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Concerta vs. Adderall: What Is the Difference & Which One Should I Take?


concerta vs adderall

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Healthcare providers often prescribe stimulants to combat ADHD symptoms such as hyperactivity and impulsivity. Concerta and Adderall are two stimulants commonly prescribed to ease the symptoms of ADHD in adolescents and adults.

While both medications can be effective in treating ADHD and work in similar ways, there are differences in the ways Concerta and Adderall are taken and how they react in the body. It’s worth being aware of these differences before seeking treatment for either medication.

If you or a loved one are struggling with ADHD, Klarity can help you find fast, easy, affordable treatment. Book an online appointment with an experienced ADHD healthcare provider today.

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Concerta Overview

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 provider on Klarity 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 of 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.

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 Overview

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 XL, 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 heartrate
  • 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

As Adderall is a habit-forming substance with a high potential for abuse, you should disclose to your prescribing physician if you’ve had issues with addiction in the past. Stimulants have caused 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.

Which ADHD Medication Should You Take?

While Concerta and Adderall are similar medications in many ways, there are subtle differences that can affect how with medication treats your ADHD. It’s critical to have a complete evaluation with a physician who specializes in ADHD treatment. Licensed and certified healthcare providers with expertise in treating ADHD will develop a treatment plan based on your needs, and if indicated, will prescribe the medication that’s best for you.

Book an online consultation with a licensed ADHD medical professional today!

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