Individuals with ADHD may find Concerta or Adderall to be helpful anti-ADHD agents. Learn more about each of these CNS stimulants and how genetic testing for ADHD may help you determine which one is right for you.

Concerta vs Adderall

A highly prevalent mental health condition, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects an estimated 4-5% of US adults and 6 million children.1 Medications like Concerta and Adderall are anti-ADHD agents that may help people with ADHD manage symptoms related to focus issues, attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Concerta and Adderall are central nervous system stimulants (CNS stimulants), both of which may be used as part of a treatment plan for ADHD. Concerta and Adderall are similar in that they both work by increasing concentrations of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. While the two are similar, Concerta and Adderall are not the same. Understanding the differences between the two will help you and your doctor determine whether Concerta or Adderall is best for you. Additionally, genetic testing for ADHD medications may also help.

Concerta vs Adderall: What are They?

Adderall and Concerta are anti-ADHD agents that may be useful for helping treat children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD. The effectiveness and how each drug interacts with individuals depends on many factors including symptoms, dosage, body chemistry makeup, height, weight, other medications, and more.

What is Concerta?

Methylphenidate (Concerta) is a Schedule II controlled substance used to treat ADHD. Concerta has been approved as an effective treatment for ADHD. This CNS stimulant works by modifying the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. Norepinephrine and dopamine are two vital neurotransmitters that help send messages to and from the different synapses within the brain. Increasing their levels may help improve symptoms of ADHD.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is also a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant as well as a Schedule II controlled substance. It contains four amphetamine salts: Dextroamphetamine Saccharate, Amphetamine Aspartate, Dextroamphetamine Sulfate, and Amphetamine Sulfate. Similar to Concerta, Adderall works by helping to balance out the chemicals within the brain to help with attention span, focus, behavioral problems, organization, and other challenges that may be associated with ADHD.

In addition to being treatment medications for ADHD, both Adderall and Concerta may also help with narcolepsy, a chronic sleep disorder that is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and suddenly falling asleep.

Concerta vs Adderall: Common Side Effects

Introducing a new medication of any kind into your body comes with its own set of side effects, many of which affect people in unique ways. Read on to learn about some of the most common side effects associated with Concerta and Adderall.

Side Effects Common with Concerta

Some people who take Concerta may experience the following side effects:

  • Increased nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Trouble sleeping/insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Empty tablet shell in stool

Although rare, some men and boys may also experience a prolonged erection for 4+ hours. Please consult a healthcare professional if you experience severe side effects from Concerta or if side effects last for more than several weeks.

Side Effects Common with Adderall

Taking Adderall may come with the following side effects:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Upset stomach
  • nausea/vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Nervousness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased anxiety

Because Concerta and Adderall are stimulant medications, taking them also comes with a high risk of misuse/abuse and dependence. This could be in the form of physical dependence as well as psychological dependence. Please exercise caution when taking these medications.

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Concerta vs Adderall: Dosage

How people take Concerta vs Adderall may differ depending on their treatment plan. Always take the medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor and pharmacist.

Concerta Dosage

Concerta may be taken with or without food but always as directed by your doctor. Tablets should be swallowed whole and not crushed, chewed, or divided. Most people take Concerta 1x/day in the morning. It is not recommended to take Concerta in the evening. Taking Concerta late in the day may interfere with your sleep.

This anti-ADHD agent is available as an oral extended-release (ER) tablet in the following strengths: 18 mg, 27 mg, 36 mg, and 54 mg. Most healthcare providers will increase the dosage of Concerta in 18 mg increments at weekly intervals for patients who exhibit the need for a higher dosage. It is not recommended to exceed 54 mg/day of Concerta for children and 72 mg/day for adolescents or adults.

Adderall Dosage

The dosage for Adderall and Adderall XR (extended-release version of Adderall) varies from person to person. Always take Adderall and Adderall XR only as prescribed by your doctor or pharmacist. It may be taken with or without food. Adderall is available in 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, and 30 mg oral tablets. Adderall XR extended-release comes in 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg capsules.3 Adderall tablets are typically taken 2-3x/day with the first dose taken in the morning. Adderall XR capsules are intended to be taken once daily and in the morning. It is not advised to take Adderall in the evening as it is a stimulant and taking it in the evening may interfere with sleep. Immediate-release Adderall may be taken multiple times during the day; this differs from Concerta, which should be taken just one time per day.

Those who have trouble swallowing tablets and/or capsules also have the option of opening the capsule, pouring its contents into fluid (water is recommended) or applesauce/yogurt, and consuming it immediately.

Your doctor will prescribe the dose of Adderall or Adderall XR they feel is best based on your circumstances and a variety of factors. Do not exceed the recommended dose or frequency. Should you decide to discontinue taking Adderall, please do so under the care and supervision of a healthcare professional. Discontinuing the use of Adderall may cause withdrawal symptoms including loss of energy, cravings, panic attacks, tremors, body aches, mood swings, and short-term memory loss.

Please take note that both Concerta and Adderall may be habit-forming and may become less effective over time. Always speak with a trusted healthcare professional before making any changes to your medication.

Concerta vs Adderall: How Long Does It Take to Start Working?

Both Concerta and Adderall take effect within a short time of ingestion. Concerta has an advanced trilayer formulation that enables it to begin working within 1 hour of the tablet’s first layer dissolving. Concerta continues to gradually release its contents over the next 6-10 hours.4 Adderall tends to work even faster than Concerta, activating within 30 minutes to an hour of consumption. Please bear in mind that both Concerta and Adderall are stimulant medications with a high risk of misuse that may cause them to be habit-forming.

Can Concerta and Adderall Be Taken Together?

No, Concerta and Adderall should not be taken together. Taking Concerta with Adderall may lead to an increased risk of side effects.

Concerta vs Adderall: Which One Should I Take?

Your healthcare provider will prescribe the anti-ADHD agent they feel is best for you based on your condition, symptoms, circumstances, and needs. Genetic testing for ADHD may also help determine the best anti-ADHD medication for you. There are several reasons to take Concerta vs Adderall, many of which come down to how your body may react to them.

The primary difference between Concerta and Adderall is that Concerta contains methylphenidate and Adderall contains a combination of amphetamine salts and dextroamphetamine. When compared to Adderall, Concerta's effects tend to last longer and release more slowly over time. Additionally, some studies suggest that Concerta is better suited for children and adolescents with ADHD whereas Adderall may be the better choice for adults. Please consult a trusted healthcare professional before making any decisions about your medication.

Concerta vs Adderall: Similarities and Differences

Considerations

Concerta


Adderall

Drug group

Anti-ADHD Agent/ CNS stimulant

Anti-ADHD Agent/ CNS Stimulant

Use

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Narcolepsy

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Narcolepsy

Intended duration of use

Short or long-term

Short or long-term

Available in generic form 

Yes

Yes

May be habit forming?

Yes

Yes

Available forms

Extended-release oral tablet.

Immediate-release oral tablet and extended-release capsule. 

Safe for use while pregnant?

May not be considered safe

May not be considered safe

Safe for use with alcohol?

Not recommended 

Not recommended 


ClarityX: DNA Testing for Medication

The DNA found in our bodies contains valuable information that could help determine how we will respond to certain medications and treatment plans. ClarityX examines DNA to uncover this information and provide patients with detailed reports on how they may react to taking certain drugs. We look for variations with the cytochrome 450 enzymes (which metabolizes over 70% of drugs). ClarityX offers two testing options with our pharmacogenetic testing:

  • Mindwell test: This focuses on treatments for mental health conditions that include but are not limited to depression, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, and more.
  • Max Rx test: This covers 31 therapeutic areas to test how an individual may respond to more than 265 medications.

Both the Mindwell and Max Rx tests may help determine how you will react to Concerta and Adderall. This could help you and your healthcare provider make more informed decisions about your treatment plan. Click here to learn more.

1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7916320/
2https://www.drugs.com/dosage/concerta.html

3https://www.goodrx.com/conditions/adhd/whats-the-difference-between-adderall-and-adderall-xr

4https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/021121s038lbl.pdf

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