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Concerta vs Adderall | Differences, Similarities, Side Effects, and more!

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Concerta and Adderall are two of the most commonly prescribed medications for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These medications can be very effective in helping people manage their symptoms, but they can also come with a range of side effects. 

To help you make an informed decision about which medication is best suited for your needs, let’s take a look at how these two medications differ and what potential side effects may accompany them. 

What is Concerta?

Concerta is a brand name for methylphenidate, which is a stimulant medication used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It works by increasing dopamine levels in the brain, helping people with ADHD focus better and reduce their impulsivity. Concerta comes in extended-release tablets that last up to 12 hours. 

Chemical Composition of Concerta

The primary chemical in Concerta is methylphenidate which is a central nervous system stimulant.

What is Adderall? 

Adderall is a brand name for amphetamine/dextroamphetamine salts. It’s also used to treat ADHD by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. However, Adderall has a much shorter half-life than Concerta (about 4 hours) so it needs to be taken more often throughout the day.

Chemical Composition of Adderall

Adderall is an equal part mixture of four amphetamine salts; amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, amphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, and dextroamphetamine saccharate.

Concerta vs. Adderall: Fact Sheet

The main similarity between these two medications is that they are both stimulants used to treat ADHD symptoms by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. 

The main difference between them is their half-lives —Adderall has a much shorter half-life than Concerta so it needs to be taken more often throughout the day whereas Concerta only needs to be taken once per day at most. 



Generic Name Methylphenidate Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine
Drug Type CNS Stimulant CNS Stimulant
Active Ingredients  Methylphenidate Amphetamine
Used as a treatment for ADHD ADHD and Narcolepsy
Available Form(s) Extended-release Both immediate and extended-release
Available Strengths  18mg, 27mg, 36mg, 54mg or 72mg
  • immediate-release tablet: 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg
  • extended-release capsule: 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, 30 mg
Is it a controlled substance? Schedule 2 controlled substance Schedule 2 controlled substance
Legal Status Can only be prescribed medically Can only be prescribed medically
Risk of Withdrawal Effects Yes Yes
Risk of Addiction Yes Yes

Adderall Dosage and Side Effects:

Adderall works by increasing the activity of certain chemicals in the brain that helps regulate attention, behavior, and focus. The dosage of Adderall will vary depending on an individual’s condition and response to treatment, but typically ranges between 5-60 milligrams per day.

It is important to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking Adderall, as it can be dangerous if taken in excess. Common side effects include headache, stomach upset, loss of appetite, weight loss, risk of drug addiction, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, or lightheadedness. 

Rarely, Adderall may cause more serious side effects such as rapid heartbeat or chest pain. It is also important not to abruptly stop taking Adderall without consulting your doctor first as this may result in withdrawal symptoms including fatigue, depression, irritability, and trouble concentrating.

Concerta Dosage and Side Effects:

Concerta is an extended-release medication that is commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The active ingredient in Concerta is methylphenidate, a stimulant that works by increasing levels of certain chemicals in the brain that help to improve focus and attention. 

The recommended starting dose of Concerta for adults with ADHD is 18 mg once daily in the morning. For children ages 6-17, the recommended starting dose is 18 mg once daily in the morning. Your doctor will determine the best dosage for your individual needs. 

Common side effects associated with Concerta include sweating, mood swings, anxiety, trouble sleeping, pounding heartbeat, loss of appetite, and headache. Rare but serious side effects include risk of dependence, allergic reactions or changes in heart rate or blood pressure. If you experience such symptoms seek medical attention immediately. 

When taking Concerta, it’s important to follow all instructions given by your healthcare provider. Never stop taking the medication suddenly as it may cause withdrawal symptoms like depression and extreme fatigue.

Adderall vs. Concerta: Can You Withdrawal for Either? 

Both Adderall and Concerta are stimulants used to treat ADHD, but their active ingredients and formulation differ. Adderall is a combination of amphetamine salts and is available in both immediate-release and extended-release forms. On the other hand, Concerta is an extended-release formulation of methylphenidate. 

It is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping the use of Adderall or Concerta, as with any medication that affects brain chemistry. Withdrawal symptoms may include fatigue, depression, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms can be mild to severe, depending on the individual and the length of time the medication has been taken.

It is important to follow the instructions of a healthcare provider when starting or stopping the use of Adderall or Concerta. This includes gradually tapering off the medication, rather than stopping suddenly, to reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms. 

If you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping the use of Adderall or Concerta, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider for guidance on how to manage them.

Concerta vs Adderall: Prevalence in the United States

Concerta and Adderall are two of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to the National Library of Medicine, the use of stimulants to treat neurodevelopmental disorders has doubled in a decade(2006-2016). 

In 2020, Adderall was the fifth most commonly prescribed medication for ADHD, with over 20 million prescriptions filled. Concerta was the ninth most commonly prescribed medication for ADHD, with over 13 million prescriptions filled.

It is worth noting that these statistics only reflect the number of prescriptions filled and do not necessarily reflect the actual number of individuals taking these medications. 

Some individuals may have multiple prescriptions for the same medication, while others may share their medication with others. A 2016 Recovery Brands survey revealed that 63% of adults between the ages of 18 and 28 get access to stimulant medications from friends and family instead of a qualified medical professional.

Furthermore, the use of stimulants like Adderall and Concerta is highly prevalent on college campuses in the USA. Students abuse these drugs otherwise known as “Study Steroids” to improve their cognitive ability and retain focus. 

A survey by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids in 2014 reported that one-fifth of college students reported misusing prescription stimulants. According to this survey, Adderall was the most popular stimulant, used by 60% of respondents, followed by Ritalin and Vyvanse.

Bottom Line: Concerta versus Adderall

So, what’s the verdict? Both medications Concerta and Adderall can be incredibly effective in treating ADHD and work in the same way. The only difference between the two is the active ingredient, their release formulation, and a few side effects

If you think either medication might be right for you or your child, talk to a doctor about which one might be a better option based on individual medical history and health conditions.

FAQs on Adderall and Concerta 

Which is more effective: Adderall or Concerta?

Both Adderall and Concerta are equally effective to treat ADHD. However, the effectiveness of a medication can vary from person to person. The optimal treatment for a particular individual may depend on a number of factors, including the severity of their symptoms, their age, genetic history, and any other medical conditions they may have.

Is there any other medication to treat ADHD than Adderall and Concerta?

Yes, there are plenty of other medications to treat ADHD such as Ritalin, Dexedrine, Evekeo, Focalin XR, etc.

Is it safe to take Concerta and Adderall together?

There is very little research on this matter. However, doctors often advise against mixing together stimulant drugs.


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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