Concerta is the brand name of a prescription drug used to improve symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, and attention deficit disorder. The drug is associated with several side effects, some severe, and some not occurring until the drug has been taken for many months. Sometimes the side effects are irreversible.
Concerta, with the stimulant methylphenidate as the active ingredient, is manufactured by ALZA Corporation and distributed by McNeil Pediatrics. Methylphenidate is also used in Ritalin, another common ADHD treatment. Unlike Ritalin, Concerta uses a time-release formula. Concerta is available only by prescription and is designed to treat ADHD in children and adults. The drug is under patent until at least 2018, and no generic version will be available until at least that time. Any Internet ads selling generic versions before then are fraudulent.
In 2006, the United States Food and Drug Administration required their most serious warning, a black box label, for Concerta, along with all other ADHD drugs. The label for these drugs warns of a strong link between their use and an increased risk of cardiovascular impairment, heart attacks, and sudden death. The FDA had discovered 16 reports of child deaths linked to Concerta since the drug was introduced in 2000. Similar percentages were found for Ritalin. The agency also noted over 200 reports of psychotic episodes linked to methylphenidate, such as hallucinations and violent behavior. Increases in blood pressure have been recorded as well.
Methylphenidate has numerous other side effects which, although not life-threatening, can be aggravating for users. The most common side effects are abdominal pain, nausea and loss of appetite, dry mouth, headache, and insomnia. Others include nervousness, hostility, depression, dizziness, coughing, and sinus pain.
Tardive dyskinesia, or uncontrollable facial tics, is an effect which typically does not occur until several months after a person begins using Concerta. These tics include mouth and nose movements, or unusual blinking or eye rolling, of which the patient often is not even aware. In a study cited by Rxlist, 9 percent of users over 27 months developed facial tics, and sometimes the tics do not stop after the drug is discontinued. Methylphenidate also has been suspected of triggering the onset of Tourette's syndrome, which causes uncontrolled body movements or vocalizations. Since Tourette's syndrome is associated with ADHD, it has been difficult to determine the extent that methylphenidate is implicated.
Long-term use of Concerta and other ADHD drugs causes dependence and addiction. Because Concerta is physically addicting, people who decide to stop taking it should gradually lower the dosage through consultation with a doctor.
There also is evidence that long-term use suppress growth in some children.
Anyone with anxiety disorders, glaucoma, Tourette's syndrome, or tics should not begin using Concerta. ADHD drugs also are not advised for children under six years of age, although physicians increasingly are prescribing them. They should be avoided by people who have a history of other mental health issues, particularly alcohol or drug abuse, because these individuals are more likely to abuse the ADHD stimulants as well. Taking extra amounts of Concerta can cause severe mood changes and psychotic episodes.