What are the Effects of Concerta on the Body?

Medically reviewed by Susan J. Bliss, RPh, MBA on May 11, 2015Written by Ann Pietrangelo on December 3, 2015

Concerta, known generically as methylphenidate, is a stimulant mainly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It can help you focus and provide a calming effect, but it’s a powerful drug that should be taken with caution.

The effects of Concerta on the body

Concerta is a central nervous system stimulant. It is available by prescription and is often prescribed as part of a total treatment plan for ADHD. Concerta is also used to treat a sleep disorder called narcolepsy. The medication is categorized as a schedule II controlled substance because it can be habit-forming.

Tell your doctor if you have any pre-existing health conditions or if you take any other medications. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions when taking this medication. Continue to see your doctor regularly and report all side effects right away.

This medication has not been studied in children younger than 6 years old.

Central nervous system (CNS)

Concerta has a direct impact on the central nervous system. Stimulants like Concerta allow norepinephrine and dopamine levels to rise slowly and steadily, by preventing the neurons from reabsorbing them. Norepinephrine and dopamine are neurotransmitters that are naturally produced in your brain. Norepinephrine is a stimulant and dopamine is linked to attention span, movement, and feelings of pleasure.

You may find it easier to focus and get organized with the right amount of norepinephrine and dopamine. In addition to increasing your attention span, you may be less likely to act impulsively. You may also gain more control over movement, so sitting still may be more comfortable.

Your doctor will probably start you out with a low dose. If necessary, the dose can be increased gradually until you achieve the desired results.

All medications have the potential to cause side effects and Concerta is no exception. Some of the more common CNS side effects are:

  • blurry vision or other changes to your eyesight
  • dry mouth
  • sleep difficulties
  • dizziness
  • anxiety or irritability

Some of the more serious side effects are seizures and psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations. If you already have behavior or thought problems, Concerta may make them worse. In some cases, this medication can cause new psychotic symptoms in children and teenagers. If you are prone to seizures, Concerta may aggravate your condition.

You should not take this medication if you:

  • are overly anxious or easily agitated
  • have tics, Tourette syndrome, or a family history of Tourette syndrome
  • have glaucoma

Some children experience slowed growth while taking Concerta, so your doctor may monitor your child’s growth and development.

Concerta may cause dopamine levels to rise quickly when taken in very high doses, which can result in a euphoric feeling, or a high. Because of that, Concerta can be abused and can lead to dependence.

Furthermore, high doses may increase the activity of norepinephrine and can lead to thought disorders, mania, or psychosis. Tell your doctor if you have a history of substance abuse, including alcohol abuse or alcoholism. If you experience new or worsening emotional symptoms, call your doctor right away.

Stopping Concerta suddenly can result in withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal include trouble sleeping and fatigue. Withdrawal increases your risk of developing severe depression. If you want to stop taking this medication, speak to your doctor, who can help you taper off.

Circulatory/cardiovascular system

Stimulants may cause circulation problems. Poor circulation can cause the skin on your fingers and toes to turn blue or red. Your digits may also feel cold or numb. They may be extra sensitive to temperature, or even hurt.

Concerta can increase your body temperature and cause excessive perspiration.

Use of stimulants can increase your risk of high blood pressure and increased heart rate. It can also raise your risk of stroke or heart attack. Heart-related problems can occur in people who have pre-existing heart defects or problems. Sudden death has been reported in children and adults with heart problems.

Digestive system

Taking Concerta can decrease your appetite. This may lead to weight loss. If you do eat less, make sure the foods you eat are nutrient rich. Ask your doctor if you should take dietary supplements. You may develop malnutrition and associated problems if you abuse this drug for a long time.

Some people experience abdominal pain or nausea when taking Concerta.

Serious digestive system side effects include blockage of the esophagus, stomach, or intestines. This is more likely to be a problem if you already have some narrowing in your digestive tract.

Reproductive system

In males of any age, Concerta can cause a painful and long lasting erection. This condition is called priapism. If this happens, it’s important to seek medical attention. Priapism can cause permanent damage if left untreated.

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