Concerta is a stimulant ADHD medication used to treat the hallmark ADHD symptoms in children and adults
Generic Name: Methylphenidate HCl
Medically reviewed by ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Panel
What is Concerta?
Concerta (Generic Name: methylphenidate HCl) is a central nervous system stimulant ADHD medication 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 the same active ingredient as ADHD medications like Ritalin and Daytrana. According to the FDA, Concerta is a federally controlled substance (CII) because it can be abused or lead to dependence. It has not been studied in children under the age of 6.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends ADHD treatment with behavioral therapy before medication for children under the age of 6. For children ages 6 to 11, the AAP says “The primary care clinician should prescribe US Food and Drug Administration–approved medications for ADHD and/or evidence-based parent- and/or teacher-administered behavior therapy as treatment for ADHD, preferably both.” Likewise, the National Institute of Mental Health finds the most successful treatment plans use a combination of ADHD medication, like Adderall XR, and behavioral therapy.
Concerta can also be used to treat narcolepsy.
How Do You Use Concerta to Treat ADHD?
Before starting or refilling a Concerta prescription, read the medication guide included with your pills, as it may be updated with new information.
This guide should not replace a conversation with your doctor, who has a holistic view of your or your child’s medical history, other diagnoses, and other prescriptions. If you have questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist before you begin taking the medication.
What Is the Dosage for Concerta?
As with all medications, follow your Concerta prescription instructions exactly. Concerta is taken orally, with or without food, once daily. The first dose is typically taken first thing in the morning; it should be taken at the same time each day for the best results.
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. Capsules should never by crushed or chewed. The Concerta capsule is designed to release the medication without dissolving the capsule. The empty capsule passes through the digestive tract and out of the body without being digested.
Capsules are available in 18mg, 27mg, 36mg, and 54mg dosages. The time-release formulation is designed to maintain a steady level of medication in your body throughout the day. Dosage should not exceed 54mg daily for children and adolescents, and 72mg daily for adults.
During treatment, your doctor may periodically ask you to stop taking your Concerta so that he or she can monitor ADHD symptoms; check vital statistics including blood, heart, and blood pressure; or evaluate height and weight. If any problems are found, your doctor may recommend discontinuing treatment.
Some patients report developing a tolerance to Concerta after long-term usage. If you notice that your dosage is no longer controlling your symptoms, talk to your doctor to plan a course of action.
What Side Effects Are Associated with Concerta?
The most common side effects of Concerta are as follows: decreased appetite, dry mouth, sleep disruption, dizziness, stomach ache, increase sweating, headache, nausea, anxiety, weight loss, and irritability.
Other serious side effects include slowing of growth in children, seizures, priapism and eyesight changes or blurred vision.
Taking Concerta may impair your or your teenager’s ability to drive, operate machinery, or perform other potentially dangerous tasks. This side effect usually wears off with time. If side effects are bothersome, or do not go away, talk to your doctor. Most people taking this medication do not experience any of these side effects.
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. 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.
Also disclose to your physician all mental health issues including any family history of suicide, bipolar illness, tics, or depression. The drug manufacturer, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, recommends evaluating patients 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. It can cause psychotic or manic symptoms in children and teenagers. Call your doctor immediately if you or your child experiences new or worsening mental health symptoms including hallucinations or sudden suspicions.
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.
Stimulants like Concerta have a high potential for abuse and addiction, 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?
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.
You should not take Concerta if you have any of the following conditions: allergy or hypersensitivity to methylphenidate HCI, anxiety, glaucoma, tics or history of Tourette’s syndrome, or if you are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
You should use caution taking Concerta if you have a history of heart or mental problems, seizures, abnormal brain wave tests, circulation problems, or esophagus, stomach or intestine problems.
If you’re thinking of becoming pregnant, discuss the use of Concerta with your doctor. Animal studies indicate a potential risk of fetal harm. Concerta is passed through breastmilk, so it is recommended that mothers do not nurse while taking it.
The safety of Concerta for children under 6 has not been established. 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 seizure medications, 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.
More Information on Concerta and Other ADHD Medications:
Tips for Good Medication and Treatment Reviews
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