How Concerta Can Help Children With ADHD

This Medication Helps Control ADHD Symptoms for Up to 12 Hours

Female doctor talking to father and son
Tetra Images/Getty Images

Concerta was the first truly long-lasting, extended-release form of Ritalin. (Technically, Ritalin SR came first, but it didn't really last all day for most kids, and it definitely didn't provide the 12 hours of symptom control that Concerta offered.)

The benefit of this all-day relief from symptoms of ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) 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 ADHD. It can be prescribed to children who are over six years old, although, since it is a pill that must be swallowed, even some young children who are over age six may have problems taking it.

Key Facts

Together with Adderall XR, Concerta is one of the two most commonly 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:

  • Concerta is available in 18-mg (milligram), 27-mg, 36-mg, and 54-mg capsules.
  • Teens can take up to 72 milligrams of Concerta per day as two 36-mg capsules.
  • The active ingredient in Concerta is methylphenidate HCl or Ritalin.
  • 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.

Side Effects

Like other stimulants, Concerta has side effects that sometimes limit its usefulness, but its side effects are not as common as you might expect. Concerta is usually well tolerated by most children and adolescents.

The most common side effects are headaches, 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 lowering your child's dosage of Concerta. So ask your child's pediatrician if that's a possibility. If the side effects continue after a dosage is lowered or if your child is having unacceptable side effects, then they should likely be switched to a ​different ADHD medication. Ask your child's pediatrician if there are other options to try.

Your pediatrician will monitor your child's growth and blood pressure while they are taking Concerta to watch for any potential problems.

Who Should Not Take Concerta

Although Concerta is well tolerated by most children, there are some who should not take it, or only take it with great caution, including children:

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

What You Need to Know

Concerta is one of the first-line therapies that is 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 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 Considerations

  • Although some parents don't give their children Concerta on weekends or holidays, many experts recommend avoiding these types of drug holidays.
  • As Concerta lasts for 12 hours, if you forget to give your child 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.
  • 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.
2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Methylphenidate.

  2. CMS. Stimulant and related medications: US FDA approved indications and dosage for use in pediatric patients.

Additional Reading
  • Concerta Patient Information Sheet - October 2004 Edition.

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.