ADHD is a common condition in children, and it can also occur in adults. Among other symptoms, people with ADHD may have difficulty planning, organizing, and concentrating on tasks at school or work. The condition can also present social challenges.
Stimulants are often the first line of treatment for ADHD. There are many different stimulants available, each with pros and cons. Concerta and Vyvanse are both long-acting, which makes them different from other common ADHD medications, such as Ritalin.
In this article, we discuss the differences and similarities between Concerta and Vyvanse. We also look at their side effects and risks.
Differences and similarities
People can take Concerta or Vyvanse for ADHD, but doctors can also prescribe Vyvanse for binge eating disorder.
As Concerta and Vyvanse are both stimulants, their effects are very similar. The most significant difference between them is that Vyvanse is a prodrug, which means that it is inactive until the body metabolizes it.
Both drugs are long-acting, with their effects lasting for about 12 hours, which can be helpful for people who do not wish to take medication several times a day.
Taking medication only once a day can be especially good for children, who may find it difficult to remember to take further doses.
The generic drug name of Concerta is methylphenidate. Methylphenidate is also the drug that manufacturers use in Ritalin. The difference between Concerta and Ritalin is how long the medication lasts in the body.
Concerta uses an osmotic-controlled release oral delivery system (OROS). Manufacturers have developed this pump system to deliver Concerta throughout the day rather than all at once. This controlled delivery gives people a steady dose of the drug and allows for long term symptom control.
Concerta is available in a less expensive generic form. However, the generic versions do not use the OROS pump delivery system and, therefore, may not have the same effects as Concerta.
To keep the OROS pump delivery system intact, people cannot chew or crush the Concerta tablets. As a result, the tablets may not be suitable for children who cannot swallow pills.
Concerta is available in tablets of the following strengths:
- 18 milligrams (mg)
- 27 mg
- 36 mg
- 54 mg
A doctor will usually start by prescribing the lowest possible dosage, increasing it only if necessary.
Doctors prescribe Concerta to treat the symptoms of ADHD because it acts as a stimulant that increases the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.
Norepinephrine and dopamine are two chemicals in the brain that have an association with ADHD symptoms.
Concerta has approval for the treatment of ADHD in people between 6 and 65 years old.
The generic name of the drug Vyvanse is lisdexamfetamine. Doctors prescribe Vyvanse to treat ADHD and moderate-to-severe binge eating disorder in adults.
The body breaks down lisdexamfetamine into dextroamphetamine after a person swallows it. This compound has stimulating effects on the brain, but doctors are unsure exactly how it treats symptoms of ADHD or binge eating disorder.
Vyvanse is available in both a capsule and chewable form. Vyvanse capsules are available in the following strengths:
- 10 mg
- 20 mg
- 30 mg
- 40 mg
- 50 mg
- 60 mg
- 70 mg
Vyvanse chewable tablets are available in the following strengths:
- 10 mg
- 20 mg
- 30 mg
- 40 mg
- 50 mg
- 60 mg
Doctors will prescribe a starting dosage of 30 mg once daily in the morning for people 6 years or older with ADHD.
If this initial dosage is not providing symptom relief, the doctor may raise the daily dose by 10 or 20 mg each week.
To treat binge eating disorder, people can start with a dosage of 30 mg per day. The doctor can increase the daily dose by 20 mg weekly until it reaches 50–70 mg per day.
The maximum daily dose of Vyvanse for ADHD or binge eating disorder is 70 mg.
Nervousness and difficulty sleeping are potential side effects of Concerta.
All stimulants can cause side effects. A person should speak to a doctor if the side effects of a medication are bothersome or outweigh the positive effects.
Common side effects of Concerta include:
Common side effects of Vyvanse include:
While Concerta can cause persistent and painful erections, there are no reports of Vyvanse having this effect.
Risks and considerations
Concerta and Vyvanse belong to the same class of medications — stimulants — and they have similar risks and considerations.
Children and adults with heart problems must avoid using Concerta or Vyvanse because stimulants can worsen heart conditions.
Doctors have reported sudden death due to stimulants in children and adults with a history of heart conditions.
Some people using Concerta or Vyvanse may experience an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, but a doctor will regularly monitor these changes.
People who have glaucoma should also avoid taking Concerta, but they can use Vyvanse safely.
Doctors have reported psychiatric disorders in people with or without a history of psychiatric conditions. Before prescribing either drug, they will conduct a thorough medical history and schedule follow-up appointments to monitor for psychiatric changes.
Children taking stimulants such as Concerta and Vyvanse may experience slower growth. During treatment, a doctor will monitor a child’s height and weight to detect any abnormalities and manage the treatment plan accordingly.
When people chronically misuse Concerta or Vyvanse, they can develop a dependence. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) control these substances because of the risk of abuse.
Which is better for ADHD?
Children may prefer taking Vyvanse to Concerta, as it is available in a chewable form.
Both Concerta and Vyvanse are common options for the treatment of ADHD. Which of the two drugs is better will depend on an individual’s experience.
Doctors will choose one of these treatment options and schedule follow-ups to see if the medicine is working. People should also report any side effects to the doctor.
The information that doctors gather from follow-up appointments will allow them to find the best medicine to treat someone’s ADHD symptoms safely and effectively.
As Vyvanse is available in a chewable form, it is often more suitable for children or people who have difficulty swallowing pills.
There are also other treatment options for ADHD, including:
- Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine)
- Biphentin (methylphenidate)
- Ritalin (methylphenidate)
If neither Vyvanse nor Concerta is effective, the doctor may increase the dosage or try another stimulant. People can also try nonstimulant medications.
Concerta and Vyvanse are two drugs that are effective in treating ADHD in children and adults. These two drugs belong to the same family of stimulants and share many side effects.
People with heart problems and a history of psychiatric conditions should avoid using either drug and speak with a doctor about alternatives.
Concerta and Vyvanse can cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, which can be dangerous for some people.
Vyvanse is available in a chewable form, which may be more suitable for children. People with tics, Tourette’s syndrome, or glaucoma cannot take Concerta.
A doctor will consider the differences between Concerta and Vyvanse before prescribing one of them because they may not both be suitable for everyone.