Understanding which medication is best to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — or which medication is best for your needs — can be confusing.

There are different categories, such as stimulants and antidepressants. They come in a variety of formats, from tablets to patches to liquids to chewables.

Many medications are advertised extensively, while others come with recommendations from friends and family. Some doctors prefer one over the other. And there are a lot of ADHD medications available, including Concerta and Vyvanse.

Both Concerta and Vyvanse are psychostimulants that are approved to treat ADHD, but there are differences.

The most notable difference is that Vyvanse is a prodrug. A prodrug is inactive until the body metabolizes it.

When Vyvanse is ingested, it is broken down by enzymes into the drug dextroamphetamine and the amino acid l-lysine. At that point the dextroamphetamine provides relief from ADHD symptoms.

Another major difference is Concerta’s delivery system. Concerta has absorption on the bottom and medication on the top.

As it passes through the gastrointestinal tract, it absorbs moisture, and as it expands it pushes medication out of the top. About 22 percent of the medication is delivered immediately and the remaining 78 percent is released over time.

Concerta

Concerta is brand name for methylphenidate HCl. It is available as a tablet and lasts about 12 hours. It comes in 18, 27, 36, 54 mg dosages. Concerta generic is also available.

Concerta is manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceuticals and was approved in August 2000 for ADHD. It is also approved for narcolepsy.

Other brand names for methylphenidate include:

  • Aptensio
  • Daytrana
  • Ritalin
  • Metadate
  • Methylin
  • Quillivant

Vyvanse

Vyvanse is brand name for lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, a modified amphetamine mixture. It is available as a capsule and as a chewable tablet. It lasts 10 to 12 hours and comes in 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 mg dosages.

Vyvanse is manufactured by Shire Pharmaceuticals and was approved in 2007 for ADHD and 2015 for binge eating disorder.

Other brand names for modified amphetamine mixtures include:

  • Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts)
  • Adzenys (amphetamine)
  • Dyanavel (amphetamine)
  • Evekeo (amphetamine sulfate)

Concerta and Vyvanse are both Schedule II Controlled Substances. This indicates that they are habit forming and have potential for abuse. Both can offer a high — temporary psychological euphoria — through elevated concentrations of dopamine release.

Side effects for both Vyvanse and Concerta include appetite loss, an increase in metabolic rate, and increased energy.

As such, many overweight people are attracted to them as weight loss solutions. This can lead to dependency on the drug to maintain a desired physique.

Neither Concerta nor Vyvanse has been approved as a weight loss drug, and it is illegal for a physician to prescribe a drug for a purpose other than the one approved by the FDA. Also, potential side effects of taking either of these medications outweigh the potential side effect of weight loss.

If you are taking Concerta or Vyvanse for an approved condition, you should report any changes in weight to your doctor.

Which ADHD medication is the best? Without a full diagnosis, there’s no way to know. Your doctor may recommend Concerta, Vyvanse, or another medication.

Which drug will work best for any particular person’s ADHD is typically related to a number of factors including your history, your genetics, and your unique metabolism.