Diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) have noticeably risen since the 1990's. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.6 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011. As more medications are produced to combat this rather widespread mental disorder, it can be hard to tell which medication is right for you or your loved ones. Here we will compare two of the more prominent medications used to treat ADHD: methylphenidate (Concerta) and dextroamphetamine (Adderall). We will outline the the effectiveness of each drug, dosage, any potential side effects, as well as groups who should avoid stimulant drugs such as these.

Effectiveness
Both Concerta and Adderall are central nervous system stimulant drugs. Stimulants have been approved to treat ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity, impulsive behaviors, and inattention. They do so by helping to activate the areas in your brain responsible for paying attention and by circulating certain reward chemicals like dopamine. There have not been many clinical studies comparing Concerta and Adderall. However, a review of ADHD treatment options, performed by Baylor College of Medicine, found that stimulant drugs such as these are effective in treating ADHD symptoms in children and teens above the age of 6.

Cost
As both Concerta and Adderall are brand name drugs, they are more expensive than their generic counterparts. While the brand name drug Concerta is less expensive than the extended release brand name Adderall, the generic for Concerta is more expensive than the generic for Adderall. Keep in mind that insurance coverage, location, dose size, and other factors can all affect the price you pay for these drugs.

Dosage
Both Concerta and Adderall are available in immediate release and extended release forms. They both may be taken with or without food. The standard dose for each drug is from 10-20mg daily. Some prefer to take it all at once, such as one extended release pill in the morning before school or work. Still others like the benefit of taking immediate release drugs, as it may allow them to time their side effects and thus make them more manageable. This varies on a case by case basis due to many factors, including age and how well your body absorbs the medication. Typically, the patient is started on the immediate release capsule and monitored by a doctor to adjust the dosage for the patient's needs. Contributing factors to changing dosage are the influence of side effects on the patient, the amount of influence the drug has immediately, and the increase or decrease in symptoms over time.

Side Effects
As they are both stimulant medications, Adderall and Concerta share many of the same side effects. The more mild side effects are said to go away as your body gets used to the medication. These mild side effects include sweating, dry mouth, dizziness, headache, nausea, irritability and vomiting. Concerta and Adderall also share many of the same potentially harmful side effects. These include fainting, shortness of breath, chest pain, cold or numb toes or fingers that turn white or blue, increased violence or violent thoughts, and even auditory hallucinations. Tell your doctor right away if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. They may adjust your dosage, switch your medication, or both. Additionally, men and teenage boys who take Concerta or its generic alternative may experience painful erections lasting several hours. Always keep your doctor informed of any side effects you are having, as they may indicate a need to adjust your dosage.

Risk Groups
Here is where some of the biggest differences in the two drugs come into play. Concerta and Adderall are not right for everyone. There are many medications and health conditions that can change the way the medication works. Therefore it is important to be aware of any of these contributing factors before taking either medication.
People who shouldn’t take Adderall include people who have or experience agitated states, advanced arteriosclerosis, symptomatic cardiovascular disease, moderate to severe hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperthyroidism, glaucoma, or a hypersensitivity to the sympathomimetic amines. Also those that have recently taken or are still taking MAO inhibitors should avoid Adderall. People who should not take Concerta include those who have glaucoma, Tourette’s syndrome or a family history of Tourette’s syndrome, motor tics, those who have anxiety disorder, tension, or are easily agitated, and they that may be hypersensitive to the drug. People taking MAOI antidepressants should avoid Concerta as well. Both drugs should be avoided by those with a history of drug abuse, as stimulant medications such as these can be habit forming. Both drugs have the potential to cause sudden death in people with undiagnosed heart problems. Both medications are pregnancy category C, and are therefore not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing. Children under the age of six should not take these drugs. Again, it is important to keep your doctor informed about any medications, supplements, or vitamins you take regularly, in order to ensure your safety in taking these drugs.

A comparison of Concerta and Adderall show that the two stimulants class drugs appear very similar. Concerta may be appropriate for a wider variety of people, as those with mental illness and heart problems can’t take Adderall. However, everyone has different experiences when taking medication. Your doctor will take your medical history into consideration when deciding whether either Concerta or Adderall will be effective for treating your ADHD symptoms.

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Author's Bio: 

Brian Wu graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology and Neurobiology. Currently, he holds a PhD and is an MD candidate (KSOM, USC) in integrative biology and disease. He is also an experienced writer and editor for many prestigious web pages. Brian values the ability of all ages to learn from the power of stories. His mission is to write about health conditions, educational topics and life situations in an entertaining way in order to help children understand their own life conditions and daily circumstances.