Concerta (methylphenidate) and Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) are two stimulant medications that can treat ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. For many people living with ADHD, behavioral therapy and prescription stimulants are effective treatments. While there are several stimulant drugs available, it can sometimes be hard to find the best option. Stimulants work by helping regulate the chemicals in a person’s brain that support thinking and paying attention.Although they have many associated side effects, stimulants are generally safe and effective at treating the symptoms of ADHD. CNS (central nervous system) stimulants work in similar ways by blocking the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. By blocking their reuptake, Concerta and Adderall can boost the effects of these neurotransmitters to help improve focus and attentiveness. Although these ADHD medications work in similar ways, they are not the same. Concerta and Adderall have some differences in how fast they work, how long their effects last, and how they’re formulated. Learn more about their differences so you can be empowered to work with your doctor to find the best treatment for you or your child. A clear comparison of these two ADHD medications shows that they’re similar in many ways. However, there are some differences.
What are the main differences between Concerta and Adderall?The primary difference between Concerta and Adderall is that Concerta contains methylphenidate and Adderall contains amphetamine salts. More specifically, Adderall contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Compared to Adderall, Concerta’s effects last longer and release more slowly over time. Concerta is taken once daily while Adderall needs to be taken multiple times throughout the day. With its advanced trilayer formulation, Concerta starts working within one hour after the first tablet layer is dissolved. Then, the drug is gradually released over time with peak levels reached over six to 10 hours. Unlike Concerta, the peak levels of Adderall are reached within three hours after taking it. For this reason, immediate-release Adderall is usually taken every three to four hours.
Concerta and Adderall help reduce hyperactivity and impulsive actions in people with ADHD. They’re both central nervous system stimulant drugs. This type of drug helps control the constant activity in ADHD, such as fidgeting. It also helps control impulsive actions that are common in people with certain forms of ADHD. *A controlled substance is a drug that is regulated by the government. If you take a controlled substance, your doctor must closely supervise your use of the drug. Never give a controlled substance to anyone else. †If you’ve been taking this drug for more than a couple weeks, do not stop taking this drug without talking to your doctor. You will need to taper off the drug slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, sweating, nausea, and trouble sleeping. ¥This drug has a high misuse potential. This means you can get addicted to this drug. Be sure to take this drug exactly as your doctor tells you. If you have questions or concerns, talk with your doctor.
Concerta is only available as an extended-release tablet. Adderall is available as an immediate-release and extended-release drug. In the immediate-release form, the tablet releases the drug into your system right away. In the extended-release form, the capsule slowly releases small amounts of medication into your body throughout the day. If your doctor prescribes Adderall, they may start you on the immediate-release form at first. If you take the immediate-release form, you’ll likely need more than one dose per day. Eventually, they may change you to the extended-release form. If you take an extended-release drug, you may only need one dose per day to manage your symptoms. The standard dosage of each drug starts at 10–20 mg per day. However, your dosage depends on certain factors. This includes your age, other health issues you have, and how you respond to the drug. Children often take a smaller dosage than adults. Always take your dosage as prescribed. If you routinely take too much, you may need more of the drug for it to be effective. These drugs also carry the risk of addiction.
How to take the MedicationsSwallow either drug whole with water. You can take them with or without food. Some people prefer to take their medication with breakfast so it won’t upset their stomachs. If you have trouble swallowing Adderall, you may open the capsule and mix the granules with food. Do not cut or crush Concerta, however
Who should take themA doctor may prescribe Concerta or Adderall to a person with ADHD. This would be part of a comprehensive treatment plan for their ADHD. The charity Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) note that a comprehensive treatment plan would typically include:
- general education about ADHD
- information on the treatment options, including their pros and cons
- coping strategies for the symptoms of ADHD, such as behavioral therapy
- medications, such as Concerta or Adderall
- mental health support for the person with ADHD and their family
- if the person with ADHD is in school, changes to the tuition
Conditions treated by Concerta and AdderallConcerta is FDA-approved to treat ADHD in adults, adolescents, and children aged 6 years and older. For older patients aged 65 years and older, Concerta is not usually recommended. The main symptoms of ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and short attention span. Those with ADHD may also experience other behavioral, cognitive, and mood-related symptoms. Adderall is FDA-approved to treat ADHD in adults and children. It is also approved to treat narcolepsy, a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and intense episodes of sleep attacks. Those with narcolepsy are often started on Provigil (modafinil) before trying another drug like Adderall. Concerta and Adderall may also help treat people with ADHD and other mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and/or bipolar disorder. However, their off-label use for these conditions may be considered controversial and is still being studied.
|Depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder associated with ADHD||Off-Label||Off-Label|
Is Concerta or Adderall more effective?Concerta and Adderall are both effective medications that can treat ADHD. However, one drug is preferred over the other in some instances. In a 2018 meta-analysis, it was found that methylphenidate may be better for children and adolescents as a first-line treatment of ADHD. For adults with ADHD, amphetamines were suggested to be better than other medications. The study also compared other drugs like modafinil and atomoxetine, among others. Another meta-analysis showed that long-acting stimulants may be better than immediate-release stimulants since they can be taken once daily rather than two or three times per day. The study also compared stimulants with non-stimulants like bupropion, clonidine, and guanfacine. Overall, stimulants were found to be more effective than non-stimulants for ADHD. It’s recommended to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider. After evaluating your overall condition, your doctor will be better equipped to prescribe the right drug for you or your child.
Coverage and cost comparison of Concerta vs. AdderallConcerta is available as a generic extended-release tablet. Generic Concerta is usually covered by most Medicare and insurance plans. The average retail price of Concerta can cost over $300 for 30 tablets. For those who want to save more on their prescription drugs, a SingleCare discount card can be used. Even if you have insurance, you can use a discount card instead of a high copay to lower the price of Concerta to under $130. Adderall is covered by most Medicare and insurance plans when it’s given as a generic. The average cost of Adderall can be over $150. However, with a SingleCare discount card, you can take advantage of more savings to reduce the cost to around $33. You can check the SingleCare search tool to see how much you can save. Prices may vary depending on which pharmacy you go to.
|Typically covered by insurance?||yes||yes|
|Typically covered by Medicare?||yes||yes|
|Standard Dosage||18 mg, quantity of 30 tablets||30 mg, quantity of 60 tablets|
|Typical Medicare copay||$230||$7-$78|