Concerta vs. Adderall


concerta vs adderall

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Choosing between ADHD medications like Concerta and Adderall can be a confusing and frustrating experience, especially since they’re in the same class of drugs. Both medications are central nervous system stimulants (CNS) frequently prescribed to address ADHD symptoms. 

While they share some similarities in terms of their effectiveness and how they work, understanding the differences between them is essential to having an informed discussion about treatment with a healthcare provider.

In this article, we’ll explore both medications by comparing their similarities and outlining key differences that can help you differentiate them. By gaining a deeper understanding of their mechanisms, potential side effects, and contraindications specific to each medication, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision that aligns with your individual needs.

If you think Concerta, Adderall, or another ADHD medication may work well for you, the healthcare providers on Klarity can help. They’ll meet with you virtually to evaluate your symptoms and prescribe an appropriate medication. No driving, no waiting—just fast, effective online care. 
Schedule an appointment on Klarity today to meet with a provider in less than 48 hours.

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Concerta (active ingredient: Methylphenidate) is a central nervous system stimulant. It works by increasing the production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that affect hyperactivity and impulse control. These neurotransmitters help areas of the brain communicate with one another, increase feelings of pleasure and happiness, and help regulate ADHD-affected regions of the brain.   

Neurotransmitters help ward off ADHD symptoms, allowing users to focus more, remember more, and avoid impulsivity. 

Forms and Dosages

Taken once a day, Concerta is an extended-release tablet lasting 12 hours. It’s available in five strengths: 18 mg, 27 mg, 36 mg, 54 mg, and the max dosage of 72 mg. Typically a patient is prescribed the lowest dose to begin treatment, which can then be increased until the optimal effect is achieved. Doses are normally taken one to two times per day.

Concerta is a schedule II controlled substance, deemed an addictive narcotic. Safety protocols are in place when filling or refilling the Concerta brand or methylphenidate, its generic name.

Indications and Conditions Treated

Concerta is safe to prescribe in children aged six or older, adolescents, and adults up to age 65. It is prescribed to treat ADHD by combating the three major symptoms: impulsivity, hyperactivity, and lack of focus and attention. 

Methylphenidate, the active ingredient in Concerta and a similar ADHD medication called Ritalin, is also prescribed to treat narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a sleeping disorder that causes sufferers to constantly feel exhausted.


According to several price comparison websites, Concerta (brand) is approximately $375 for a 30-day supply of 36 mg tablets without insurance. Methylphenidate, the generic version of Concerta, is about $60 for the same 30-day supply without insurance. 

Prices for individuals with health insurance should contact their provider’s pharmacy department for more information and exact pricing. Some insurance companies cover only the generic version while others may cover both. 

Your Klarity doctor may also be able to help you find coupons for discounts on Concerta.

Side Effects

Concerta is a central nervous system stimulant with potential side effects. Some common side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive sweating
  • Cough
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia

In some cases, side effects for Concerta are far more intense. Serious side effects include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Heart attack
  • Seizures
  • Dependence (Addiction)
  • Tics
  • Psychiatric problems (such as mania or psychotic episodes)
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Intestinal blockage

If you are taking Concerta and experience chest pain, trouble breathing, numbness, tingling, pain, or changes to skin color, seek medical attention immediately. 

Warnings for Use

Stimulants like Concerta speed up heart rates and can be dangerous for anyone experiencing heart complications. Avoid drinking alcohol when taking any medication with methylphenidate. Methylphenidate is potentially habit-forming and can cause addiction, overdose, or death. 

Methylphenidate dependence in pregnant women can lead to premature birth or low birth weight. It is not approved for use by anyone under six years old. If you are taking Concerta and suffer a painful erection that lasts four hours or more, seek medical attention immediately. 

Dependency warning: Concerta contains methylphenidate, which has the potential for dependence and addiction. Misuse or prolonged use of Concerta can lead to physical and psychological dependence. It is important to follow the prescribed dosage and duration of treatment to minimize the risk of developing a dependency. Additionally, abruptly stopping Concerta after prolonged use may result in withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue, depression, and irritability. 

Individuals with a history of substance abuse or addiction should be cautious when using Concerta, as they may be more prone to developing dependence. Concerta should not be shared with others. Seek professional help if you or someone you know is struggling with Concerta dependence or addiction.

Drug Interactions

Methylphenidate is chemically similar to another ADHD medication, Focalin. People with ADHD should use one or the other, not both at the same time. Talk with your doctor if you are taking an antidepressant or blood pressure medication as these may interfere and interact dangerously with Concerta and its generic form, methylphenidate.


Adderall (active ingredients: dextroamphetamine & amphetamine) is a stimulant that helps treat ADHD by increasing focus, the ability to pay attention, and impulse control. Adderall is also used to treat narcolepsy. It treats ADHD by stimulating the central nervous system, increasing the availability of neurotransmitters, and speeding up brain activity.  

If you think you may have ADHD and need treatment, Klarity can help. Contact us today for a free online consultation with a medical professional experience with ADHD.

Forms and Dosages

Adderall’s immediate-release tablets range from 5 mg to 30 mg and can be taken two to three times a day. The extended release capsule, Adderall XR, is available in 5 mg to 30 mg doses taken once per day.

Typically the first dose of Adderall is taken upon waking in the morning. Doses are normally scheduled four to six hours apart and taken orally, with or without food. Dosages should also be taken at the same time every day to ensure maximum efficacy. 

Indications and Conditions Treated

Adderall is FDA-approved to treat both ADHD and narcolepsy. The medication works by affecting the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain. By balancing brain chemistry, Adderall regulates and diminishes the symptoms normally associated with ADHD.

Currently, Adderall is medically approved for use in individuals aged three years old and up.


Without insurance, brand-name Adderall can cost nearly $8 per 5 mg tablet, with a 30-day supply costing as much as $237. Adderall comes in a generic form, ranging from $13 for a one-month supply of 5 mg pills up to $85 for 30 days of max dose extended release capsules. 

For more information on Adderall pricing through your personal health insurance plan, contact your provider’s prescription department. 

Your Klarity doctor may be able to help with coupons to reduce the costs of your ADHD medication.

Side Effects

Adderall is a stimulant belonging to the amphetamine class of drugs and is classified as a controlled substance. Common side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Mood instability
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Appetite loss

More severe side effects of Adderall include:

  • Vision changes
  • Heart complications (chest pain, trouble breathing, passing out)
  • Circulation problems (numbness, cold sensations, tingling, skin color changes)
  • Involuntary muscle twitches

If you or someone you know is taking Adderall and experiencing any of the above side effects, seek medical attention immediately.

Warnings for Use

Adderall and other stimulants have the potential to cause major heart issues in people with existing heart conditions including heart attacks, strokes, and even death. 

Do not use Adderall if you are taking an MAO inhibitor like isocarboxazid and linezolid. Adderall may induce psychosis if you have a history of mental illness. Speak with your physician before using Adderall if you have a history of high blood pressure or blood circulation issues. 

Dependency warning: Adderall contains dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, which are stimulant medications with a high potential for abuse. Prolonged use or misuse of Adderall can lead to physical and psychological dependence. To help mitigate the risk of dependence, only take Adderall as prescribed, and consult your healthcare provider before you stop Adderall. Suddenly discontinuing this medication may result in withdrawal symptoms. 

If you have a history of substance abuse, be sure to share this with your healthcare provider prior to receiving an Adderall prescription.

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’ll collaborate with you to ensure you receive the best medication for your specific needs. We’ll even send your prescription to your preferred pharmacy the same day—all you have to do is pick it up.

Klarity is designed to help you bypass the pain points of in-person care—namely blocking off time in your schedule to attend them. With us, access to the treatment you need is just a click away. Find a provider today to get the ADHD medication you need to manage your symptoms.

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Zoe Russell

Dr. Zoe Russell received a dual bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, pursued a master’s degree in public health from Michigan State University, and received her doctorate in osteopathic medicine from Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2021. Currently, Dr. Russell is completing her residency training in family medicine and hopes to specialize in female reproductive and mental health.

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