ADHD Medication and Treatment Reviews

Concerta: ADHD Medication

Generic Name: Methylphenidate HCl ER
Concerta is a stimulant ADHD medication used to treat the symptoms of ADHD in children and adults.

What is Concerta?

Concerta (Generic Name: methylphenidate HCl ER) is an extended release delivery system central nervous system stimulant ADHD medication that is primarily used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) in children ages 6-12, adolescents, and adults up to age 65. Concerta may improve focus for people with inattentive ADHD, and decrease impulsivity and hyperactive behavior — hallmark ADHD symptoms for many patients.

Concerta contains methylphenidate, the same active ingredient as ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Daytrana. According to the FDA, Concerta is a federally controlled substance (“Schedule II Stimulant”) because it can be abused or lead to dependence. It has not been studied by the FDA in children under the age of 6 and so use in younger children is considered “off label.”  Nonetheless, it has been extensively studied in government-funded studies in children down to 3 years of age and has been shown to be both effective and safe in preschool children.

Concerta is known for its proprietary delivery system, OROS, (osmotically controlled release oral-delivery system), which allows medication to be released periodically as it travels through the body.

When Concerta is taken, a shell on the outside of the capsule dissolves, releasing 22% of the total dose of the medication. Three inner compartments then release at different intervals as the chambers absorb fluid from the intestine; this results in extended medication release. The release, however, is not consistent. Concerta was the first “backloaded” delivery system (other backloaded systems are Metadate CD and Biphentin), which was designed to produce constantly increasing blood levels of methylphenidate over a period of about 10 hours followed by a rapid decline in blood level once the hard caplet has released all that it is going to release. One-sixth of the dose is never released so that an 18 mg caplet of Concerta really delivers just 15 mg and a 36 mg caplet just releases 30 mg, and so on. Even after 20 years on the market there is a disagreement among clinicians about whether a steady release delivery system or a backloaded, ever-increasing dose is better.


Concerta is available in both branded and generic versions. This causes a great deal of confusion because there are currently six different formulations that are designated methylphenidate ER and that come in the same odd dosage strengths of 18, 27, 36, and 54 mg caplets but only one of these is the authentic “branded generic” that is identical to the brand name Concerta. The other five products are quite inferior, and the FDA recently succeeded in downgrading two of these product’s quality ratings.

The marketer of the acceptable branded generic changes almost every year, usually in January. Consumers should ask their pharmacist which product they’re dispensing and should not accept substitutes for the authentic branded generic. The acceptable generics will be in the shape of a small barrel, have a dimple at one end where the medication is pumped out of the hard-shell caplet, and should still bear the name of the brand name manufacturer called ALZA. Any other products are likely to be highly inconsistent in their release of medication and, short in duration, but cheaper so that they will be preferred by pharmacy benefits managers. For further, regularly updated information, see the website www.adhdrollercoaster.org.

Concerta can also be used to treat narcolepsy.

Concerta vs. Adderall


Concerta and Adderall are both central nervous system stimulant drugs. They alleviate ADHD symptoms by activating the areas of the brain responsible for paying attention and focusing. Concerta is the brand name for the delivery system of the generic drug methylphenidate. Adderall is the brand name for a delivery system of the generic drug amphetamine.

While Concerta is only available as an extended-release capsule, Adderall is available in immediate release and extended release forms. While the Concerta capsule relies on a push compartments to release medication over an extended period of time, the extended release version of Adderall holds tiny beads. Half the beads work right away; the others are released slowly into the body after about four hours.

What Is the Best Dosage for Concerta?

The optimal dosage of Concerta varies by patient. Concerta capsules are available in 18mg, 27mg, 36mg, and 54mg dosages. The time-release formulation is designed to maintain an ever-increasing blood level of medication in your body throughout the day. FDA guidance suggests a maximum 54mg daily dose for children and adolescents, and 72mg daily for adults.

The OROS delivery system is a very hard cellulose caplet that must remain intact because it contains two different concentrations of methylphenidate and a gel that pushes the medication out of a small hole at one end of the caplet. Cutting or crushing that caplet would cause all of the medication to be released at once. Capsules should be swallowed whole with water or other liquids. If your child is unable to swallow the pill, your doctor may recommend another medication. The empty caplet does not dissolve but instead passes through the digestive tract and out of the body without being digested.

As with all medications, follow your Concerta prescription instructions exactly. Concerta is taken orally, with or without food, once daily, typically taken first thing in the morning; it should be taken at the same time each day for the best results.

Some patients report developing a tolerance to Concerta, though no data supports this phenomenon. If you notice that your dosage is no longer controlling your symptoms, talk to your doctor to plan a course of action. Never adjust your dose without consulting your clinician first.

During treatment, your doctor should check vital statistics including blood, heart, and blood pressure; or evaluate height and weight.

What Side Effects Are Associated with Concerta?

Most people taking Concerta do not experience any side effects. That said, the most common side effects associated with Concerta are as follows:

  • decreased appetite
  • dry mouth
  • sleep disruption
  • dizziness
  • stomach ache
  • increased sweating
  • headache
  • nausea
  • weight loss
  • irritability, especially if the dose is wearing off

Serious Side Effects of Concerta

  • slowed growth in children
  • priapism (an erection that does not subside)
  • eyesight changes or blurred vision

Concerta and Heart- or Blood-Pressure Related Problems

Report to your doctor any heart-related problems or a family history of heart and blood pressure problems. Patients with structural cardiac abnormalities and other serious heart problems have experienced sudden death, stroke, heart attack, and increased blood pressure while taking Concerta but no causal relationship has ever been found. Stimulants can increase blood pressure and heart rate. Physicians should monitor these vital signs closely during treatment. Call your doctor immediately if you or your child experiences warning signs such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting while taking Concerta.

Concerta and Familial Mental Health Issues

Disclose to your physician all mental health issues including any family history of suicide, bipolar illness, tics, or depression. Patients should be evaluated for bipolar disorder, tics, and Tourette’s syndrome prior to stimulant administration. Concerta may create new or exacerbate existing behavior problems, bipolar illness, or Tourette’s syndrome. Call your doctor immediately if you or your child experiences new or worsening mental health symptoms including hallucinations or sudden suspicions.

Concerta and Circulation Problems

Discuss circulation problems with your doctor before taking Concerta, which has been known to cause numbness, coolness, or pain in fingers or toes, including Raynaud’s phenomenon. Report to your doctor any new blood-flow problems, pain, skin color changes, or sensitivities to temperature while taking Concerta.

Concerta and Substance Abuse

Stimulants like Concerta have a potential for abuse, especially among people who do not have ADHD. It is a “Schedule II Stimulant,” a designation that the Drug Enforcement Agency uses for drugs with a high potential for abuse. Other Schedule II drugs include Dexedrine, Ritalin, and cocaine. People with a history of drug abuse should use caution when trying this medication. Taking the medication exactly as prescribed can reduce potential for abuse.

The above is not a complete list of potential side effects. If you notice any health changes not listed above, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

What Precautions Are Associated with Concerta?

You should take Concerta with caution if you have:

  • allergy or hypersensitivity to methylphenidate HCI
  • if you are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

You should use caution taking Concerta if you have a history of:

  • heart or mental problems
  • untreated glaucoma
  • tics or history of Tourette’s syndrome
  • circulation problems
  • esophagus, stomach or intestine problems


If you’re thinking of becoming pregnant, discuss the use of Concerta with your doctor. The FDA designates MPH as a Pregnancy Risk Category C, which means that no risk of birth defects, difficulty with the pregnancy, or problems with delivery or the post-partum period have been found, but these problems cannot be absolutely ruled out either. Concerta is passed through breastmilk. Although it has never been studied, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers do not nurse while taking methylphenidate “out of an abundance of caution.”

Store Concerta in a secure place out of the reach of children, and at room temperature. Do not share your Concerta prescription with anyone, even another person with ADHD. Sharing prescription medication is illegal, and can cause harm.

The safety of Concerta for children under 6 has not been studied by the FDA and so cannot be FDA-approved for preschoolers. It has been extensively studied, however, by other governmental agencies and found to be both effective and safe down to 3 years of age.. The effects of Concerta on adults over age 65 have not been studied.

What Interactions Are Associated with Concerta?

Before taking Concerta, discuss all other active prescription medications with your doctor. Concerta can have a dangerous, possibly fatal, interaction with antidepressants including MAOIs.

Tell your doctor if you are taking blood thinners, blood pressure medication, or any medication containing a decongestant.

Share a list of all vitamin or herbal supplements, and prescription and non-prescription medications you take with the pharmacist when you fill your prescription, and let all doctors and physicians know you are taking Concerta before having any surgery or laboratory tests. The above is not a complete list of all possible drug interactions.

Concerta Sources:

1What Is Concerta? https://www.concerta.net/

2Label for Concerta (methylphenidate HCI) Extended-Release Tablets. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/021121s038lbl.pdf

3Katzman, Martin. A Review of OROS Methylphenidate (Concerta) in the treatment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. CNS Drugs (2014). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40263-014-0175-1

4Listen to “How To Solve The Three Biggest Challenges of ADHD Medication” with Laurie Dupar. ADDitude Magazine (2019) https://www.additudemag.com/podcast-medication-timing-dose-laurie-dupar/

More Information on Concerta and Other ADHD Medications:

Free Download: The Complete Guide to ADHD Medications
Primer: The Stimulant Medications Used to Treat ADHD
5 Rules for Treating Children with Stimulant Medications

42 Concerta: ADHD Medication Related Links

  1. My son was on Concerta for two years, ages 10 – 12. It helped him a lot during that time. He was calmer and more focused and did better in school. Unfortunately after two years he developed tics and had to stop the Concerta. The tics went away after he stopped taking it.

  2. My 11 year old son has been taking Concerta since he was 5 years old. He initially was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 4. We did test out a few different medications initially and none of them worked as well as Concerta. He is up to a 56 mg dose now and we are just noticing a sleep problem.

  3. My 9-year old son takes melatonin every night to help him fall asleep (2 or 3 mg). He’s taking 36mg Concerta, which really helps him, but without the melatonin, he’d be up until midnight – up and busy in his bedroom, not just lying in bed awake. He takes the melatonin 1-2 hours before he needs to be asleep.

  4. My son has been on Concerta for three years with brief breaks to try Strattera and Intuniv. The downsides to Concerta are the appetite suppression and stomach cramps. The stomach cramps lasted only a few days when he would restart the medication. As far as his appetite, we try to fill him up with protein first thing in the morning before he takes his pill, then in the evening when it wears off he eats a snack and dinner. The only other problem is that it usually wears off by the time we all get home and get to work on homework. But I’d rather have him lose his concentration at home where we have the patience and time to dedicate to him rather than at school.

  5. My son started on 36 mg of Concerta (name brand) at the last 2 months of the school year when he was 9. It worked immediately. The 1st few weeks he lost 8 lbs and stayed up until midnight. But gradually he started going to bed earlier at 10 pm. In the summer I tried to take him off medication. He started having some impulse control problems at his summer program so I requested a lower dose and the doctor put him on 27 mg, which worked for impulse control. He now continues to take 27 mg on the weekend and when he is out of school. He had tics off and on before medication like eye twitching; they initially got worse but then improved.

  6. My 12-year-old daughter, an inattentive type, has been on 18mg Concerta for almost a year. Since taking Concerta, her ability to focus has greatly improved but her appetite has suffered. Fortunately, she is naturally a heavy eater so she eats a heavy breakfast and another heavy meal at dinner. A few months after she started, she asked to be taken off the medication since she was having anxiety and mood swings in the afternoon. We found that the anxiety episodes decreased in the months that followed. There are days when she has trouble sleeping and on those days I give her a cup of chamomile tea.

  7. Concerta has worked well for me since I was 6, and I am now almost 21. A few months ago I started on a higher dose (54mg) (I was previously on 36mg). I have unfortunately noticed higher anxiety since my dosage was increased – and it is starting to affect my ability to perform at university.

  8. I have been on Concerta for almost 11years now. I am starting my Senior year of high school this August. I am currently taking 90mg a day (1x 36mg pill and 1x54mg pill). On the weekends if I walk up late I usually will just take a 54mg Concerta. Here is my list of negative side effects that I have come across.
    #1) Dizziness/ light headed: sometimes if I have been sitting for an extremely long time it causes my vision to fade out for a few seconds and my chest becomes tight feeling but both pass with a few seconds.
    #2) I am prone to migraines and the Concerta sometimes aggravates this
    #3) I have P.O.T.S (it’s when you have and extra heart beat and every once in a while it will catch and cause you to have a sudden rapid heart beat) Again Concerta does aggravate this a lot.
    #4) Concerta makes me not want to eat during the day because it suppresses my metabolism so I rarely “feel hungry” during the day.
    #5) Concerta has enhanced my severe anxiety and O.C.D, but I have found ways of handling both.

  9. My daughter, now 14, ADHD, has been off medication for about 2 years. She previously tried Ritalin, Adderall, Adderall XR, and then Concerta for several years. Concerta seemed “good enough” in comparison to the others. It lasted through school and at least some homework. Then she would crash badly and become very anxious, weepy, and unable to complete homework or even enjoy her evening.

  10. My 15 years old son takes 72mg Concerta at 7am every morning, by 7pm it is like flicking a switch – he can no longer concentrate or focus and studying is impossible after this time, he says his brain has ‘shut down’ for the night!

  11. My 8 year old son is recently diagnosed and is taking 36 mg of Concerta. He eats a good breakfast, then picks at his food the rest of the day until bed time. He also has a hard time falling asleep which results in a hard time waking him up and him being grouchy and sluggish the next day. Up until today those were the only side effects. Now tonight at soccer he was complaining of his chest hurting and had to come off the field, he was holding the left side of his chest over his heart. It got better with time off he field, but within 5 minutes of going back on it was hurting again.

  12. My son is 7 years old and has ADHD, ODD, and CD. We began him on medicine with ritalin 5mg to make sure it was the right class of medicine. After his doctor agreed we worked him up to 18mg Concerta, but after months we slower increased to 54 mg and added 75mg Wellbutrin. The problem is I think he has a very high metabolism for medications. His 54mg Concerta does great but he takes it at 7am and by 3pm it’s out of his system. We tried to get him up to 150 mg Wellbutrin to work as a non stimulant to help balance him out but anything higher than 75 mg makes him a zombie.

  13. My son tried several stimulants before trying Concerta. None of the other stimulants were tolerable, yet his first day on Concerta was the absolute worst. However, we stuck with it and Concerta turned out to be the best stimulant for my son. Unless you are having severe side effects, give it a few days before determining its efficacy.

  14. I started my son on Vyvanse then switched to Adderall after 10 days due to cost. He was aggressive and extremely emotional on Adderall so we switched to Concerta. After 6 days he developed a facial tic and rolls his eyes to the right. He does this sporadically throughout the day.

  15. Our daughter was placed on Concerta after Focalin and Strattera created negative side effects. She is 9 and is currently on 27 mg. She takes it at 7 am and it wears off by 5 pm. It makes such a noticeable difference in how she manages her organization of schoolwork to how she communicates with others. It has overall done wonders for her self-esteem and confidence.

  16. My 9-year-old son has been on Concerta 18 mg for about 10 days. He has a decreased appetite during the peak med time, not surprisingly, but I have also noticed something else. He seems to have a heightened sense of smell and a distorted sense of taste.

  17. I am a dad with ADHD. I am currently taking 27 mgs of Concerta and 150 mgs of Effexor XR (anxiety issues). I have been on these meds for over one year and they are helping me greatly. I remember having what I called the “evening” blues when I first started taking Concerta. However they seemed to diminish after a couple of months.

  18. My son who is five years old has been diagnosed with ADHD. He was placed on 18 mgs of Concerta about one month ago. On the positive side the Concerta has really helped my son’s focusing at school, coloring/writing, and following of directions. However, his food intake has decreased and he has become more emotionally labile. Generally in the evenings, he will become irritable, weepy and/or aggressive with my wife and I. He also will not fall asleep until 12:00 PM.

  19. Concerta 27mg is the first ADD med I’ve taken. (I’m a mature adult, and have received no treatment for my inattentive-type ADD until now). For the first four days I was astonished at how much more focused I felt. But after that, its effect was much less noticeable.

  20. I am a dad with ADHD. I am taking Concerta 36mg since one month ago. It helps me enormously to focus at work, to reduce impulsive behaviors, to reduce sudden anger attack. It works well in the morning and since I take Concerta early in the morning (5:00AM) by 2:00PM I can feel the effect wearing off and by 5:00PM is completely gone.

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