If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), your doctor might suggest Concerta as a treatment option for you.
Concerta is a prescription drug used to treat ADHD in children ages 6 years and older and adults up to age 65 years. If Concerta is right for you, you’ll likely take it long term.
The drug comes as extended-release (ER) tablets that you swallow. “Extended release” means the drug is released in your body slowly over time after you’ve taken it.
The active ingredient in Concerta is methylphenidate. An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.
For more information about Concerta, including details about its uses, see this in-depth article.
Like other drugs, Concerta can cause mild to serious side effects. Keep reading to learn more.
Concerta can cause side effects. Some people may experience mild to serious side effects during their Concerta treatment.
Examples of Concerta’s more commonly reported side effects include:
* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
These are only a few of the drug’s common side effects. Keep reading to find out about other side effects Concerta can cause.
Mild side effects can happen while taking Concerta. In most cases, these side effects should be temporary. And some may be easily managed.
Examples of mild side effects that have been reported with Concerta include:
- dry mouth
- decreased appetite
- trouble sleeping
- weight loss
- irritability or anger
- mood changes
- stomach (belly) pain*
- mild allergic reaction*
* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
If you have any side effect symptoms that are ongoing or that bother you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. And do not stop taking Concerta unless your doctor recommends it.
Concerta may cause mild side effects other than the ones listed above. See the drug’s prescribing information for details.
Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks side effects of the medication. If you’d like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Concerta, visit MedWatch.
Concerta can cause serious side effects, though they aren’t common. If you develop serious side effects while taking Concerta, call your doctor right away.
Serious side effects that have been reported with Concerta include:
- heart problems
- high blood pressure
- problems with blood flow
- hair loss
- sexual side effects, such as priapism (painful, persistent erection)
- hallucinations (seeing something that’s not really there)
- mania (moments of extremely high excitement and energy)
- delusions (false beliefs)
- vision changes
- reduced growth in children
- risk of dependence*
- severe allergic reaction†
* Concerta has a
† To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
If you develop serious side effects while taking Concerta, call your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.
Concerta is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children ages 6 years and older.
The side effects children can experience from the drug are similar to those that adults experience. But in studies, more children developed upper stomach (belly) pain than adults.
If your child develops bothersome belly pain while taking Concerta, talk with their doctor. The doctor can recommend ways to ease your child’s discomfort.
In addition, the drug can decrease growth in some children. In studies, reduced growth was reported in some children treated with the drug. But this side effect does not happen to all children who take Concerta. During treatment, your child’s height and weight will be monitored by their doctor.
If you’re concerned about the effects of Concerta on your child’s growth, talk with their doctor. They can also give you more information about other side effects your child may have during Concerta treatment.
Get answers to some frequently asked questions about Concerta’s side effects.
Does Concerta cause long-term side effects?
Yes, it’s possible for Concerta to cause certain long-term side effects, but these are rare.
In addition, Concerta may affect a child’s growth. For more information, see the “Side effects in children” section below.
If you have concerns about long-term side effects Concerta might cause, talk with your doctor. They can tell you symptoms of long-term side effects to watch for while taking the drug. Depending on your health history and other factors, they may monitor you more closely for certain side effects during treatment. (For more information, see the “Warnings for Concerta” section below.)
Can Concerta cause withdrawal symptoms if I stop taking the drug?
Yes, Concerta can cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drug.
Concerta may cause dependence.* With dependence, your body gets used to a drug and needs it to function as usual. If you develop dependence on Concerta and suddenly stop taking it, you may have withdrawal symptoms, such as severe depression.
It’s recommended that you do not stop taking Concerta before talking with your doctor. They may slowly reduce your dosage to help prevent withdrawal symptoms.
If you have a history of alcohol or drug dependence, talk with your doctor before you start Concerta treatment. They’ll likely recommend a different medication for treating ADHD.
Do Concerta’s side effects vary depending on which strength I take (18 mg, 27 mg, 36 mg, or 54 mg)?
It’s possible that your side effects will vary depending on your dosage of Concerta and how your body responds to it.
Concerta comes in different strengths: 18 milligrams (mg), 27 mg, 36 mg, and 54 mg. Your doctor will prescribe the strength that is safe and effective for your condition. They’ll likely prescribe you a lower dosage to start, slowly increasing it over time to a dosage that is right for you.
Depending on the severity of any side effects you may have, your doctor may lower your dosage.
If you have questions about the risk of side effects with your Concerta dosage, talk with your doctor.
Is weight gain a side effect of Concerta?
No, weight gain isn’t a side effect of Concerta.
If you have questions about how Concerta affects weight, your doctor can discuss them with you.
Is a generic version of Concerta available? If so, what side effects does the generic drug cause?
Yes, a generic version of Concerta is available called methylphenidate. This is also the active ingredient in Concerta. An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.
A generic is an exact copy of a brand-name drug’s active ingredient. Generics are considered to be as effective and safe as the brand-name version. Since methylphenidate and Concerta have the same active ingredient, both drugs are expected to have similar side effects.
To learn more about methylphenidate, see this in-depth article. Your doctor or pharmacist can also tell you more about the generic version of Concerta.
In studies, for the most part, there weren’t differences in side effects that males and females* experienced while taking Concerta. The exceptions were priapism (painful, persistent erection) and erectile dysfunction (inability to have an erection).
Other than these conditions specific to males, the side effects of the drug are expected to be similar in both females and males. Your doctor can give you more information about side effects of the drug.
* In this article, we use the terms “male” and “female” to refer to someone’s sex assigned at birth. For information about the difference between sex and gender, see this article.
Learn more about some of the side effects Concerta may cause.
Risk of dependence
Concerta has a
Dependence means that your body needs the drug to function as it normally would. If a person becomes dependent on Concerta, stopping Concerta treatment can cause withdrawal symptoms. An example is severe depression.
Dependence on Concerta may lead to misuse of the drug. Misuse means to use a drug in a way other than how it’s prescribed. For more information, see the “Concerta and misuse” section below.
What might help
Always take the amount of Concerta that your doctor prescribes.
If you have a history of alcohol or drug dependence, discuss this with your doctor before you start taking Concerta. They’ll likely recommend a different medication for treating ADHD.
To prevent misuse of the drug by others, keep your medication in a safe, secure place that others can’t access.
If you have concerns about dependence while taking Concerta, talk with your doctor.
In studies of Concerta, headache was the most commonly reported side effect.
Headache pain can be dull, sharp, or throbbing. Pain may also occur in the eyes or neck. Some people who have headaches may have vision changes or sensitivity to light.
Increased blood pressure is another side effect of Concerta that can cause headache. If you also have nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, or shortness of breath with your headache, contact your doctor right away.
What might help
To help ease headache symptoms while taking Concerta, try applying a cold compress or ice pack to your forehead. A warm bath or shower may also lessen this side effect.
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers may be an option. But before using any OTC pain medications, talk with your doctor. They can recommend ones that are safe for you to take. They can also discuss other ways to manage your headaches while taking Concerta.
Concerta often causes nausea. With nausea, you may feel like you need to vomit and have stomach discomfort. Vomiting is also a side effect of Concerta, but it didn’t occur as often as nausea in studies.
What might help
Taking Concerta with food can help prevent nausea. If you develop nausea while taking the drug, try drinking peppermint tea or beverages containing ginger to ease this side effect.
If your nausea doesn’t go away or is bothersome, talk with your doctor. They can recommend other ways to lessen your symptoms.
Belly pain can feel like cramps, be sharp or dull, and occur continuously or at intervals.
What might help
If you develop belly pain while taking Concerta, try using a heating pad or taking a warm bath to ease your discomfort. Drinking plenty of water and eating smaller meals may also help with this side effect.
Another tip is to avoid certain foods that may worsen your belly pain, such as processed, fatty, or spicy foods.
Your doctor may have more suggestions for easing belly pain caused by Concerta.
With constipation, you may have bloating, swelling, or pain in your belly. You may strain to have a bowel movement, and your stools may be lumpy or hard.
What might help
If you develop constipation while taking Concerta, try adding more fiber-rich foods to your diet and drinking plenty of water. They may advise you to avoid processed foods and eat regular meals throughout the day.
If your constipation doesn’t go away or is bothersome, talk with your doctor about other ways to relieve your symptoms.
Like most drugs, Concerta can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
Symptoms can be mild to serious and can include:
- skin rash
- flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
- swelling under your skin, usually in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
- swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe
What might help
If you have mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as a mild rash, call your doctor right away. They may suggest a treatment to manage your symptoms. Examples include:
- an antihistamine you take by mouth, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
- a product you apply to your skin, such as hydrocortisone cream
If your doctor confirms you’ve had a mild allergic reaction to Concerta, they’ll decide if you should continue using it.
If you have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. These symptoms could be life threatening and require immediate medical care.
If your doctor confirms you’ve had a serious allergic reaction to Concerta, they may have you switch to a different treatment.
Keeping track of side effects
During your Concerta treatment, consider taking notes on any side effects you’re having. You can then share this information with your doctor. This is especially helpful when you first start taking new drugs or using a combination of treatments.
Your side effect notes can include things such as:
- what dose of the drug you were taking when you had the side effect
- how soon you had the side effect after starting that dose
- what your symptoms were
- how it affected your daily activities
- what other medications you were taking
- any other information you feel is important
Keeping notes and sharing them with your doctor will help them learn more about how Concerta affects you. They can then use this information to adjust your treatment plan if needed.
Concerta comes with several warnings, which may affect whether the drug is a good treatment for your condition.
Boxed warning: Risk of dependence
Concerta has a
With dependence, your body gets used to a drug and needs it to function as usual. If you have a history of alcohol or drug dependence, you may have a higher risk of dependence from Concerta.
To learn more, see the “Side effects explained” section above.
Concerta may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions. These are known as drug-condition interactions. Other factors may also affect whether Concerta is a good treatment option for you.
Talk with your doctor about your health history before starting Concerta. Factors to consider include those described below.
Seizures. Concerta may increase the risk of seizures. Due to this risk, doctors usually will not prescribe Concerta to someone who has or has had seizures. If you have seizures, tell your doctor before you start treatment. This will help them determine whether Concerta is safe for you to take.
Mental health conditions. Concerta can worsen symptoms of mental health conditions. Before you start taking Concerta, let your doctor know if you have bipolar disorder or another mental health condition. If you develop symptoms while taking Concerta, your doctor may have you stop taking the drug.
Tourette syndrome or tics. Concerta can increase the risk of developing Tourette syndrome or tics. In people who have Tourette syndrome or tics, the drug may worsen their condition. If you have either condition, your doctor likely will not prescribe Concerta. In this case, they’ll recommend another treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Anxiety and agitation. Concerta can worsen the symptoms of anxiety and agitation. Due to this risk, doctors usually will not prescribe Concerta to people who have these conditions. If you have anxiety or agitation, let your doctor know. They’ll likely recommend a drug other than Concerta to treat ADHD.
Glaucoma. Concerta can increase blood pressure, including the pressure in your eyes. If you have glaucoma, your doctor likely will not prescribe the drug. In this case, they’ll recommend a treatment other than Concerta.
Heart problems. Stimulant drugs such as Concerta can increase the risk of serious heart problems in people whose heart doesn’t function well. Serious heart problems can include stroke, heart attack, and sudden death. Due to this risk, doctors usually will not prescribe Concerta to people who have heart problems.
If you have heart problems, such as an abnormal heart rhythm, tell your doctor before you start taking Concerta. They’ll discuss with you whether Concerta is safe for you to take.
High blood pressure. Concerta can increase blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, discuss your risk of taking Concerta with your doctor. They’ll likely monitor your blood pressure more often during treatment.
Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Concerta or any of its ingredients, your doctor likely will not prescribe Concerta. Ask them what other medications are better options for you.
Certain intestinal problems. After swallowing, Concerta tablets don’t change shape. This can cause blockage in people who have narrowing in their intestines. If you have intestinal problems, talk with your doctor before starting treatment with Concerta. This will help them determine whether Concerta is safe for you to take.
Alcohol and Concerta
It’s not recommended to drink alcohol while taking Concerta. Alcohol can worsen certain side effects of the drug, such as nausea, dizziness, and irritability.
Concerta is part of a group of drugs called stimulants, which increase your nervous system’s activity. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it decreases your nervous system’s activity. Taking Concerta with alcohol can hide the effects of alcohol and increase the risk of alcohol poisoning.
In addition, Concerta can cause dependence.*( With dependence, your body gets used to a drug and needs it to function as usual.) Concerta isn’t recommended for people who have a history of alcohol or drug dependence.
For more information about drinking alcohol while taking Concerta, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding while taking Concerta
The safety of using Concerta during pregnancy or while breastfeeding is not known.
If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor for more information about taking Concerta during pregnancy. Also let them know if you’re breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed They can recommend safe ways to feed your child during treatment with the drug.
Concerta can cause dependence,* which can lead to misuse of the drug. Misuse means to use a drug in a way other than how it’s prescribed. Examples include taking more than the recommended dosage and taking a medication prescribed to someone else.
To help prevent misuse, take Concerta as prescribed by your doctor. Also try to keep the drug in a safe, secure place that others can’t access.
If you have a history of alcohol or drug dependence, tell your doctor before starting treatment. They’ll likely recommend a different medication for treating ADHD.
Concerta may cause mild and serious side effects. Some mild side effects are very common, while serious side effects occur less frequently. Certain side effects are more common in children than adults.
To learn more about Concerta’s side effects, ask your doctor questions about them. Here are a few examples:
- How do the side effects of Concerta compare with other drugs used to treat ADHD?
- How likely will decreased growth affect my child if they take Concerta? Will they grow at a normal rate if they stop treatment?
- Are certain people more at risk of Concerta’s side effects than others?
To learn more about Concerta, see these articles:
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Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.