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ADHD

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Concerta vs Adderall for ADHD compared

Written by Klarity Editorial Team

Published: May 5, 2022

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Zoe Russell

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Choosing Concerta vs Adderall for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can seem confusing. They’re both central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. They’re both US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved to treat ADHD. They work similarly. So what’s the difference? Is one better?

In this article, we explore both medications. We compare their similarities and outline key differences to help you differentiate between them. By understanding how they work, costs, potential side effects, and more for each medication, you can be better informed to talk to your healthcare provider about which is right for you or if you should switch. 

Get an appointment for a prescription for Concerta, Adderall, or another ADHD medication in as little as 24 hours.

If you think Concerta, Adderall, or another ADHD medication could work for you, the healthcare providers on Klarity can help. They’ll meet with you virtually to evaluate your symptoms and prescribe a medication if needed. No driving, no waiting — just fast, effective, affordable care. Schedule an appointment on Klarity today to meet with a provider in as little as 24 hours.

Concerta vs Adderall: what they are and how they work

Adderall and Concerta are similar in that both:

  • Are Schedule II stimultant instead of non-stimulant medications for ADHD
  • Are FDA-approved to treat ADHD and narcolepsy (a sleep disorder) — Adderall in 2002 and Concerta in 2000.  Adderall is approved to treat ADHD in people 3 and older and narcolepsy in people 6 and older. Concerta is approved to treat ADHD in people 6 to 65  and narcolepsy (as methylphenidate). 
  • Both act on neurotransmitters in the brain to help alleviate the 3 major symptoms of ADHD: impulsivity, hyperactivity, and lack of focus and attention. 

That’s where key similarities end and how these 2 medications are different begins.  

The active ingredients in Adderall vs Concerta and how they work for ADHD

Adderall and Concerta have different active ingredients.

  • The active ingredient in Adderall is amphetamine/dextroamphetamine, sometimes called amphetamine/dextroamphetamine salts. 
  • The active ingredient in Concerta is methylphenidate; the same activate ingredient in Ritalin and other ADHD medications. 

Exactly how amphetamine/dextroamphetamine in Adderall and methylphenidate in Concerta help relieve ADHD symptoms is a mystery. 

What experts do know is that both may block the re-uptake of norepinephrine and dopamine into the brain’s neurons. Norepinephrine and dopamine are neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters help different areas of the brain communicate with each other. 

By reducing the re-uptake of norepinephrine and dopamine into neurons, amounts of monoamines (another neurotransmitter) in the gaps between synapses in the brain go up. This “rebalancing” of neurotransmitters increases feelings of pleasure and happiness and helps regulate ADHD-affected regions of the brain to let people with ADHD focus better, remember more, and be less impulsive. 

Adderall vs Concerta dosage, form, and generic availability 

The dosages, forms, and generic availability of Adderall and Concerta are different Adderall comes in a few more dosages and both standard and extended-release formulas. Concerta has one formula that offers the longest, most sustained effect of 10 to 12 hours. 

ConcertaAdderall
FormsOne Adderall standard-release 
Adderall XR (extended-release)
Dosages18 mg
27 mg
36  mg
54 mg
Standard release
5 mg
7.5 mg
10 mg
12.5 mg
15 mg
20 mg
30 mg

XR
5 mg
10 mg
15 mg
20 mg
25 mg
30 mg
Dosing frequency for ADHDOnce a day in the morningStandard release
1 dose in the morning and another 4 to 6 hours later

XR
Once a day in the morning
Dosing scheduleStart at 18–36 mg for adults (18 mg for children up to 17) and increase 18 mg a week  up to a maximum dose of 72 mg; can start with a higher dose if already taking methylphenidateStandard release
Start at 5 mg daily (2.5 for children under 6) and increase by 5 mg a week until the optimal dose is found, typically 40 mg

XR
Start at 10 mg a day and increase by 5–10 mg a week until the optimal dose is achieved, typically 20 for adults and 30 mg for children up to 17
Availability in the body10–12 hoursStandard release
4–6 hours

XR
7 hours
Generic availabilityNo FDA-approved generic equivalent; the FDA withdrew approval for previously available generic version of Concerta

Generic methylphenidate is available, but lacks Concerta’s OROS delivery system
Amphetamine/dextroamphetamine

How long Adderall and Concerta take to work and how long they last

A big distinction between Concerta and Adderall is how the medications are released into the body and how long they last.

Concerta uses what’s called an osmotically controlled release oral-delivery system (OROS). That’s a fancy way to say that it delivers different amounts of medication at different times. 

  • 22% is delivered when the outer capsule dissolves quickly after you take it.
  • Most of the remaining medication is delivered as the capsule’s 3 inner compartments dissolve at different times of the day and your intestines absorb the compartments to release medication into your body. 

This OROS delivery system keeps Concerta in your system for up to 12 hours.

Adderall XR uses a double-pulsed delivery system. Each capsule has 2 types of drug-containing beads that release medication in 2 doses at different times to create the extended-release effect.  It lasts in your system up to 7 hours.

Standard-release Adderall releases its full medication load shortly after being taken. Its effects last for 4 to 6 hours. Most people take 2 a day 4 to 6 hours apart.

Is Concerta stronger than Adderall?

Concerta isn’t necessarily stronger than Adderall or Adderall XR. It does last longer than Adderall XR, which may offer an advantage for some people. 

Studies have found that the active ingredient in Concerta, methylphenidate, offers more improvement in executive and non-executive functioning, especially distractability and visual memory, compared to other ADHD medications, including Adderall. And a study done with a small number of adolescents between 16 and 19 found that participants taking Concerta showed significant improvement in visual memory and distractibility on Concerta compared to Adderall. 

That could mean that if your type of ADHD is predominantly inattentive ADHD or combined ADHD, you may have better results with Concerta than Adderall. Only you and your provider though can make that decision. 

What do real people say about Adderall vs Concerta

On the flip side, user reviews for Adderall XR are highest compared to Adderall and Concerta on drugs.com. Adderall XR has a 7.9 average rating with 75% of users reporting a positive experience. That’s compared to a 7.2 average rating for Adderall with 65% of reviewers reporting a positive experience. For Concerta average drugs.com user review is 6.8 with 56% of reviewers reporting a positive experience. 

Those are averages of course. Some reviewers report taht Concerta “is a godsend” while others say Adderall XR is “life changing.”

How does the cost of Concerta vs Adderall compare?

Concerta and Adderall costs about the same with Adderall XR costing the least of the brand-name options. With drugs.com’s discount and no insurance 100 pills cost:

  • Concerta: between $1,368 and $1,572 or $13.68 to $15.72 per capsule
  • Standard release brand-name Adderall: $1,138.63 or $13.38 per tablet
  • Generic amphetamine/dextroamphetamine extended release: roughly $28 to $36 or $.28 to $.36 a capsule
  • Brand-name Adderall XR: $759.54 or $7.60 per capsule
  • Generic amphetamine/dextroamphetamine extended release: roughly $53 or $.53 a capsule

Other discount programs may give you even lower costs. And if you have insurance, you should only have to pay your co-pay if the medication is covered on your plan. Your insurance provider may want you to use a generic or offer a lower copay if you use a generic. 

Your insurance company also may want you to get prior authorization for Adderall or Concerta. That means your provider submits a form to show that the medication is medically necessary for you. 

For more information on Adderall or Concerta pricing and whether or not you need prior authorization through your health insurance plan, call your insurance provider.

What are the side effects for Adderall vs Concerta

Common and serious side effects are similar between Concerta and Adderall and outlined in the table below. 

ConcertaAdderall
Most common side effectsAdults
Decreased appetite
Headache
Dry mouth
Nausea
Trouble sleeping
Anxiety
Dizziness
Weight loss
Irritability
Increased sweating

Children
Pain in the upper stomach
Adults
Dry mouth
Loss of appetite
Trouble sleeping
Headache
Weight loss
Nausea
Anxiety
Agitation
Dizziness
Fast heartbeat
Diarrhea
Weakness
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Adolescents and/or children
Loss of appetite
Trouble sleeping
Stomach (abdominal) pain
Weight loss
Mood swings
Vomiting
Nervousness
Nausea
Fever
Serious side effectsSeizures
Painful and prolonged erections (priapism)
Circulation problems in fingers and toes, including peripheral vasculopathy or Raynaud’s phenomenon
Slowed growth (height and weight) in children
Increased pressure in the eye and glaucoma
New or worsening tics, or worsening Tourette’s syndrome
Eyesight changes or blurred vision
Possible blockage of the intestine
Slowed growth in children
Seizures
Circulation problems in the fingers ands toes known as peripheral vasculopathy and including Raynaud’s phenomenon
Serotonin  syndrome if taken with medications that affect serotonin
New or worsening Tourette’s Syndrome

Warnings for Concerta and Adderall

Stimulants like Concerta and Adderall can increase blood pressure and heart rate. They may be dangerous or even fatal for anyone with heart disease or abnormalities, or existing hypertension or rapid heart rate. Before taking either Concerta or Adderall, your provider should check you for the possibility of cardiac (heart) disease or a family history of heart disease. They should also assess you for a personal or family history of motor or verbal tics and/or Tourette’s Syndrome. 

You should avoid Adderall and Concerta if you know you’re hypersensitive or allergic to any of their ingredients. And if you take either and have an allergic reaction, such as trouble breathing, call 911 immediately.

Boxed warning for Adderall and Concerta

The FDA issues boxed warnings for some medications. The warnings let you know that the medication has a serious risk. In the case of Concerta and Adderall, both have a boxed warning for potential abuse, misuse, and addiction. Using these medications can result in physical and psychological dependence. 

To protect yourself, only take your medication as prescribed and at the prescribed dose and timeframe. And don’t abruptly stop taking Concerta or Adderall. Stopping quickly can cause withdrawal symptoms, like fatigue, depression, and irritability. 

If you have a personal or family history of substance abuse or addiction tell your provider and only use Adderall or Concerta with caution. 

Drugs that Concerta or Adderall interact with

Concerta and Adderall can interact with other medications. Make sure your healthcare provider knows what medications you’re taking before starting Adderall or Concerta, especially the following:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as linezolid or intravenous methylene blue. Avoid these for 14 days before starting and while taking Concerta or Adderall.
  • Vasopressors used to increase blood pressure
  • Coumarin anticoagulants, antidepressants, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Halogenated anesthetics used during surgery
  • Risperidone
  • Other ADHD medications
  • Medicines used to treat migraine headaches called triptans
  • Lithium
  • Tramadol
  • Buspirone
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Fentanyl
  • Tryptophan
  • St. John’s Wort

Adderall or Concerta — which ADHD medication should you take?

While Concerta and Adderall are similar medications in many ways, there are subtle differences that can affect how you react to each medication, and how effective they are in treating your ADHD. 

When you meet with a licensed and certified healthcare provider on Klarity, they work with you to ensure you receive the best medication for your specific needs. They even send your prescription to your preferred pharmacy the same day.

Find a provider and have an appointment in 24 hours or less on Klarity

On Klarity, the ADHD treatment, including medication if needed, is just a click away. Find a provider today to get the ADHD medication you need to manage your symptoms. Find a provider near you now.

Sources

Adderall XR Capsuls, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2004/021303s005lbl.pdf

DailyMed, LABEL: ADDERALL- dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, and amphetamine sulfate tablet, Sep. 2023, https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=f22635fe-821d-4cde-aa12-419f8b53db81

DailyMed, LABEL: ADDERALL XR- dextroamphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine sulfate and amphetamine aspartate capsule, extended release, Oct. 2023, https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=aff45863-ffe1-4d4f-8acf-c7081512a6c0

DailyMed, LABEL: CONCERTA- methylphenidate hydrochloride tablet, extended release, Oct. 2023, https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/methylphenidate-hydrochloride-extended-release-tablets-generic-concerta-made-mallinckrodt-and-kudco

drugs.com, Drug Price Information, https://www.drugs.com/price-guide/

ScienceDirect, Effect of extended release stimulant-based medications on neuropsychological functioning among adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Author links open overlay panel, Dec. 2026, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0887617706001363

US Food and Drug Administration, Drug Approval Package, Adderall (Mixed Salts of a Single-Entity Amphetamine Product) Tablet, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/2002/11-522S030_Adderall.cfm#:~:text=Approval%20Date%3A%2011%2F8%2F2002

US Food and Drug Administration, Drug Approval Package, Concerta (methylphenidate HCI) Extended-Release Tablets, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/2000/21-121_Concerta.cfm#:~:text=Approval%20Date%3A%208%2F1%2F00

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