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ADD & ADHD Center

Dangerous Side Effects of Ritalin & Adderall

author image Chad Stone
Chad Stone is a medical scientist based in the Pacific Northwest. Since 2003, Dr. Stone has has published high-profile articles on the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular disease and cancer in journals such as Blood and the Journal of the American Heart Association. Dr. Stone is a specialist in blood biology as well as cancers of breast, colon, kidney and other tissues.
Dangerous Side Effects of Ritalin & Adderall
Ritalin and Adderall are commonly prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. Photo Credit thinking 2 image by Frenk_Danielle Kaufmann from Fotolia.com

Ritalin and Adderall, known generically as methylphenidate and amphetamine, respectively, are commonly prescribed to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. When used as directed under proper medical supervision, Ritalin and Adderall have limited side effects. Some side effects of these drugs, however, can be dangerous and should be detailed by a physician before beginning treatment.

Addiction and Abuse

Addiction is a potentially dangerous side effect of Ritalin and Adderall use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Stimulant drugs, such as Adderall and other amphetamines, can cause abnormally high levels of brain dopamine levels and lead to chemical dependence. Addiction is particularly common among people who take Adderall without a prescription and without proper medical supervision. The euphoric effects of Adderall predispose this drug to abuse. Individuals prone to addiction should discuss such issues with a physician before taking stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall.

Sudden Death

Adderall has a number of side effects on the heart that lead to increased heart rate in about 6 percent of people taking Adderall, according to Drugs.com. Adderall similarly causes heart palpitations and elevated blood pressure in some patients. In rare instances, these heart-related side effects of Adderall can result in stroke, heart attack or sudden death. Similar side effects are possible, although considerably more rare with Ritalin. MayoClinic.com advises individuals experiencing rapid heart beat, chest pains or irregular heart beat to seek medical attention immediately.

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Both Adderall and Ritalin are known to cause anorexia in some patients. Adderall has a number of anorexia-associated side effects such as appetite loss, nausea, changes in taste perception and diarrhea. Drugs.com explains that Ritalin can also cause symptoms of nausea and anorexia; however, such effects are more common with Adderall, affecting up to 30 percent of people taking it.

Urinary Tract Infection

MayoClinic.com lists a number of potentially dangerous urinary-related complications of Adderall. These side effects include bladder pain, frequent urination, bloody or cloudy urine and abdominal pain. These symptoms may indicate the presence of a kidney or urinary tract infection. Drugs.com reports that up to 5 percent of Adderall users will develop urinary tract infections while taking Adderall. Urinary tract and kidney infections are very serious and should be treated with urgency. Individuals experiencing painful urinary-related symptoms while taking Adderall should contact their physician.


The National Institute of Drug Abuse warns that prolonged use of stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall can lead to symptoms of psychosis and delirium. Such side effects manifest as paranoia, depression, feelings of uselessness and hostility.

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