Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) usually manifests at a young age. If left untreated, it could lead to social isolation, learning problems, and other mental health disorders.

Fortunately, several treatment options are available, including some pharmacological treatments. Medications such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamines (Adderall) are common.

But what’s the difference between these two chemicals? Learn more about these prescription drug options and how they work to treat ADHD.

What is Methylphenidate?

Methylphenidate is sold under the brand name Ritalin. It’s used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. It’s often a first-line ADHD medication, which means it might be the first drug your doctor considers when looking for a pharmacological option. It comes in tablet form, but it can also be taken via transdermal patch.

Methylphenidate is a stimulant that increases the levels of dopamine in your system, which can increase focus and motivation in people with ADHD. It can also cause some side effects, including insomnia, appetite loss, and weight loss. The drug can also be abused as a recreational stimulant. Abuse can increase your risk of more serious side effects like psychosis, tachycardia (rapid heart rate), and heart problems.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a brand name for a prescription drug that contains amphetamines. Amphetamines are a stimulant substance that works on the brain similarly to methylphenidate. It’s also used to treat narcolepsy and ADHD by increasing the overall dopamine levels in the brain.

Adderall’s common side effects include insomnia, dry mouth, and loss of appetite. People may abuse Adderall for a euphoric high, while others use it as a cognitive-enhancing drug.

Both Ritalin and Adderall are sometimes used to increase wakefulness and focus among students who are looking to improve their academic performance.

Some athletes also use these medicines to elevate their mental game. However, of the two, Adderall is more commonly abused. Abusing Adderall can also lead to heart problems, psychosis, and other dangerous side effects.

How are They Different?

Adderall and Ritalin are similar in many ways; both drugs are sold in similar doses and have a similar potency. They are both used in the long-term treatment of ADHD, and they both have a potential for misuse. For that reason, they’re both considered controlled substances.

They have similar effects on the brain, but they achieve these effects in different ways. Amphetamines like Adderall increase the activity of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. They also increase the release of other brain chemicals like serotonin. This elevates the overall levels of these chemicals, which has an effect on mood, motivation, and focus.

Instead of increasing the release and activity of these chemicals, methylphenidate works to block the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine. Reuptake is the process of removing brain chemicals from the nervous system and recycling them. By blocking the reuptake of specific chemicals like dopamine, it can cause a buildup that increases dopamine levels in a way that affects focus and motivation.

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