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4 Ritalin Alternatives

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4 most commonly used Ritalin alternatives (drugs), and natural alternatives as well.

Ritalin (methylphenidate hydrochloride) is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 

As per the Nemours Foundation, Ritalin works by maintaining normal levels of dopamine and norepinephrine within the brain. 

Children and adults suffering from ADHD are reported to have deficiencies in producing these neurotransmitters. 

Ritalin is part of a group of ADHD medications called stimulants. For most children, this medicine is effective in alleviating ADHD symptoms, and they tolerate it well.  

How Does Ritalin Work?

Ritalin is a psychostimulant drug which acts on the brain but more specifically in the prefrontal cortex of the brain.

It contains methylphenidate which is similar in structure to amphetamines. Therefore, methylphenidate produces therapeutic effects similar to those of the amphetamines.

Methylphenidate acts by blocking the reuptake of the neurotransmitters, dopamine, and norepinephrine from the synapses of neurons. It does this by binding to the transporters responsible for removing these neurotransmitters from the synapses.

The second mechanism of action of methylphenidate is its ability to stimulate the release of dopamine and norepinephrine from brain cells into the synapses. Lastly, methylphenidate increases the amount of dopamine released (and, therefore, the magnitude of response) after each stimulus.

Although Ritalin is a stimulant, it does not act as one at the doses in which it is clinically recommended. This is due to the fact that the drug targets the prefrontal cortex and produces few effects outside that part of the brain.

Another explanation for Ritalin’s paradoxical action was put forward after examining MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans of the brain regions controlling impulse and mental focus. People diagnosed with ADHD show a markedly different response to clinical doses of Ritalin because their brain activities differ from people without ADHD.

After administering Ritalin to ADHD patients, these regions of the brain especially the prefrontal cortex and the parietal cortex, behave similarly in both ADHD and non-ADHD subjects.

Even though Ritalin is effective for treating ADHD in a lot of patients, there are reasons why a prescriber might seek an alternative. A drug alternative to Ritalin will be sought if it does not adequately address the symptoms of a patient’s ADHD. Adderall is a common substitute for Ritalin.

Like the amphetamines, Ritalin has a high potential for abuse. While Ritalin does not produce euphoria at clinical doses, it does when crushed and snorted or injected or when it is taken orally in large doses.

Therefore, Ritalin and other stimulant ADHD medications are not prescribed for anyone who has a history of drug abuse.

However, as with any medication, side effects might occur, or the medication might not effectively control symptoms. 

This is why many individuals seek alternatives to Ritalin. Fortunately, there are several alternatives available to treat ADHD. Here are the 4 most commonly used and effective Ritalin alternatives: 

Four Alternatives

4 Ritalin Alternatives

Changes in Diet 

There have been several studies which show that a change in diet can help control ADD and ADHD symptoms. 

Experts recommend that individuals inflicted with ADD and ADHD must take a diet high in protein and Omega-3 fatty acids

Foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids and protein include lean meat, beans, eggs, and cheese. Fish, such as salmon and tuna, and nuts are excellent sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. 

Both Omega-3 fatty acids and protein encourage the production of norepinephrine and dopamine. 

Diet Exclusion: 

As reported by the Mayo Clinic, a study done by the Food Standards Industry in the United Kingdom has shown a connection between food additives and hyperactive behavior. 

It is believed that certain elements, such as dyes, sugar, caffeine, should be completely excluded from the diet to decrease the intensity of ADHD symptoms associated with the disorder. 

Some experts also believe that individuals suffering from ADD or ADHD are more responsive to food additives, such as caffeine, sugar, and dyes, and hence they should be excluded from the diet. 

Changes in Lifestyle: 

Changes in environment and lifestyle can prove to be helpful in controlling ADD and ADHD symptoms. 

Any type of behavioral change requires a well-balanced ADHD treatment plan, including educational, social, and mental therapy. 

Some of the different types of therapies that can be used for ADHD are behavioral therapies; psychotherapy; parenting skill training; social skills training; behavioral interventions; and support groups. 

Providing a more stable and predictable environment may also help in decreasing the stimuli experienced by an ADHD sufferer. 

In some cases, children with an attention disorder just require some counseling support. At times, the entire family may need assistance, because the condition affects the family as a whole. 

Alternative Medications for ADHD: 

Ritalin is perhaps the most popular medication for ADHD; however, you may consider other stimulants as alternatives to Ritalin. 

Other stimulant medications for ADHD include similar ingredients, but they vary in how long the medicine lasts or how the medicine is released (instant release versus extended release). 

Some of the alternative medications for ADHD are Daytrana, a methylphenidate patch; Methylin, available in chewable tablets and liquid form; Adderall XR; Desoxyn; Vyvanse; and Focalin. 

There are two non-stimulant medicines approved for the treatment of ADHD. They are Strattera (atomoxetine) and Intuniv (guanfacine ER).

The Other Drug Alternatives


Concerta contains the same active ingredient, methylphenidate, as Ritalin. However, it differs from Ritalin in its dosage formulation.

Unlike Ritalin, Concerta is an extended-release formulation of methylphenidate. Because of this, it is prescribed to be used once daily while Ritalin is prescribed in 2 or 3 divided doses daily.

Therefore, Concerta can serve as a Ritalin alternative in patients who sometimes forget to take their drugs due to the number of times they have to take it every day. Instead of taking Ritalin at different times of the day, some people living with ADHD will prefer to take Concerta once daily. This lesser medication frequency helps establish compliance and produce better results.


Adderall contains four salts of amphetamine. These are racemic amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, racemic amphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine sulfate and dextroamphetamine saccharate.

Amphetamine is a stronger stimulant than methylphenidate. Therefore, while the abuse potential of Adderall is likely higher than Ritalin, Adderall can provide a greater therapeutic benefit for ADHD patients.

Adderall is a good replacement for Ritalin for ADHD patients who respond well to amphetamines but are developing tolerance to the drug. ADHD sufferers for whom Ritalin used to work can switch to Adderall.

The two forms of amphetamines in Adderall, dextroamphetamine, and levoamphetamine produce a broader and stronger effect, and can, therefore, relieve symptoms of ADHD in people who respond well to amphetamines.


Vyvanse contains lisdexamfetamine. While it is also a modified version of amphetamine-like the methylphenidate in Ritalin, Vyvanse has the advantage of being a prodrug.

As a prodrug, Vyvanse is inactive until it reaches the red blood cells where enzymes break the drug molecule down to its constituents: dextroamphetamine and L-lysine.

There are two advantages to formulating Vyvanse as a prodrug. First, it is protected against enzymatic destruction until it gets to its site of action. Secondly, it is more difficult to abuse the drug since its amphetamine content is bound and not free.

Therefore, Vyvanse can serve as a Ritalin alternative for ADHD patients who want a drug that acts longer. In addition, prescribers will favor Vyvanse over Ritalin for patients who are likely to abuse Ritalin or sell it to those who want it for recreational purposes.


Strattera contains Atomoxetine which is a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. It is not a stimulant and, therefore, has a low abuse potential.

Atomoxetine increases the amount of norepinephrine and dopamine in the synapses by as much as three-fold. It also blocks the removal of norepinephrine from the nerve junctions.

Strattera is, therefore, a ready Ritalin alternative for ADHD patients who are likely to abuse their medications. Furthermore, since the long-term effects of stimulants in ADHD therapy are still uncertain, some patients prefer not to use psychostimulant ADHD medications such as Ritalin. For such patients, Strattera is an effective alternative.

You may also consider using ADHD supplements such as Listol, ADD-care, Learning Factors, and Focus Formula,  to alleviate attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults and children.

Next Article: Learning Factors Review - By Natural Factors


Listol helps increase concentration and focus in kids and adults.