Concerta vs. Vyvanse: Comparison Guide

Concerta and Vyvanse are prescription drugs used for the treatment of ADHD in children and adults. The brand-name forms of the medications can be very expensive, but a generic form of Concerta is available.

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Approximately 10 percent of children in the United States have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Although the condition is common and treatable, it is not always recognized and can sometimes be written off as poor or aggressive behavior in children. Children with ADHD may struggle to learn, focus, and interact socially, which can lead to delayed development. ADHD can also affect adults. 

Vyvanse (Lisdexamfetamine) and Concerta (Methylphenidate) are two popular prescription medications used for the treatment of ADHD. This comparison guide examines the similarities and differences between Concerta vs. Vyvanse. 

Overview

Both Vyvanse and Concerta are considered stimulant medications. 

The drugs work similarly to increase the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, dopamine and norepinephrine, that play a role in hyperactive and impulsive behavior. 

One major difference between the two drugs is that Vyvanse is a prodrug, meaning it does not begin working until it is metabolized by the body. Concerta is delivered both immediately and over time thanks to the dual action of the medication.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies both Vyvanse and Concerta as Schedule II controlled substances due to their high potential for abuse and addiction.

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Conditions Treated

Both Concerta and Vyvanse are used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD. Vyvanse is also approved by the FDA for the treatment of binge eating disorder. 

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that is typically diagnosed during childhood. While most people who are diagnosed with ADHD as children find that they continue to experience symptoms upon reaching adulthood, some people do appear to outgrow their symptoms or notice considerable improvement with age. 

ADHD can present in three different ways: hyperactive-impulsive, inattentive, or a combination of hyperactivity and inattention. The symptoms of ADHD may change throughout a person’s lifetime. 

Common signs and symptoms of ADHD include: 

  • Difficulty resisting temptation
  • Talking excessively
  • Difficulty getting along with others
  • Hyperactivity
  • Squirming or fidgeting
  • Daydreaming
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Forgetting or losing things regularly
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Difficulty controlling impulsive behaviors

Both Vyvanse and Concerta are approved for the treatment of ADHD in adults and children at least six years of age and older. 

Cost

The brand-name versions of Vyvanse and Concerta can be expensive

While Concerta is also available in a generic version, Vyvanse is only available as a brand-name drug. A 30-day prescription of Vyvanse costs approximately $350, and some forms of commercial insurance may not cover the cost of the medication. Brand-name Concerta is similarly priced, with a monthly prescription costing an average of $396. 

However, the generic version of Concerta, known as methylphenidate hydrochloride, may be obtained for less than $20 for a monthly prescription. While the brand name version of Concerta may not be covered by commercial health insurance, the generic version of the drug is usually covered. 

Regardless of whether or not you have adequate health insurance coverage for prescriptions, you can save on the cost of your medication by using a pharmacy discount card. Pharmacy discount cards are available at no cost and can help you save money on all FDA-approved medications, including both brand-name and generic drugs.

Side Effects

Both Vyvanse and Concerta are associated with numerous side effects, some of which may require medical attention. 

Vyvanse

Common side effects of Vyvanse include:

  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Less common side effects associated with Vyvanse include:

  • Libido changes
  • Agitation
  • Rapidly changing moods
  • Depersonalization
  • Rash
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sleepiness or unusual drowsiness

Concerta

Side effects of Concerta range from common to less common. Common side effects associated with the use of Concerta include:

  • Irritability
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach ache
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • Increased sweating

Less common side effects associated with Concerta include:

  • Slowing of growth (both height and weight) in children
  • Eyesight changes or blurred vision
  • Aggressive thoughts or behavior
  • Seizures, particularly in patients with an existing history of seizures
  • Priapism (erection lasting longer than four hours)
  • Blockage of the esophagus, stomach, small or large intestine in patients who already have a narrowing in any of these organs

Side effects associated with Vyvanse and Concerta are most commonly experienced when people start taking the medication for the first time or when their dosage of the medication is increased. 

Side effects may disappear or diminish over time as your body adjusts to your medication. 

However, some people may continue to experience side effects. If you continue to experience side effects after taking the drug for several weeks, or if your side effects are particularly severe, make sure to contact your doctor for medical advice, or seek medical attention immediately. 

Warnings for Use

Use of Vyvanse and Concerta is heavily controlled due to the potential for abuse, addiction, and dependency. While the medications are available by prescription only, there are some people who may use Concerta, Vyvanse, and similar medications without a prescription.  

Common signs of substance abuse or dependency may include:

Withdrawal

Vyvanse and Concerta are classified as Schedule II controlled substances due to their high potential for abuse and dependence. People who become dependent on Vyvanse or Concerta may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the medication abruptly or dramatically reduce their dose. Patients who have been taking either Vyvanse or Concerta for more than two weeks should only stop taking the drug or reduce their dose under the supervision of a healthcare professional. 

For informational purposes, withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping the use of Vyvanse and Concerta can include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Shaking
  • Changes in mood
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Depression
  • Strange dreams

Medical Concerns

The use of Vyvanse or Concerta may lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke. As stimulants, Vyvanse and Concerta may increase blood pressure or heart rate, which can be dangerous for those with cardiovascular problems. 

Consult a healthcare provider for other possible warnings and precautions associated with stimulants.

Due to the stimulant nature of Vyvanse and Concerta, some people may not be able to use these drugs safely. Others may need to be very cautious while taking the medication

You should not take Vyvanse or Concerta if you:

  • Have glaucoma
  • Have a history of anxiety, tension, or agitation
  • Have had an allergic reaction to the medication
  • Take a type of antidepressants called MAOIs

Talk to your doctor before taking Vyvanse if you have any of the following medical conditions:

  • Blood pressure or circulation problems, such as Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • A history or heart problems

You should not take Concerta if you have any of the following medical conditions:

  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • A family history of Tourette’s syndrome
  • Motor tics

Summary

Concerta and Vyvanse work similarly to treat ADHD. Although the drugs are known to cause similar side effects, some people may find that one drug works better for them than the other. 

There are other ADHD medications available as well like Ritalin, Focalin, Strattera, and Adderall, which comes in both its short-term form and the long-acting Adderall XR release tablets. 

Consult with your doctor to determine which amphetamine may be right for you. 

Using brand-name Vyvanse or Concerta to treat ADHD can be expensive, but it is possible to save on your medication using a pharmacy discount card from Pharmacists.org.

Sources:
https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html 
https://www.janssenlabels.com/package-insert/product-monograph/prescribing-information/CONCERTA-pi.pdf#page=30 
https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-19857/concerta-oral/details 
https://www.addictioncenter.com/stimulants/concerta/ 
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325770

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