Updated on April 3, 2024
5 min read

What Is the Difference Between Concerta and Adderall?

Key Takeaways

Concerta, a form of methylphenidate, offers a steady, extended-release effect to provide all-day focus. Adderall, on the other hand, combines amphetamine and dextroamphetamine for a powerful impact on brain chemistry.

As stimulants, Concerta and Adderall can be lifelines for those with ADHD (and narcolepsy, in Adderall's case). However, it's crucial to be aware of their potential for addiction.

Both are designed to boost brain chemicals linked to focus and alertness. This same effect can lead to misuse, especially in students and young professionals seeking a mental edge.

Are Concerta and Adderall Addictive?

Concerta and Adderall work in similar ways that are beneficial for managing ADHD, but it also creates a potential for misuse due to the feel-good effects they can produce.

Both Concerta and Adderall have a high potential for addiction and abuse and are classified as Schedule II controlled substances. The key difference is in the intensity of their effects on the brain's reward system, making Adderall slightly more prone to immediate misuse.

Why is Adderall Considered More Addictive?

Adderall strongly affects dopamine, our brain's reward chemical. This leads to greater feelings of euphoria, making it more likely to be misused and potentially leading to addiction.

Concerta, with its longer-acting formula, has a slightly lower potential for immediate euphoria. However, it still carries a significant addiction risk.

Adderall and Concerta are often abused by a similar demographic. Students and young professionals tend to use the drug to boost their focus so they can stay on top of their studies or work.

Below is a table to further illustrate the key differences between the two drugs:

Duration of EffectsUp to 12 hours (extended-release)Up to 3 hours (immediate-release), 8 to 12 hours (extended-release)
Best forChildren and adolescents with ADHDAdults with ADHD (according to a short-term study)
Dosage FormExtended-release tablet onlyImmediate-release and extended-release tablets
Typical Dosage ScheduleOnce dailyMultiple times daily (immediate-release) or once daily (extended-release)

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.

However, the study only considered the short-term symptoms and side effects of ADHD. More studies need to assess the long-term safety of these medicines.


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Signs of Concerta and Adderall Addiction

Concerta and Adderall addiction can manifest via a combination of behavioral, physical, and psychological signs. They share similar signs of addiction since they’re both stimulants and have similar mechanisms in place.

Here are some addiction signs for both drugs:

  • Needing higher doses of the drug to achieve the same effects
  • Experiencing uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms when not taking the drug
  • Compulsive use of the drug despite harmful consequences or the desire to stop
  • Spending a significant amount of time and resources obtaining, using, and recovering from the drug
  • Failing to fulfill work, school, or home responsibilities due to drug use
  • Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of drug use

These signs are often the result of a physical dependency combined with compulsive drug-seeking behavior. We encourage seeking professional help to overcome Concerta and Adderall addictions, as it increases the chances of safely overcoming the condition.

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Concerta and Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

When you abruptly stop taking either Concerta or Adderall, you may go through withdrawal. This can be uncomfortable or even life-threatening depending on how much you were taking, how often you were taking either drug and if you’re being medically supervised while trying to discontinue use.

Some withdrawal symptoms that both drugs share are:

  • Fatigue and increased need for sleep
  • Increased appetite
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams
  • Slowed movements and thoughts
  • Restlessness
  • Extreme changes to sleep patterns and diet
  • Nightmares and hallucinations

For the most part, their withdrawal symptoms heavily overlap, considering they’re both stimulants. However, depression and fatigue may be more pronounced in Adderall withdrawal. 

Withdrawal can be incredibly uncomfortable and even life-threatening, and failing to alleviate those symptoms can lead to fatal consequences like relapse, overdose, or even death. It’s crucial to openly communicate with your healthcare provider during this process.

Concerta and Adderall Overdose Signs

Just like both drugs’ withdrawal symptoms, Concerta and Adderall share many overdose signs. Some of these are:

  • Increased restlessness, nervousness, or anxiety
  • Involuntary shaking or muscle twitching (tremors)
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion and panic
  • Elevated body temperature (hyperthermia)
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • High blood pressure (can lead to increased risk of stroke or heart attack)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Convulsions or seizures

Overdose symptoms specific to Adderall overdose include a breakdown of muscle tissue and more pronounced cardiovascular issues. On the other hand, symptoms more commonly associated with Concerta overdose are paranoia and excessive sweating.

If you notice any of these signs in anyone around you, call 911 immediately. Medical response teams will be dispatched right away. Let them know of any drug use you may know of so they can prepare accordingly.

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Can Addiction Worsen Concerta and Adderall Risks?

When battling addiction, the way Adderall and Concerta impact your body and mind shifts dramatically, making the risks far more dangerous.

Both medications strain the heart, but addiction pushes this to the extreme. This significantly increases the chances of heart attacks, strokes, and other complications.

Addiction can also worsen the risk of paranoia or aggression. This can lead to hallucinations and other severe psychiatric symptoms.

Long-term brain changes are also likely, especially in young people whose brains are still maturing. Addiction disrupts how the brain develops and functions.

Other general risks that addiction can worsen include:

  • Neglecting personal health
  • Experiencing accidents or injuries
  • Worsening of existing mental health conditions
  • Development of new psychiatric disorders
  • Increased risk of suicide

If your healthcare provider prescribes Adderall or Concerta, you can avoid severe risks by strictly following your prescription. We also encourage being honest with your doctor. 

Tell them about any side effects or struggles you have with the medication. They can help you manage things safely.

Remember, addiction is treatable. Professional support can make a world of difference in regaining control and rebuilding your life.

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Updated on April 3, 2024
6 sources cited
Updated on April 3, 2024
  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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