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Updated on August 8, 2022

Concerta vs Adderall

Key Takeaways

  • Concerta and Adderall are stimulants that work similarly, but they have their differences
  • Concerta is longer-acting than Adderall
  • Concerta and Adderall are both typically safe when taken as prescribed 
  • If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to become pregnant, speak with your doctor about whether you should avoid either of these drugs
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Concerta vs. Adderall

Concerta and Adderall are stimulants. A healthcare provider may prescribe them for someone with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, otherwise known as ADHD. These medicines can also help with narcolepsy.

Stimulants work by regulating the chemicals in a person’s brain that support paying attention and thinking. While they do have potentialside effects, stimulants are often safe and effective.1

ADHD Overview

ADHD is characterized by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that affects functioning or development.

Those with ADHD experience an ongoing pattern of the following types of symptoms:

  • Inattention: Someone may have challenges staying on task, focusing, and staying organized. These issues aren’t due to defiance or a lack of comprehension.
  • Hyperactivity: A person may shift around constantly, including during inappropriate situations. They may excessively fidget, tap, or talk. In adults, hyperactivity refers to extreme restlessness or speaking too much.
  • Impulsivity: Someone might act without thinking or have problems with self-control. Impulsivity also includes wanting immediate rewards. An impulsive person often interrupts others or makes big decisions without considering the long-term consequences.

Concerta vs Adderall

Concerta and Adderall are stimulants that work similarly. However, they are different drugs.

Both medications are effective at treating the symptoms of ADHD. But Concerta is more long-acting than Adderall. 

What is Concerta?

Concerta is a brand name for the drug methylphenidate. It comes in an extended-release formulation. 

This is similar to the drug in Ritalin, but Concerta releases the drug evenly over a more extended period. The slow release is what sets Concerta apart from other ADHD medicines.

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What is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription drug containing two drugs: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Adderall is considered the first-choice treatment for ADHD.

Main Differences

Concerta’s effects last 12 hours. However, Adderall’s effects peak at around 3 hours.

Approximately 70 to 80 percent of children see an improvement in their ADHD symptoms when taking these medications.2 A study examined which common ADHD drugs were the safest and most effective. The researchers found that methylphenidate, the active ingredient in Concerta, was typically best for adolescents and children with ADHD.3

For adults with ADHD, amphetamines like Adderall were usually the best. But the study only considered the short-term effects on ADHD symptoms and any short-term side effects. More studies need to assess the long-term safety of ADHD medicines.

Dosages

Concerta is available as an extended-release tablet. Adderall comes in immediate-release and extended-release forms. 

In the immediate-release form, the tablet releases the medication into your system immediately. In the extended-release tablet, the capsule slowly releases small amounts of medicine into your body during the day.

If your doctor prescribes Adderall, they may give you the immediate-release tablet first. If you take Adderall in this form, you’ll likely need more than one daily dose.

Eventually, your doctor may switch you to the extended-release form. If you take an extended-release capsule, you may only need one dose a day to manage your symptoms. 

Your dosage depends on specific factors, such as:

  • Your age
  • Any other health issues you have
  • How you respond to the drug

It is important to always take your dosage as prescribed. If you often take too much, you may need more of the medication for it to be effective. These medications also carry the risk of addiction.

Side Effects and Risks

Concerta and Adderall may be safe when taken as prescribed. 

Both may have significant side effects, including:

  • Reduced appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Physical or verbal tics
  • Personality changes
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches

If you experience any of these side effects, speak to a doctor.

Someone may experience complications from taking Concerta if they:4

  • Are highly tense, agitated, or anxious
  • Have physical or verbal tics, or Tourette’s syndrome
  • Are allergic to any of Concerta's ingredients
  • Have heart issues
  • Have glaucoma
  • Have another mental health problem
  • Have any problems with their gastrointestinal tract 
  • Have recently used a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, usually for depression

Someone may experience complications from taking Adderall if they have other medical problems, including:5

  • Hardened arteries or heart problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Glaucoma
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • A history of drug misuse
  • Recently taken a monoamine oxidase inhibitor
  • Had issues with other stimulant medications
  • Another mental health condition
  • Verbal or physical tics, or Tourette’s syndrome
  • Problems with their liver or kidneys
  • A thyroid condition

A doctor can advise on whether you should take Concerta or Adderall, considering all the possible risks. It’s also essential to tell your doctor about any other medications you’re taking in case either medicine may interact with them.

Costs and Availability

Adderall and Concerta are both brand-name drugs. These types of medications typically cost more than their generic versions.

Usually, Adderall extended-release is more expensive than Concerta. The generic form of Adderall is more affordable than the generic form of Concerta.

Medication prices depend on many factors, including:

  • Insurance coverage
  • Location
  • Dosage

Risk Groups

Concerta and Adderall aren’t suitable for everyone. Many other drug and health conditions can affect the way the medicines work. Because of this, you may not be able to take one or either of these drugs. 

Don’t take Concerta or Adderall if you:

  • Have glaucoma
  • Have anxiety or tension
  • Are easily agitated
  • Are hypersensitive to the medication
  • take monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) antidepressants

Don’t take Concerta if you have: 

  • Motor tics
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • A family history of Tourette’s syndrome

Don’t take Adderall if you have: 

  • Symptomatic cardiovascular disease
  • Advanced arteriosclerosis
  • Moderate to severe high blood pressure
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • A history of drug addiction or misuse

Concerta and Adderall can also affect your heart and your blood pressure. They may lead to sudden death in people with undiagnosed heart problems.

Your doctor may assess your blood pressure and heart function during treatment with these drugs. Speak to your healthcare provider to learn more.

If you’re breastfeeding, pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, discuss with your healthcare provider whether you should avoid these medications.

Call to find out how much your insurance will cover
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Resources

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  1. Weyandt, Lisa L et al. “Pharmacological interventions for adolescents and adults with ADHD: stimulant and nonstimulant medications and misuse of prescription stimulants.” Psychology research and behavior management vol. 7 223-49. 9 Sep. 2014
  2. Treatment of ADHD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), September 2021
  3. Cortese, Samuele et al. “Comparative efficacy and tolerability of medications for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, adolescents, and adults: a systematic review and network meta-analysis.” The lancet. Psychiatry vol. 5,9 : 727-738
  4. CONCERTA® (methylphenidate HCl) Extended-release Tablets CII, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 
  5. ADDERALL® (CII), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), March 2007
  6. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), September 2021

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