell you which medications and dosages are ideal for your body. We provide two main tests:

  • Mindwell test: This test is designed for mental wellness medications (such as treatments for ADHDdepression and anxiety).
  • Max Rx: This test evaluates your response to over 450 FDA-approved medications and covers areas like psychiatry, cardiology and rheumatology.


After submitting a simple, at-home DNA sample, you’ll receive a personalized report detailing your unique medication interactions. With this information, you and your doctor can make better, safer choices for your health. Get started by registering today!

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