Understanding which medication is best to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — 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 may come with recommendations from friends and family. Some doctors prefer one medication over the other. There are also a lot of ADHD medications available, including Concerta and Vyvanse.

Both Concerta and Vyvanse are psychostimulants 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’s 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 a brand name for methylphenidate HCl. It’s available as a tablet and lasts about 12 hours. It comes in doses of 18, 27, 36, and 54 milligrams. Concerta generic is also available.

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

Other brand names for methylphenidate include:

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

Vyvanse

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

Vyvanse is manufactured by Shire Pharmaceuticals and was approved in 2007 for ADHD and in 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’re 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 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 by the FDA as a weight loss drug. The potential side effects of taking either of these medications for weight loss appear to outweigh the potential benefits.

If you’re 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 medication will work best for any person’s ADHD is typically related to a number of factors including history, genetics, and unique metabolism. Speak with your doctor about any changes in your medication or if you have questions about your treatment.