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Concerta for ADHD


Updated June 09, 2014

Concerta Basics:

Concerta was the first real long lasting, extended release form of Ritalin. Ritalin SR did come first, but it didn't really last all day for most kids, and definitely didn't provide the 12 hours of symptom control that Concerta offered. The benefit of this all day relief from ADHD symptoms meant that kids with ADHD no longer had to line up during lunch to get their ADHD medicines from the school nurse.

What Concerta Is Used For:

Concerta is a central nervous system stimulant that is used to treat children and teens with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. It can be prescribed to children who are over age 6 years old, although since it is a pill that must be swallowed, younger school aged children may have problems taking it.

Concerta Facts:

Together with Adderall XR, Concerta is one of the two most prescribed ADHD medications for children. It lasts for 12 hours in most kids, helps to control all of the core symptoms of ADHD, including inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, and has a relatively low incidence of side effects.

Other facts about Concerta:

  • the active ingredient in Concerta is methylphenidate HCl or Ritalin

  • Concerta is available in 18mg, 27mg, 36mg, and 54mg capsules

  • teens can take up to 72mg of Concerta as two 36mg capsules

  • you can't open, crush, or chew Concerta, unlike many other once-a-day ADHD medicines, which limits its use in younger children who can't swallow pills

Concerta Side Effects:

Like other stimulants, side effects sometimes limit the usefulness of Concerta, but side effects are actually not as common as you would expect and Concerta is actually usually well tolerated by most children and adolescents. The most common side effects are headache, stomach pain, sleeplessness (insomnia), and decreased appetite. Other side effects can include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, nervousness, tics, allergic reactions, increased blood pressure, and psychosis.

If your child is having minor side effects, they can often be controlled by lower your child's dosage of Concerta. If they continue or if your child is having unacceptable side effects, then he should likely be switched to a different ADHD medication. Your Pediatrician will (should) also monitor your child's growth and blood pressure while he is taking Concerta to watch for any problems.

Who Should Not Take Concerta:

Although Concerta is well tolerated by most children, there are some who should not even be started on it, including children:

  • with marked anxiety, tension, and agitation
  • who are hypersensitive or allergic to methylphenidate
  • with motor tics, Tourette's syndrome, or a family history of Tourette's syndrome
  • taking a MAO inhibitor
  • who are having seizures

What You Need To Know:

With all of the other stimulants, Concerta is one of the first line therapies that are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Don't be disappointed if you don't see great results with your child's first prescription though, as your Pediatrician may need to adjust your child's Concerta dosage up or down to get it just right. Keep in mind that many problems with Concerta can be fixed by a dosage adjustment.

Other important information:

  • since Concerta lasts for 12 hours, if you forget to give a dose in the morning, skip it for the day, since if you give it too late in the day, your child will likely have trouble getting to sleep that night
  • although some parents don't give their children Concerta on weekends or holidays, if it helps your child, many experts recommend avoiding these types of drug holidays


  • Concerta Patient Information Sheet - October 2004 Edition.
Johnson & Johnson participates in the Rx Assist Patient Assistance Program, where you may be able to get financial help if you can't afford to pay for your child's Concerta.

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