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What Is Concerta? — Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

what is concerta


There are a wide variety of stimulant medications that doctors may prescribe to treat ADHD, but Concerta is considered one of the most effective options available today. However, since Concerta is a Schedule II drug, it has a high potential for abuse. If you or a loved one is taking Concerta, stay informed about the intended uses of this medication and its side effects with the information below.

What Is Concerta?

Concerta is a stimulant medication that healthcare providers prescribe to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Research shows that Concerta is effective in alleviating ADHD symptoms, including difficulties paying attention, sitting still, and taking a longer than average time to complete tasks.

In use since the year 2000, Concerta has become a commonly prescribed medication, as healthcare professionals favor this drug for its long-lasting effects. Unlike Concerta’s well-known counterpart Adderall, Concerta contains methylphenidate rather than amphetamine salts.

As a central nervous stimulant, Concerta slowly increases norepinephrine and dopamine by inhibiting neurons from reabsorbing these chemicals. Although the brain naturally produces norepinephrine and dopamine, people with ADHD have much lower levels of these chemicals than those without ADHD. As a result, people with ADHD find it challenging to stay on task, resist impulsive behavior, and properly manage their time. This often causes difficulties in work and school. Concerta reduces these symptoms by increasing norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, which improves the patient’s attention span and mood.

Patients can only obtain a Concerta prescription after undergoing evaluation by a mental healthcare provider. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 70 to 80 percent of patients that take stimulant medication observe a significant improvement in their symptoms. When a patient exhibits symptoms that align with an ADHD diagnosis, the healthcare provider will typically prescribe stimulant medication and create a treatment plan.

How Is Concerta Taken?

Patients that are at least six years old are permitted to take Concerta. Although this medication contains the same active ingredient as Ritalin, Concerta has a time-release formula, meaning patients only need to take their dosage once daily. Patients often feel the effects of Concerta within an hour. Since a single dose of Concerta lasts 12 hours, health providers recommend that patients take the medication in the morning.

Concerta extended-release tablets come in several strengths, ranging from 18 to 54mg. Each dosage comes in a different color with the number of milligrams on the tablet. The recommended starting dosage for patients that have never taken stimulant medication is 18mg or 36mg for adults, while children and adolescents start with 18mg. Concerta dosages should not exceed 54mg daily for children and 72 mg daily for adults.

If patients are not experiencing adequate results at low dosages, healthcare providers are permitted to increase the dose at weekly intervals until patients observe the desired results. When a patient has been prescribed methylphenidate immediate-release tablets, their conversion to Concerta extended-release tablets is based on their current dosing regimen.

Concerta Side Effects

When people take Concerta as prescribed, side effects are minimal. The most common side effects include decreased appetite, headache, sleep disturbances, and nausea. Serious side effects include heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and psychosis.

Seek medical attention immediately if you are experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as hives, uneven breathing, or swelling in the face, lips, tongue, or throat. Other severe side effects include digestive issues, extreme sweating, and hallucinations.

In rare cases, Concerta may also have severe effects. If you are experiencing the following symptoms, seek emergency medical attention.

Signs of Heart Problems

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fainting
  • Discomfort in arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Vision loss in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty speaking

Signs of Circulation Problems

  • Cold fingers or toes
  • Blue fingers or toes
  • Feeling excessively cold
  • Unexplained wounds

Signs of Psychosis

  • Aggression or hostility
  • Hallucinations
  • Feeling depressed
  • Paranoia
  • Delusion

Signs of Concerta Abuse

Like most other stimulant medications, Concerta is a Schedule II controlled substance. As stated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, taking Schedule II substances increases the risk that patients will develop a psychological or physical dependence. There is also an increased risk that patients will abuse the drug.

Sometimes, people without ADHD abuse stimulant medication because they believe it will improve their performance at work or school. Others may take large doses of Concerta to experience euphoric effects induced by a spike in dopamine production. When taken as directed, Concerta gradually increases dopamine levels in a safe manner. However, people abusing their Concerta prescription experience such significant increases in dopamine production that it may lead to an addiction.

Symptoms of Concerta addiction include:

  • Significantly increased tolerance 
  • Experiencing overwhelming urges to use Concerta
  • Using Concerta even when it is causing issues with loved ones or responsibilities

When a person becomes addicted to Concerta or if they have been taking the medication as prescribed for a long time, they may also experience withdrawal symptoms such as suicidal thoughts or depression if they suddenly stop taking the medication.

To safely cease taking Concerta, ask a healthcare provider for help. They will gradually lower your dose to minimize withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of a Concerta Overdose

Obtaining or using Concerta without a prescription is a form of abuse. If you have a prescription for Concerta, increasing your dosage without a doctor’s supervision is also abuse.

If a person abuses Concerta, there is an increased risk that they will overdose on the drug. Symptoms of Concerta overdose include:

  • Convulsions
  • Vomiting
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Uncontrollable tremors
  • Fever
  • Paranoia
  • Manic-like state
  • Hallucinations

Identify Concerta Abuse with Countrywide Testing

Identifying Concerta abuse early is the first step that users must take to obtain the medical assistance necessary to safely discontinue use. Fortunately, Countrywide can help.

Countrywide Testing is an online retailer of many health-related diagnostic test devices, including drug tests. If you’re concerned that a loved one may be abusing drugs such as Concerta, let Countrywide Testing offer you peace of mind with our FDA-approved at-home drug testing kits.

Our drug kits are all analyzed with laboratory services from Phamatech, Inc, a SAMHSA, ISO, CLIA, and CAP licensed laboratory, to provide you with fast and reliable results that you can trust.