Adderall causes you to produce more dopamine. It doesn’t matter whether you have ADHD or not; that’s what Adderall does. So if you don’t have a dopamine deficiency, it’s going to increase your dopamine levels beyond what they should be and that is what causes the “high” people experience. If you have a dopamine deficiency, Adderall will bring your dopamine levels up to where they should be for optimal performance and you usually don’t get a “high” from that, though some people do experience euphoria at first. Adderall does also help you use your dopamine more efficiently, but if your main problem is that you don’t produce enough dopamine to begin with, that’s the thing that’s going to make the biggest difference for you.
Ritalin causes you to use dopamine more efficiently. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you have ADHD or not; that’s what Ritalin does. If you already use your dopamine efficiently, it’s going to make you use it even more efficiently and that causes the “high” people experience. If you have a dopamine deficiency, Ritalin does not help you because you still don’t make enough dopamine. If you simply don’t use your dopamine efficiently, Ritalin will make that happen. Again, you may experience some euphoria, but you probably won’t get “high.”
(I’m pretty sure I got this right. If anyone wants to chime in with more scientific info, please feel free.)
This is the clearest explanation I’ve ever read of the difference between amphetamines (Adderall, etc) and methylphenidates (Ritalin et al). It explains why one class of meds works for some ADHD’ers and the other often doesn’t, and why those without the disorder get high off stimulants while those of us with ADHD feel normal on them.
(Very expansive use of the word “normal,” there, of course.)