Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, & Vyvanse Reviews: Which ADHD Medication is Best for You?

Dec 20
If you’re considering ADHD medications, you’re probably bewildered by the dizzying array of choices. There's instant release, extended-release, Adderall, Ritalin, brand name, or generic.

In this blog, I’ll share my reviews of Adderall, Vyvanse (which is effectively extended-release Adderall) Ritalin, and Concerta (which is effectively extended-release Ritalin), the pros and cons of each, and which ones I would choose for different types of jobs.

Vyvanse gets my award for best overall for corporate management roles. It provides all-day focus for meetings and socializing as well as for managing desk work.

You can use a rescue dose of instant release Ritalin or Adderall if you have one or two focused desk sessions that you need to crank out.

Adderall in my experience is best for the same types of things as Vyvanse but with more flexibility and control. Maybe you don’t want or need 12 hours of consistent medication and Adderall gives you that flexibility.
     
Ritalin and Concerta get a nod from me for difficult distasteful desk work. Ritalin specifically is best for maximum flexibility. If you’re toggling between difficult distasteful desk work and meetings, Ritalin gives you the flexibility to toggle.
     
Concerta being the extended-release, is best for all-day difficult distasteful desk work with very few meetings or interruptions.
     
That’s my bottom line up front. Now let me go through each drug individually and give you my pros and cons based on how long the drug is active, the types of focus it produces in me as well as the cost.

RITALIN

In terms and characteristics, Ritalin produces a very intense locked-in focus. It’s the shortest acting of all four drugs. For me, it only lasts around three hours and it's available in generic form so it's super cheap.
     
Now the pros and cons. For intense focus, Ritalin is amazing for really distasteful difficult desk work. It helps me lock in and resist the ongoing desire to bail from this type of work. However, with creative or enjoyable work the intense focus becomes negative. I get stuck in perfectionistic minutia details like word choice and font size and don’t stay on track with my bigger picture vision.
     
In terms of being short-acting, the reports are you can take this drug the latest in the day out of all the medications. The short-acting window also makes it great for toggling between periods of distasteful difficult deskwork and meetings which require less intense focus.
     
The downside of being so short-acting is you’ll definitely have more peaks and valleys throughout your day and if you want all-day medication you must re-dose regularly. Ritalin is what I started my ADHD medication journey on and was my go-to for years when I was a consultant and had difficult distasteful desk work with a lot of meetings interspersed throughout the day.

CONCERTA

This drug has an intense focus like Ritalin that’s longer-lasting for me. It’s around eight hours and on the cost side, it’s still under patent so you have to pay high prescription drug costs. The benefits are you don’t have to re-dose throughout the day and you have a smoother more consistent focus than with the instant release of Ritalin.
   
The downside of the longer-lasting drug is that you have a more consistent dose throughout the day. For me, this didn’t help because I wanted an hour or two of intense focus for desk work and then I wanted a low level of intensity for meeting and socializing. So, I wanted more of a roller coaster. For me, the longer-lasting nature of Concerta didn’t give me what I needed.

ADDERALL

In terms of focus, it has a less locked-in focus feel than Ritalin. For me, it feels more like coffee with a little extra focus. It has a medium acting window for me that's around six hours. In terms of cost, it's also generic so it's a lot cheaper.
     
Focus with Adderall for me is that it doesn’t put me into that hyper-focused perfectionistic loop the way that the Ritalin-type drugs do. The con is the flip side of that. If I do need to do a lot of distasteful desk work versus more enjoyable creative desk work, I don’t have the same level of focus that keeps my butt in the chair.
     
In terms of the five to six-hour active window for me, the pro is that I can be more selective and targeted about when I need medication and that I can also choose to stay higher in the morning with just a little bit around lunchtime so that there are no negative sleep impacts.
     
The downside of the medium active time is that you do need to re-dose if you want all-day coverage and you will have peaks and valleys with that. Finally, in terms of focus, it’s what I said about Adderall in terms of the time. It’s the longest acting for me. The effects last for easily 12 hours and in terms of cost, it's only available under patent so it's an expensive prescription drug.

VYVANSE

The pros are that it’s just set it and forget it all day coverage. It's the closest experience to what I imagine it feels like to be neurotypical. The other nice thing I like about Vyvanse is that my psychiatrist would give me the option of doing a rescue dose, which would be a small dosage of either short-acting instant-release Ritalin or Adderall depending on your preference. That gave me the ability to rachet up my focus for more intense desk work sessions if I needed it.
     
Now onto the bonus. I mentioned that Ritalin was my go-to in my consulting days, however when I switched into my current corporate management role, I changed medications. I started using Vyvanse and found it to be much better for the type of work I was doing which was a lot more meetings and interaction with others. However, in the pandemic, I’ve switched again. Because of COVID, I've been working in the privacy of my home office and it makes redosing during the day simple. This lets me take advantage of the flexibility that instant release Adderall provides. This lets me minimize my medication usage by only using it in targeted spots when I know I need the extra boost.
     
What is your experience with these drugs? Let me know via email or social media.
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