Adderall vs. Concerta

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

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Adderall vs. Concerta comparison

What are Adderall and Concerta?

Amphetamines like those in Adderall stimulate the brain by increasing the level of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Nerves produce neurotransmitter chemicals, which then release and attach to other nearby nerves as a means of communication among nerves. The exact way Adderall works to alleviate ADHD symptoms is unknown.

Methylphenidate, the active ingredient in Concerta and Ritalin, is a medication that stimulates the central nervous system (CNS or brain) with effects similar to the amphetamines in Adderall; however, its effect is milder than those of the amphetamines. An additional difference is that methylphenidate produces more noticeable effects on mental activities of those with ADHD than on motor activities.

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What are the uses for Adderall and Concerta?

Both Adderall and Concerta are used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.

What are the side effects of Adderall and Concerta?

The common side effects of both Adderall and Concerta/Ritalin are similar. They include nervousness, agitation , anxiety, and insomnia, among others.

Both drugs can worsen or cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.

Concerta users have reported involuntary movements and tics, which aren't a side effect of Adderall. Both drugs can cause mental problems and psychosis, however. Adderall users have reported depression, manic episodes, unusual aggression or hostility, hallucinations and even seizures. The mental and neurological side effects with Concerta tend to be less severe.

People with severe anxiety, depression, emotional instability, or motor tics shouldn't take either Adderall or Concerta.

Other less common but serious side effects with these medications are possible. Consult your doctor before taking either.

Can I become addicted to these drugs?

Adderall can become physically addictive and cause withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped, whereas these problems aren't typically reported with Concerta or Ritalin. Methylphenidate, however, can be habit-forming and should be tapered off rather than stopped abruptly.Adderall usually is taken once or twice a day with 4-6 hours between doses. The recommended dose is 2.5 to 60 mg daily, depending on the patient's age and condition. Adderall XR (the extended-release version of the drug) is taken once daily in doses of 5 to 40 mg. The entire contents of the Adderall XR capsules can be mixed with food. Avoid late evening doses for both Adderall and Adderall XR to prevent insomnia.

Methylphenidate may be given once, twice, or three times daily, depending on formulation, at dose levels of 18-72 mg total in the day.

Which drugs interact with Adderall and Concerta?

Don't take either Adderall or Concerta with monamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). The danger of an extreme high blood pressure reaction to combining MAOIs and either medication is so great, people should avoid taking Adderall or Concerta until two weeks have passed since the last MAOI dose.

High blood pressure is exacerbated by both methylphenidate and the amphetamine and dextroamphetamine in Adderall, therefore; either medication may render blood pressure medications less effective.

Caffeine is also a stimulant, and can adversely magnify effects of both Adderall and Concerta. Coffee and other caffeine-containing beverages should be avoided while taking either medication.

Antacids can also increase the effect of Adderall by allowing the body to absorb more of the amphetamine combination, so avoid antacids while taking Adderall.

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Are Adderall and Concerta safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?

Pregnant or breastfeeding women with ADHD should not take Adderall. Babies born to mothers taking this amphetamine and dextroamphetamine combination could have health problems including low birth weight and withdrawal symptoms after birth. Adderall is also passed on in breastmilk.

Conversely, there isn't enough existing information to say whether or not methyphenidate can affect the health of developing fetus. Neither is enough evidence available to say whether or not Concerta is passed on to an infant through breast milk.

FDA Prescribing Information

Last Editorial Review: 2/7/2017

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Reviewed on 2/7/2017
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FDA Prescribing Information

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