Concerta vs Adderall: A Complete Comparison

Today, mental disorders are being noticed and cared for like never before. Due to the stress and expectations of an ever-changing world, more people are affected today by mental disorders than in the last few decades.

The World Health Organization estimates that one in four people suffer from a mental disorder, which means that 450 million out of the world’s population is currently 5 undergoing some form of mental disturbance, and children and adolescents form 10-20% of this number.

One highly common mental disorder that affects 7.2% of children and 3.4% of adults worldwide, is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, a chronic condition that affects the child’s ability to pay attention, control impulses and makes them hyperactive. Concerta and Adderall are commonly used drugs to treat the condition.


Pay Attention to ADHD!

Though ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder among children, it can be hard to recognize and even harder to understand. The prevalence of the disorder is dependant on factors such as age, gender, the presence of other mental disorders, and even geographical locations.

ADHD varies from child to child, in causes as well as symptoms. However, some of the general causes of ADHD could be:

  • Smoking and Drinking During Pregnancy: Not only are these practices highly harmful to the developing fetus, but also to the health of your child post-birth. Studies suggest that kids exposed to tobacco and alcohol are more likely to develop ADHD than those who aren’t.

  • A Stressful Home Environment: Children who grow up in troubled houses where the parents frequently argue, fight, or abuse each other are more likely to have ADHD. The children could develop the disorder as a defense mechanism.
  • Brain Injuries: Children who suffer from brain injuries such as a serious blow to head, strokes, or tumors are more susceptible to ADHD, though such a cause only affects a small portion of children.
  • Genes: Research has shown that there is a strong link between ADHD and genetics. Children whose parents have suffered from ADHD are more likely to have ADHD themselves.
  • Food Additives and Pesticides: Food that is inorganically grown with pesticides or that contains artificial food additives (such as sodium benzoate) can also be a cause for ADHD, due to the effect of the chemicals on the developing brain tissue in children.

Along with these causes, bad parenting, lead exposure, excessive watching of television and playing of video games, and overdiagnosis could also be causes of ADHD, though they are not as serious as the causes listed above.


Symptoms and Treatment of ADHD

Symptoms of ADHD are subjective, ranging from person to person. Commonly, in children as well as adults, it could be the inability to remain still, pay attention, losing things, difficulty in following instructions and difficulty in organizing their tasks. These symptoms are classified as inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive and combined, and diagnosed accordingly.

The treatment for ADHD can be in the form of structured parenting, behavioral therapy or medication. As our article focuses on the comparison of Concerta and Adderall, which are the two most commonly used medicines to treat ADHD, we delve further into the topic of medications.

Medication for ADHD: Adderall and Concerta

Typically, the medication for ADHD is categorized as stimulants and non-stimulants. The former includes methylphenidate and amphetamines, while the latter includes atomoxetine and guanfacine. Stimulants work on the central nervous system, sending messages to stimulate brain activity. Non-stimulants also do the same, but take longer to work.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescribed medication used to treat ADHD as well as narcolepsy, though its usage in the former is more common. Adderall is a controlled substance, available in the form of “oral extended-release capsules” and “oral immediate-release capsules”.

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996, Adderall is used to improve attention and reduce hyperactivity and impulsiveness. It is a stimulant, meaning that it works by affecting the central nervous system and sending impulses or messages to the brain.

What is Concerta?

Concerta is also a prescribed medication that is used to treat ADHD as well as narcolepsy. Less effective than Adderall, this drug was approved by the FDA in 2000 and has since been used by children and adults. Though Concerta also works as a stimulant, its effects are milder than other stimulants.

Concerta is available as “oral extended-release” capsules, and works by calming down the symptoms of ADHD such as hyperactivity and impulsiveness, and increasing focus.


Are Adderall and Concerta the Same?

Though both drugs are similar, Adderall and Concerta are not the same. Both are psychostimulant treatments for ADHD and narcolepsy and are available as “oral extended-release” capsules that work on the central nervous system.

They are both brand names of the generic medications they are composed of and are long-term treatments. They are also both controlled substances, with a risk of withdrawal and potential for misuse, and can result in the same side effects. They can also interfere with other medication you may be taking.

Due to their potential for misuse, both drugs are prescription drugs, controlled by the US Government, and it is illegal to possess these drugs without a prescription. They are both governed by Schedule II in the United States.


So What Are the Differences Between the Two?

Adderall and Concerta, despite their similar purpose, have a whole lot of differences between them. Some of the differences are:

  • Chemical Composition: Adderall is a combination of the chemicals amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, while Concerta is made of methylphenidate.
  • Available Forms: Adderall is available as both an “extended-release” as well as “immediate-release” oral capsule, while Concerta is only available as the former.
  • Dosage Strength: Adderall is available in 5, 7.5, 12.5, 15, 20 and 30 mg dosages as an “immediate-release” capsule and in 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 mg as an “extended-release” capsule. Concerta is available in 18, 27, 36 and 54 mg. However, 10 mg of Adderall is believed to be equivalent to 36 mg of Concerta.
  • Cost: Adderall and Concerta are both available in their generic as well as branded forms. Adderall is available at a cost of $4.65-5.33 and $7.60 per capsule respectively, while Concerta costs $8.60 per 36 mg capsule and $9.25 per 54 mg capsule, and $3.90 per 40 mg capsule and $7.10 per 50 mg capsule (the latter two being generics).
  • Addictive Qualities: Both Adderall and Concerta have the potential for misuse, as mentioned earlier. However, only Adderall is physically addictive.
  • Effect of the Drug: Though Adderall and Concerta work the same way (by affecting the central nervous system), the effects of Concerta are milder than Adderall. Also, Concerta affects the mental activities of patients rather than their motor activities.
  • Duration of Effect: The effects of Concerta is believed to last for 12 hours, whereas Adderall is effective for a maximum of 10 hours.
  • Safety During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Adderall is shown to be transferred during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, and thus, is an absolute “no” at such times. Not enough is known about Concerta to realize its effects during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Additionally, Concerta in its generic form is also used by the police to treat aggressiveness and violence in criminals.


What Are the Side Effects of the Drugs?

As mentioned, Adderall can become physically addictive, resulting in withdrawal symptoms when stopped. Such problems aren’t typically reported with Concerta; however, they can be habit-forming and should be gradually stopped rather than abruptly.

Adderall is to be taken once or twice a day, as per your doctor’s instructions, with at least 4-6 hours between the doses. Doctors recommend anywhere between 2.5 to 60 mg as a daily dose, depending on the patient. Concerta can be taken once, twice or thrice daily in its available dosage strength, as per your doctor’s instructions.

Minor Side Effects

Excessive consumption of both drugs results in similar minor side effects, such as:

  • Inhibition of growth in children (both height and weight)
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Dryness in your mouth
  • Nausea, vomiting or an upset stomach
  • Excessive sweating
  • Irritability

These minor symptoms may occur as a result of the first-time usage of both drugs.

Serious Side Effects

Long-term usage and incompatibility with these drugs can result in more serious conditions, such as:

  • Chest pain and shortage of breath
  • Numbness in fingers
  • Fainting
  • Mental disturbances such as auditory hallucinations and increased violence or violent thoughts
  • Painful erections that last several hours

Such conditions require medical assistance, and you should consult your doctor at once on the occurrence of any of the above-mentioned symptoms.


Interference With Other Medications and Conditions

Concerta and Adderall can sometimes disrupt the effectiveness of other medications that you may be regularly taking (such as for high blood pressure) and with other health conditions you may have.

People Who Should Avoid Concerta or Adderall

Concerta and Adderall can work differently on different people. They may not be the right drug for everyone with either ADHD or narcolepsy. People with the following health conditions should avoid both the drugs:

  • People suffering from anxiety
  • People hypersensitive to both drugs or their generic medications
  • People who have glaucoma
  • People taking antidepressants, especially Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI)

Both drugs can also impact the workings of your heart and even cause sudden death in those with undiagnosed heart conditions. Pregnant or breastfeeding women must consult their doctors before taking either drug.

Sometimes, people may be sensitive to only one of the drugs. People with Tourette’s syndrome either in the family or themselves and those who have motor tics should avoid taking Concerta, while those with the following symptoms should avoid Adderall:

  • Advanced arteriosclerosis
  • Moderate to high blood pressure
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Symptomatic cardiovascular disease
  • Any history of drug usage

Medications That May Be Affected

As already mentioned, those who take MAOI antidepressants must avoid both Concerta and Adderall, due to the risk of an extreme increase in blood pressure as a result of the combination of the antidepressants and Concerta or Adderall. There should be at least two weeks between an MAOI dose and Concerta or Adderall.

Due to their effects on blood pressure, Concerta and Adderall may disrupt the effects of blood pressure medication and negate their positive effects. Antacids may also magnify the effects of Adderall by increasing your body’s capability to absorb more amphetamine; thus, it is advisable to avoid antacids if you’re on an Adderall course.

Another substance that magnifies the effects of both Adderall and Concerta (and not in a positive way), is caffeine, which in itself is a stimulant. Thus, caffeine and caffeine-containing foods/drinks must be avoided while taking either Concerta or Adderall.

Sometimes, food can also inhibit the effects of Adderall. Highly acidic foods and fruit juices such as orange and grape juice may lower your body’s ability to absorb Adderall or Concerta, making them less effective.


Ultimately, Which Is the Better Drug?

Often, the question that people face is which is the better drug to use as a treatment option. While this is largely dependant on your doctor’s advice, it is also equally important to remember that these drugs don’t work the same effect on everyone. Their effectiveness and side effects vary depending on the person using them.

Based on usage, Adderall is more popular generically, while Concerta is a more popular brand name. Concerta was initially designed for children but has since found popularity among adolescents and adults as well. However, Adderall is deemed the more potent of the two, as the effectiveness of 36 mg of Concerta can be packed into 10 mg of Adderall.

Another thing to remember is that Concerta is more novel than Adderall as it has no “bimodal peaks”. This means that the capsule releases its effects more effectively and in one go, as opposed to Adderall which has 50% of immediate-release beads and 50% of extended release beads.

Concerta is also excreted by your body in 3.5 hours, whereas Adderall takes 11-13 hours for excretion.


The Final Verdict

There is no recent scientific evidence that suggests that one drug is better than the other. Reports from researches performed prior to 2000 may suggest that Adderall is better, but test samples were low and the drugs are subjective in their effects and symptoms.

Therefore, let your doctor do the choosing, as he or she knows what exactly you or your child needs, based on the diagnosis. Remember to listen to their advice and follow their instructions for the best and safest use of either Concerta or Adderall.