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What is Concerta (methylphenidate)?

Concerta is a central nervous system stimulant primarily used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children over six years old, teenagers, and adults up to 65.

Methylphenidate is the generic name for Concerta, and it is also sold under other brand names. It’s a controlled drug, meaning its use is highly regulated. It is illegal to give away or sell this medication.

You can take this drug alone or together with other medications as prescribed by your doctor.

The medication works by altering the amounts of specific natural substances in the brain that are partly responsible for impulse control and hyperactivity.

What is Concerta used to treat?

Doctors typically prescribe Concerta as part of a complete treatment program for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It can improve concentration and reduce hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

The drug can also be taken to treat narcolepsy. 

The medication isn’t recommended for children below six or adults over 65, as researchers have not studied the effects of the drug in people in these age categories.

How do you take Concerta

Read the packet instructions carefully before taking this medication.

Take it once in the morning, with or without food, as directed by your doctor. Take it regularly at the same time each day. Don't chew, split or crush this drug; swallow it with a full glass of water.

Your dose will largely depend on your medical condition and how you respond to treatment.

The recommended starting dose¹ of Concerta is 18mg once daily for children and teenagers, and 18mg or 36mg once daily for adults.

Do not stop taking this medication without your doctor’s advice as this could cause withdrawal symptoms.

Avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medication.

Seeing results

Concerta is designed to last for up to 12 hours, and you may feel the medication’s full effects within six to ten hours² of taking it.

Your doctor will closely monitor your progress while taking Concerta to see how it’s affecting you and to ensure you’re safe.

Tell your doctor if you don’t see any improvement in your current condition, or if you experience side effects.

Potential side effects of Concerta

The most common adverse effects of taking this drug include:

Concerta can also cause more serious side effects, including:

  • Hallucinations

  • Feeling cold and/or numb

  • Chest pain

  • Lightheadedness

  • Unexplained wounds

  • Trouble breathing

  • Paranoia

  • Hostility and/or aggression

  • Pain

  • New behavioral problems

  • Skin color changes in your feet and hands or feet

  • Painful erection lasting over four hours

Tell your doctor about any side effects you are experiencing, and seek urgent medical attention if you develop serious side effects like those listed above.

Long-term use of Concerta

Your doctor may recommend taking Concerta for an extended period of time, and there is no evidence to suggest it’s harmful to do so.

Your doctor will closely monitor you to check the medication remains safe and effective, and they may recommend coming off the drug temporarily to see how you do without it.

Concerta can be abused. For example, some people take the medication without the guidance of a doctor or take more than their recommended dose.

Long-term Concerta abuse can potentially lead to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and increased risk of stroke or heart attack.

Missed doses

Take Concerta at the same time each day to reduce the risk of forgetting a dose. If you forget a dose, take it as soon as possible. Don’t take a missed dose if it’s nearly time to take the next one.

Overdoses

Taking too much methylphenidate can be life-threatening. If you think you or someone else has taken an overdose of Concerta, get emergency medical help.

Overdose symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Restlessness

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Confusion

  • Dry mouth

  • Pounding in your ears or neck

  • Anxiety

  • Agitation

  • Fast or pounding heartbeat

You may also have headaches, tremors, convulsions, seizures, hallucinations, muscle cramps, sweating, rapid breathing, lightheadedness, dilated pupils, weakness, muscle pain, and fever.

Concerta overdose can lead to fainting or coma.

What to discuss with your doctor before taking Concerta

Your doctor needs to know about anything that could reduce the effectiveness of your medication or make it unsafe.

Tell your doctor about any medications, supplements, or vitamins you are currently taking or plan to take, and discuss any existing health conditions.

Let your doctor know if you currently have or have a history of:

  • Methylphenidate allergy

  • Tourette’s syndrome

  • Muscle cramps

  • Circulation problems

  • Glaucoma

  • Severe tension

  • Anxiety

  • Agitation

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Psychosis

  • Drug addiction

  • Alcoholism

  • Heart problems

  • High blood pressure

  • Epilepsy

Inform your doctor if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Concerta may interact with drugs used for anesthesia, so tell your medical team if you are undergoing surgery (including dental surgery). 

Stopping Concerta

Don’t stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor first as it may cause withdrawal effects.

Concerta and pregnancy

Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant before taking Concerta.

Limited research has been carried out into the safety of using this drug during pregnancy, but it is not thought to cause miscarriage, birth defects, or withdrawal symptoms in babies.³ However, it must be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

Methylphenidate passes into breast milk in small quantities, but it isn’t thought to harm a nursing child. Consult your doctor right away if you observe symptoms in your babies, such as difficulty sleeping, low weight gain, agitation, or feeding problems.

Interactions with other drugs

Medications that interact with Concerta can either decrease its effectiveness, affect how long it takes to work, cause side effects, or have a reduced effect when taken with Concerta.

Drug interactions may mean you need to take less of the other medication or stop taking it altogether while taking Concerta.

Talk to your doctor about how to manage drug interactions.

Common medications that may interact with Concerta include:

  • Anticoagulants or other drugs that have blood-thinning effects

  • Anticonvulsants

  • Antidepressants

  • Antipsychotics

  • Anesthetic agents

  • Any medication that may cause drowsiness, such as benzodiazepines, first-generation antihistamines, metoclopramide, or opioids

  • Cold, flu, or allergy medications that contain decongestants

  • Heart medications

  • HIV medications

Ensure that at least 14 days have passed since you last took monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), otherwise, there is a risk of hypertensive crisis.

Allergy information

Do not take this drug if you are allergic to methylphenidate hydrochloride, the active ingredient in Concerta, or any other ingredient in this medication. Check the product description and formulation before you take Concerta.

Common symptoms of an allergic reaction to Concerta include:

  • Breathing difficulty or wheezing

  • Skin rash, hives, and itching

  • Swelling of the tongue, lips, face, and other body parts

  • Shortness of breath

Clinical trial history⁴

Three randomized, double-blind studies have shown Concerta can effectively manage ADHD in children when compared to placebo.

Teachers assessed the participants (416 children aged between six and 12) using the IOWA Conners teacher rating scale. Concerta was found to effectively lower inattention and overactivity versus placebo.

A randomized, double-blind, multi-center, placebo-controlled trial of 177 adolescents found Concerta could effectively treat ADHD when given at doses of up to 72mg per day.

Tips and advice for taking Concerta

Here are some tips that can help you take Concerta safely and effectively:

  • Concerta may impair your ability to drive vehicles or operate potentially dangerous equipment or machinery. Avoid these activities or take extra care until you know how the drug affects you.

  • Don’t drink alcohol while taking Concerta.

  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible. Skip the missed dose if it’s nearly time for your next dose.

  • Try to take the medication at the same time each day to lower the risk of missing a dose.

  • Tell your doctor about any existing health conditions before taking Concerta.

  • Tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking, as well as vitamins and supplements.

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant.

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Disclaimer

Here at HealthMatch, we’ve done our best to ensure that the information provided in this article is helpful, up to date, and, most importantly, accurate.

However, we can’t replace the one-to-one advice of a qualified medical practitioner or outline all of the possible risks associated with this particular drug and your circumstances.

It is therefore important for you to note that the information contained in this article does not constitute professional medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or recommendation of treatment and is not intended to, nor should be used to, replace professional medical advice. This article may not always be up to date and is not exhaustive of all of the risks and considerations relevant to this particular drug. In no circumstances should this article be relied upon without independent consideration and confirmation by a qualified medical practitioner.

Your doctor will be able to explain all possible uses, dosages, precautions, interactions with other drugs, and other potential adverse effects, and you should always talk to them about any kind of medication you are taking, thinking about taking or wanting to stop taking.

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