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:
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 in a small percentage of kids.
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. On average, Concerta helps with attention for about seven to eight hours.
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.)
Commons 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 some generic versions of Concerta don’t work as well as the brand name.
Is Concerta a controlled substance?
All stimulant medications are controlled substances. But that doesn’t mean they’re equally likely to be abused. Abuse is more common with another class of stimulants: amphetamine-based ADHD medications. (Adderall is an example of one.)
It’s not because they’re habit forming, though. 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 in place to reduce the potential for abuse and addiction with stimulants. For instance, prescribers can only write prescriptions for one month at a time.
But 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 overall addiction risk 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 pushing bedtime back by an hour to give their child more time to wind down. There are also changes in routine you can try to help your child be ready for sleep. Read an expert’s advice on helping kids with ADHD wind down at night.
Can Concerta help with anxiety?
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.
One way to assess how well the medication is working is to 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 should have asked you to fill out a questionnaire about your child’s symptoms. Your child’s teacher should have filled out a questionnaire, too. Once your child is taking the medication, the same people should provide feedback on whether they notice improvement.
This printable ADHD medication log can also 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 for your child. 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 or switching medications.
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 nine 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.
Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.
Decreased appetite and insomnia are common side effects of Concerta.
Concerta is a controlled substance, which means it’s highly regulated.
If you have questions or concerns about Concerta, it’s important to talk to your child’s doctor.
About the author
About the author
Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.
Elizabeth Harstad, MD, MPH is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.