Concerta vs Adderall: Is There Really Any Difference?
ADHD medications have been in existence for over 50 years, with methylphenidate (also known as Ritalin) being one of the first drugs used to treat ADHD. Today, Concerta and Adderall are two of the more popular ADHD treatment drugs.
Both Concerta and Adderall belong to the amphetamine class of drugs and require a doctor’s prescription. These drugs work by addressing the chemical imbalances that give rise to ADHD symptoms, such as problems focusing, concentrating and tendencies toward hyperactive behavior. Prescription amphetamine drugs directly address the chemical imbalances that bring about ADHD symptoms.
While their overall effects are the same, certain key differences between Concerta vs Adderall do exist. As prescription amphetamines, both drugs also carry a considerable risk for abuse. Not surprisingly, key differences between Concerta vs Adderall can play into this abuse/addiction potential.
Concerta vs. Adderall: Mechanisms of Action
Concerta is a brand name formulation of methylphenidate hydrochloride, the same active ingredient found in Ritalin. Concerta differs from Ritalin in that it produces extended release effects whereas Ritalin produces immediate release effects.
This extended release version produces effects for up to 12 hours, which helps keep a steady concentration of the drug in the bloodstream as opposed to the fluctuations that occur when taking two or more Ritalin per day.
Once ingested, Concerta prevents the brain from recycling excess dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitter materials in the brain, according to the University of Maryland. These interactions help to stabilize the brain’s chemical makeup for people affected by ADHD, but have an opposite effect for non-ADHD sufferers.
Adderall’s active ingredients include amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, two powerful stimulant agents. Adderall stimulates dopamine production while also preventing excess dopamine and norepinephrine from being recycled.
When comparing Concerta vs. Adderall, Adderall tends to be more habit-forming due to its dual action effects on neurotransmitter levels. More than anything else, it the increase in dopamine levels that causes feelings of euphoria and drives drug-using impulses.
Adderall’s ability to stimulate dopamine production and block dopamine reuptake makes for a more addictive drug overall.
According to the journal of Pharmaceutical Research, a drug’s half-life duration determines how long it takes for half the dosage amount to leave the bloodstream. Several factors can influence any one drug’s half-life duration, including:
- Your age
- Your overall health
- Method of use (e.g. smoking, snorting, injecting and oral pill form)
- Extended release versus immediate release mechanisms
- Dosage amount
Overall, Concerta has a shorter half-life duration of 3.5 hours compared to Adderall’s 11 to 13 hours. If you’ve been abusing Adderall vs. Concerta for weeks or months at a time, withdrawal time will be longer with Adderall and withdrawal symptoms will be more severe.
Abuse and Addiction Potential
Both Concerta and Adderall belong to the Schedule II class of controlled substances, which all carry a high risk for abuse and addiction. While they’re both highly addictive, Adderall is worse.
It helps to keep in mind that a drug’s addiction potential determines:
- How habit-forming it will be
- How hard it will be to stop using the drug
- How uncomfortable the drug’s withdrawal effects will be