Concerta vs Adderall: Similarities
Concerta and Adderall are two very similar pharmaceutical drugs used to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and related conditions. Now, there is a lot of debate about whether the use of stimulants is the best method for treating ADHD. In most cases, a combination of behavioral therapy and stimulant drugs seem to be most effective, but this article is not about debating treatments of ADHD.
Both Concerta and Adderall are CNS stimulants. They work in the same way; by preventing the re-uptake of dopamine and norepinephrine after they have passed between neurons. By preventing their re-uptake between neurons, you have more of these neurotransmitters in the brain capable of communicating between neurons.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter largely responsible for reward, drive, motivation, and forward planning. It is primarily dopamine which keeps you focused and determined to finish a task, and it produces pleasure when we do complete a task.
Norepinephrine is what you might call Adrenaline (which is actually a branded form of norepinephrine). It controls your ‘fight or flight’ response to threats. It raises blood pressure, sharpens focus, dramatically raises atention, and increases excitability.
The effects of Concerta and Adderall are down to the way in which both drugs block the re-uptake of these neurotransmitters, raising their availability in the brain.
But how are Concerta and Adderall different? Is Concerta safer than Adderall? Which is better, Concerta or Adderall? Which is more effective?
Let’s look at these questions in more detail.
Concerta vs Adderall: Differences
As discussed above, both Adderall and Concerta are CNS stimulants which work by preventing thereuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine. However, that is where the similarities end.
Concerta is methylphenidate. This is the same active compound in Ritalin. Essentially, Concerta and Ritalin are the same drug, just with different names and slightly different configuration options.
Adderall is a branded collection of amphetamine salts. Specifically, Adderall is composed of equal parts racemic amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. This produces a 3:1 ratio between dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine, the two enantiomers of amphetamine. The logic for mixing different salts of amphetamine is that it produces both a short and fast-acting drug, meaning the effects are both rapid onset and longer lasting than straight amphetamine.
Another major difference between Concerta and Adderall is the speed at which they work.
Concerta’s effects last far longer than Adderall’s. Concerta usually starts working about one hour of the tablet being consumed. The effects then gradually increase until peaking after around 6 hours. Some people report experiencing peak benefits 10 hours after taking Concerta.
This stands in stark contrast to Adderall (and to Ritalin). Adderall’s effects peak after about 3 hours and then quickly dissipate. Even when using a longer lasting form of Adderall, such as Adderall XR, the effects do not last anywhere near as long as Concerta.
The reason for the delayed release of Concerta is its trilayer core which delays the release of the bulk of the drug. This means Concerta only has to be taken once per day, where most people with ADHD take Adderall 2-3 times per day. This is the main way in which Concerta is marketed; as a kind fo slow-release Adderall.
Is Concerta or Adderall more effective?
Both Concerta and Adderall have been found to be effective for the treatment of ADHD in children and adults. Both drugs are FDA-approved for this use (source).
Adderall has also been approved for use as a treatment for narcolepsy, whereas Concerta has not.
But which drug is more effective?
In some circumstances, a clinician may prefer to prescribe one drug over the other.
A meta-analysis published in 2018 found that methylphenidate (generic Concerta) was better for children and adolescents as a first-line ADHD treatment (source). For adults, it was found that amphetamines were probably better than other drugs (including modafinil) for the treatment of ADHD.
Other studies have suggested that using long-acting stimulants is generally preferable to short-acting stimulants, again in the context of treating ADHD. This is because longer acting stimulants provide a more sustained, manageable benefit, and they can be taken just once per day, meaning there will be no gaps where the drug is not active.
This means that for most people with ADHD, methylphenidate is likely to be a better option than amphetamine. However, the takeaway here is that each case is different. It is vital that you discuss your options with your physician before using either Adderall or Concerta to treat attention deficit disorders.
Concerta vs Adderall: Side effects and safety
Which is safer, Concerta or Adderall?
This is probably the most important question we will answer in this article.
Overall, there isn’t much difference between Adderall and Concerta work. They are about as dangerous as each other!
Both Concerta and Adderall have very similar side effect risks, and almost identical long-term health effects.
Here is a list of short-term side effects which have been observed in users of both Adderall and Concerta:
- Dry mouth
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach cramps
- Abdominal pain
- Profuse sweating
Long-term, both of these drugs can do serious damage to your body, especially if you are taking them in large quantities on a daily basis.
The long-term health risks of using Adderall and Concerta include:
- Elevated risk of heart attack
- Elevated risk of stroke
- Increased risk of seizures
This is why it is so important that you only use these drugs if you have a prescription and are doing so under medical supervision.
It is also vital that you do not use either of these drugs if you are current;y using other medications which might interact with Adderall or Concerta. The list of drugs which negatively interact with Concerta and Adderall is LONG! It is particularly important that you do not use either of these drugs while taking an MAOI, or other stimulants.
Concerta or Adderall: Which should you use?
Whether you should use Adderall or Concerta to treat your ADHD is a question only your physician can answer. Each case is different, and there are costs and benefits to each drug.
If you do not have ADHD and you do not intend to get Adderall or Concerta on prescription, then the answer to the question of which drug you should use is neither!
If you do not have ADHD and you have not been prescribed Adderall or Concerta, then you should not be using either of these drugs AT ALL.
There are lots of safer, natural alternatives to both of these drugs which are far more suitable for someone who does not have any diagnosed ADHD-related condition.
In summary: Concerta vs 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. Concerta also contains trilayer capsules with a slower digestion rate. Compared to Adderall, Concerta’s effects last longer and release more slowly over time. Adderall has also been cleared for the treatment of narcolepsy whereas Concerta has not.