Treatment, Withdrawal & Symptoms: Concerta® Vs Ritalin®

Written By:

One of the basic assumptions we often make when getting a prescription is that our doctors know best and that the prescription is going to be safe for us. 

The problem is that trusting your doctors explicitly that way can cause problems, not because your doctors don’t know what they are doing or because they don’t have your best interests at heart, but because they have a lot of patients, and everyone’s a little different. 

That means it’s a patient’s responsibility to research and learn about the medications you’re taking, especially when your doctor is giving you more than one medication option, or when you’re dealing with a difficult-to-treat disorder.

That includes disorders like ADHD, especially because there can be an addiction risk and demand for these drugs on the black market as well as from doctors. Understanding the differences between key medications, like Concerta® vs. Ritalin®, and knowing the risks and warning signs, is critical for getting the most out of these medications. 

First, let’s talk about what these medications are, and whether they are only used to treat ADHD, or whether you might get them prescribed for other disorders as well. 

Ready? Let’s go! 

Concerta® vs Ritalin®: Everything You Need to Know

Concerta® Vs. Ritalin®, What They Are, What They Do, And What They Treat

Both Concerta® and Ritalin® are common ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) medications that help with day-to-day functioning in children and adults, and may also be helpful for treating some of the behavior problems that occur in children with ADHD. 

Most experts agree that medication alone isn’t enough to fully treat ADHD, and recommend dietary and lifestyle changes in addition to the medication to help get better overall control of the condition. 

Both medications can be used for both children and adults, but everyone may have a slightly different reaction to each medication, and one might work better for you than the other. 

It’s also possible for people to need to switch medications from time to time as their bodies develop a tolerance to one medication. You may also need to change ADHD medications after significant body changes, like puberty, menopause, or other changes. 

Interestingly enough, there isn’t a difference Concerta® vs. Ritalin® in what the active medication is. The main difference between these drugs is in how the drug, methylphenidate, is delivered, and how often you need to take the drug to get an effective dose. 

That’s important because the medication in both brand-name drugs, methylphenidate, can be habit-forming and how one may also develop a dependence on the medication. That means that there is a risk of addiction with both Concerta® and Ritalin®, and also means that these medications are controlled and that you need to make sure you’re following your doctor’s prescription instructions exactly. 

At the same time, even people who follow the dose instructions exactly might still have problems with these medications, which is why it’s so important to understand how Concerta® and Ritalin® work, and the warning signs of danger. 

Concerta® Overview

Concerta® may be a good option for people who haven’t responded well to Ritalin®, or who are looking for a slightly different formulation to see if it offers different side effects or changes how the drug performs in a beneficial way. 

In terms of dosage, Concerta® vs. Ritalin®, Concerta® has fewer currently approved dosages and formulations, making it the more limited of the two drugs. 

However, since Concerta® is only available as an extended-release oral tablet, it might be easier for some patients to manage, especially during and immediately after dose changes. The pills change, when you’re changing Concerta® doses, but when and how often you take the medication doesn’t change. 

The other big difference between Concerta® vs. Ritalin® is that Concerta® is a long-acting gradual medication. That means that it gradually increases the amount of dopamine in your system, improving performance all day without the crashes or jittery feeling that can occur when you have too much dopamine all at once. 

If you notice that you are feeling crashes or jitters while taking Concerta®, it’s important to talk with your doctor about your symptoms because that may mean you need a different dose, or that you might do better on a different ADHD medication. 

Ritalin® Overview

Ritalin® is still one of the most common ADHD medications, which is important to understand because it’s often where doctors will start when they are looking for the right ADHD medication for you. 

That doesn’t mean that Ritalin® is better than Concerta®, Adderall®, or any other ADHD medication. It simply means that many doctors have the most experience and understanding of Ritalin® and that they are more likely to be able to find the right medication for you if Ritalin® doesn’t work. They can prescribe better alternative medications based on your reaction to Ritalin® vs. Concerta® or other medications. 

At the same time, there are some limitations when it comes to Ritalin®, as well as added flexibility that other medications may not have. 

For example, there are immediate-release tablets, extended-release, and sustained-release tablets, and your doctor may experiment to see which version is right for you. There are also more dose options when it comes to Ritalin®, which can sometimes mean more flexibility to make sure you’re getting the right medication for your needs. 

However, with most formulations of Ritalin®, you will be taking the medication 2x a day, which can be difficult to manage in some settings. You may also need to work with your doctor to figure out what system of reminders works best for you since adults and children with ADHD may have a harder time remembering to take their medications and may also have a harder time developing habits compared with other people. 

Key Differences Between These Drugs

We’ve already addressed some of the key differences between Concerta® Vs. Ritalin®, but to summarize quickly: 

Concerta® is a long-lasting drug with a very steady release pattern that can help avoid peaks and crashes through your day. However, more limited dosing options and individual reaction differences may mean that Concerta® isn’t right for everyone. 

Ritalin® has more dosing options but generally is faster-acting. That said, it can create more peaks and crashes in how you feel throughout the day, and you might have to experiment more with your dose and when you take the medication before finding the right schedule. 

Both drugs can be taken from childhood into adulthood, and both drugs can create a physical and mental dependence in those that take them. Both drugs are controlled substances because of their potential for being misused and/or causing dependence or addiction, and both medications may cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking them suddenly. 

It’s also important for patients to know that both of these medications use the same active medication, which should give you more hope if neither medication works for you. There are still plenty of other ADHD medications that you can try that use different active ingredients and target different causes and symptoms of ADHD. 

Are Concerta® and Ritalin® Addictive?

Concerta® vs. Ritalin®: Are Both Drugs Addictive? 

One of the most common concerns ADHD patients and their parents have when starting an ADHD medication is that the drugs can be addictive and that they don’t know what to do if they do develop an addiction. 

The first thing you need to know is that proper use of these medications will likely cause physical dependence. That means that your body needs the medication to function properly, above and beyond the symptoms of ADHD that you would have without the medication. 

Physical dependence on a medication is not the same thing as an addiction. 

However, using the medication improperly can increase the risk of an addiction, and people who take these medications without having ADHD may be especially vulnerable to addiction in some cases. 

Long term, you may be recommended to switch medications if you start developing too high a tolerance to a particular medication to get a reasonably effective dose, or if you start having cravings for the medication that are separate from needing it to treat specific symptoms. 

Dealing With Ritalin® Or Concerta® Addiction? 

Developing an addiction to an ADHD medication, especially if you actively need that medication for treating ADHD, can feel overwhelming and frightening. 

The good news is that, no matter how complicated your situation is, there are people who can help. Better yet, developing an addiction to an ADHD medication doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to safely access and use other ADHD medications in the future. You deserve to live happily, addiction free, and still get the medical treatment you need. 

There are a lot of treatment options out there. One of the first places you should consider going is to your prescribing doctor. Explain your situation and concerns and ask if there are good options for switching medications and if they have any additional support options to help deal with withdrawal symptoms. 

Another option would be going straight to an addiction treatment center. The main reason we recommend choosing an addiction treatment center is that treating addiction in someone with ADHD is inherently differen