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Concerta vs Ritalin: What’s the Difference?

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Knowing which ADHD medication to choose can be a struggle, especially when it comes to medications as similar as Concerta and Ritalin. Since these drugs share an active ingredient, they work the same way in the body to reduce the more challenging symptoms of ADHD. 

The most significant difference between them is that Ritalin is fast-acting and is metabolized fairly quickly, while Concerta is a slow-release medication that remains in the system longer. These ADHD medications also differ when it comes to side effects and contraindications. In this article, we outlined these differences so you can decide which ADHD medication is right for you. 

The ADHD specialists on Klarity can also answer your questions about medication, provide an official diagnosis, and help you craft a ADHD treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and goals. Schedule an appointment today.

What is Concerta?

Concerta (active ingredient: methylphenidate) is a central nervous system stimulant similar to ADHD medications like Daytrana and Ritalin. This medication works by targeting the neurotransmitters in the brain that control focus, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Concerta is a federally scheduled controlled substance primarily prescribed to help combat the effects of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Forms and Dosages

Concerta is a time-released, once-a-day tablet that lasts up to 10 hours. Doses come in 18 mg, 27 mg, 36 mg, 54 mg, and the max dosage of 72 mg. Adults normally start off with an 18 mg dose and increase potency until the desired effect is achieved. Concerta should not be crushed or chewed as it could induce serotonin syndrome, a dangerous condition that can cause severe damage and even death.

Concerta’s unique delivery system, OROS (osmotically controlled release oral-delivery system), delivers 22% of its total medication load when the outer capsule dissolves shortly after being ingested. Three inner compartments slowly dissolve throughout the day at different times as the intestines absorb the chambers and release the medicine. One-sixth of the medication is never absorbed.

ADHD sufferers should be vigilant when choosing their Concerta medication. Six formulations are currently on the market, with five of the formulations considered substandard by the medical community. The one formulation considered as the “branded generic” is the best formulation. It can be spotted by its barrel shape, a tiny hole on one end where the medication bleeds out, and the manufacturer name: ALZA. 

Conditions Treated

Concerta is FDA approved for use in those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.

Costs

Sans insurance, a one-month brand-name supply of 36 mg Concerta tablets is between $250 and $300. You’ll likely be able to find a generic supply of Concerta for approximately $60, but that price can vary depending on the pharmacy you choose. For accurate pricing information under your current health insurance plan, contact your provider’s pharmacy department. 

Side Effects

Concerta, because of its unique delivery system, does not retain as many side effects as other, more direct delivery methods found in immediate-release ADHD medications like Ritalin and Adderall IR. Common side effects of Concerta include but are not limited to:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Sleep disruption
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach ache
  • Increased sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability

Severe but rare side effects of Concerta include:

  • Priapism
  • Eyesight changes
  • Blurred vision 

Warnings and Drug Interactions

Before taking any kind of ADHD stimulant medication like Concerta, have a thorough and candid discussion with your doctor about whether you’ve experienced any of the following conditions in the past or are currently experiencing them:

  • Heart or blood-pressure-related issues
  • Mental illness or mental health issues
  • Circulation issues
  • Substance abuse

Concerta may exacerbate certain conditions and react poorly with specific medications. For more information on Concerta’s warnings and drug interactions, refer to this medication’s accompanying literature and speak with an ADHD doctor who can explain the benefits and negatives of taking this medication.

What is Ritalin?

Ritalin (active ingredient: methylphenidate) is a central nervous system stimulant used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, adolescents, and adults. It works by affecting neurochemicals that control behaviors like focus, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. 

Forms and Dosages

Ritalin comes in four dosages: 5 mg, 10 mg, 20 mg, and the max dose of 30 mg. This medication can be taken 1-2 times per day with or without meals. It comes in an immediate-release (IR) version, a sustained-release (SR) tablet, and an extended-release form (Ritalin LA). 

IR forms of Ritalin last in the body for up to four hours and can be taken 2-3 times per day. Ritalin SR is effective for up to eight hours. Ritalin LA is taken once daily, can last in the body for up to 10 hours, and increases to a max strength of 40 mg.

Conditions Treated

Ritalin is FDA approved for use in those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.

Costs

A generic supply of Ritalin will be substantially less expensive than the branded version of this medication and costs around $50 for a one-month supply of 5 mg tablets. For accurate pricing information for Ritalin under your current health insurance plan, contact your provider’s pharmacy department. 

Side Effects

Ritalin’s side effects include but are not limited to:

  • Sweating 
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Mood changes 
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased heart rate
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Stomach pain 
  • Indigestion
  • Headache, dizziness

If you happen to experience swelling, hives, or any other sign of an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately. Call a doctor at once if you experience any signs of psychosis, including hallucinations, paranoia, or new, uncommon behaviors.

Warnings and Drug Interactions

Before using Ritalin, speak with a healthcare provider if you have taken an MAO inhibitor in the past two weeks. Ritalin may cause worsening symptoms for those struggling with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. If you suffer from heart abnormalities, cardiac issues, or circulation issues, you should speak with your doctor before taking this medication.

Which is Better for Your ADHD?

Concerta and Ritalin are two similar medications containing the same active ingredient. The difference in these medications is their delivery systems. Because these medications are so similar, speak with a healthcare provider who can better explain which will work more effectively for your specific case of ADHD.

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