Concerta: What you need to know

Concerta is a widely used ADHD medication. Get the facts on dosage, potential side effects, and how to tell if Concerta is working for your child.

Concerta is one of the medication options for treating ADHD (also known as ADD). It belongs to a group of medications called stimulants. Stimulant medications are the most widely prescribed drugs to treat ADHD. They’re also the most effective for the vast majority of kids with ADHD.

Here’s what you need to know about Concerta.

What is Concerta?

Concerta is a brand of stimulant medication that’s been in use since 2000. It’s a version of a medication called methylphenidate. (So is Ritalin.) Methylphenidate is the best studied of all stimulants and proven safest.

Concerta works by improving the way parts of the brain communicate with each other. In that way, it’s like all stimulant medications for ADHD.

Concerta is only available as an extended-release preparation. (Extended-release medication is slowly released into the body throughout the day.) Concerta is one of the longer-lasting extended-release drugs for ADHD.

Concerta side effects

Concerta has certain potential side effects. They’re the same side effects that all stimulant medications have. Some of the most common ones are decreased appetite and insomnia.

There are other, less common side effects. These include:

  • Headache and stomachache

  • Irritability and moodiness

  • Nervousness

  • Weight Loss

  • Tics

These side effects are associated with all stimulant medications for ADHD. But Concerta stays in the system longer than shorter-acting drugs. So, side effects like sleep problems and loss of appetite may be more pronounced.

Concerta dosage and timing

Concerta is prescribed in five dosages: 18mg, 27mg, 36mg, 54mg, or 72mg. These dosages may seem high compared to other ADHD drugs, some of which start as low as 5mg. But different medications don’t necessarily correspond to each other. An 18mg dose of Concerta is not comparable to an 18mg dose of another ADHD medication.

At the right dosage, Concerta should stay in the system for 12 hours. But typically the benefits don’t last beyond 10 hours. Kids metabolize drugs differently.

Prescribers typically start at the lowest dosage (18mg). If that isn’t effective, the prescriber will often increase it.

See a list of signs your child’s ADHD medication needs adjusting.

Common questions parents have about Concerta

If you’re considering Concerta for your child, you’re likely to have questions about how it works and how it might affect your child. Here are answers to common questions parents ask about Concerta.

What’s the generic name for Concerta?

The generic name for Concerta is methylphenidate extended release. For most ADHD drugs, the generics are close enough to the brand-name drugs that most people don’t notice a difference. But the FDA has raised concerns that the generic versions of Concerta don’t work as well as the brand name. This is because Concerta has a specific time-release system that the generic versions don’t have.

Is Concerta a controlled substance?

All stimulant medications are controlled substances. It’s not because they’re habit forming, though. And they’re not all equally likely to be abused. Abuse is more common with another class of stimulants: amphetamine-based ADHD medications. (Adderall is an example of one.)

Amphetamine-based ADHD medications are more likely to be misused because they help with attention in everyone, not just in people with ADHD. They may also be used by people who have other addictions.

There are restrictions to reduce the potential for abuse and addiction with stimulants. For instance, prescribers can only write prescriptions for one month at a time.

It’s important to know that studies show these medications have no risk of addiction in the dosages that are prescribed. And a few studies show that they lower the risk of addiction to other substances in teens with ADHD.

Read more about ADHD medication misuse.

What should I do if Concerta keeps my child from sleeping?

Stimulants tend to delay sleep by 30 to 40 minutes in many kids. If you’re seeing ADHD medication side effects like trouble sleeping, talk to your child’s prescriber. The prescriber might recommend a different dosage, timing, or type of medication.

Some parents try starting the bedtime routine earlier. This gives their child more time to wind down. Read an expert’s advice on helping kids with ADHD wind down at night.

Can Concerta help with anxiety?

Symptoms of ADHD make some kids anxious. When a medication reduces the ADHD symptoms, they may be less anxious. But stimulant medications can also increase anxiety in some kids. And it’s important to know that Concerta isn’t an anxiety medication.

Learn more about ADHD and anxiety.

How will I know if Concerta is working for my child?

If Concerta is working for your child, you should see a significant reduction in your child’s core ADHD symptoms. What that means will vary from child to child. For example, it might mean your child can pay attention for 25 minutes rather than 10 minutes. Or it might mean your child isn’t making as many careless mistakes on homework.

Here’s one way to assess how well the medication is working. Fill out ADHD rating scales before and after starting the medication. (You can ask your child’s teacher to do this, too.) This can help you see if there’s a reduction in symptoms.

Filling out those scales was likely part of your child’s evaluation for ADHD. The doctor probably asked you to fill out a questionnaire about your child’s symptoms. Your child’s teacher probably filled one out, too. Once your child is taking the medication, the same people should provide feedback on whether they notice improvement.

You can also use this printable ADHD medication log. It will help you monitor how well the medication is working.

What if Concerta doesn’t work for my child?

Talk to your child’s prescriber if Concerta doesn’t seem to be working. You might talk about changing the dosage or trying another medication. You can also ask about behavior therapy. Kids can try behavior therapy whether or not they take ADHD medication.

Learn more about steps to take if your child’s ADHD medication isn’t working.

How can I decide if my child should take Concerta?

If you’re thinking about Concerta for your child, it’s important to talk to your child’s doctor. That’s true whether you’re starting medications for the first time, or switching to a different one.

If your child has never taken ADHD medication before, there are a lot of factors to consider. It’s a very personal choice. Before you decide on ADHD medication for your child, ask yourself these questions.

Also, ADHD medication isn’t right for every child. If you decide against medication, or if it doesn’t work well for your child, there are alternative treatments you can try. The most important thing is finding an approach that keeps ADHD symptoms from getting in the way of your child’s happiness and success.

Learn more about ADHD medication. And find out how ADHD medication works in the brain.

Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.


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