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Side Effects of Concerta: Physical, Mental & Behavioral

Concerta, a brand-name medication containing methylphenidate, causes several side effects. Issues like insomnia and irritability are both common and somewhat easy to control. But others, such as intestinal blockages, can be both rare and serious.

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Most research on Concerta’s side effects was conducted with people who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and used their medications as directed. If you’re abusing the drug, your experience could be much different.

Here’s what you need to know.

Common Side Effects

Everyone can experience Concerta side effects. Even people who take the drug as directed by a doctor can develop the following physical, mental, and behavioral changes: 

Physical Side Effects

In a study of children using drugs containing methylphenidate, 74.3% developed anorexia, and 47.2% developed insomnia.[1] The symptoms were considered mild, and the parents didn’t stop using the drug because of them. 

Managing anorexia and insomnia could mean providing a high-fat snack right before bedtime. Children with a full stomach might be willing to fall asleep quickly. But this problem could be harder to fix in adults who abuse the drug. 

A more troubling physical symptom appeared in about 36% of users in this study. They developed recurring involuntary movements (tics) while using the drug.[1] Once again, this issue wasn’t considered serious enough to quit the use of the drug. An adult drug abuser who develops the problem might disagree. 

Mental Side Effects

Of children taking methylphenidate, more than 57% became irritable.[1] Parents might be accustomed to moody children and might not stop the medication when the problem appears. 

However, researchers say people who abuse drugs like Concerta can experience extreme anger accompanied by hallucinations and aggressiveness.[2] Someone like this might harm themselves or others due to their altered mental state. 

Behavioral Side Effects

All drugs containing methylphenidate, including Concerta, can be habit-forming. People who develop an unhealthy relationship with the drug can display the following behavioral side effects:[3]

  • Increasing their doses
  • Taking doses too close together
  • Continued use even when the doctor doesn’t recommend it 
  • Taking the drug in a different way than prescribed
  • Selling or buying Concerta 

Drug abuse is a known side effect of Concerta.[4] Watching for these behavioral side effects can help you know when to reach out to someone who needs treatment.

Rare Side Effects 

While some Concerta side effects are common and experienced by almost everyone, others are somewhat unusual. Unfortunately, they can also be very dangerous. 

Rare side effects of Concerta include the following:[4]

  • Sudden cardiac death: People with underlying heart abnormalities or disease have died suddenly while taking Concerta. 
  • Growth suppression: Children 10 years old and younger could grow more slowly while using this medication. 
  • Vision problems: Some people experience blurry vision or difficulty with visual focusing while using Concerta. 
  • Gastrointestinal blockage: Concerta’s coating doesn’t break down in the digestive tract. Sometimes, it gets stuck in the intestines and requires surgical removal. 

Doctors can screen patients before offering Concerta, reducing the risk of these side effects. For example, if your doctor is aware that you’ve experienced gastric narrowing in the past, you may not use Concerta for your ADHD. 

However, people who buy the drug from dealers may not get any kind of screening before they start taking it. They may not know it’s risky until these problems appear. 

Factors That Impact the Effects of Concerta 

Concerta is a powerful medication designed for prescription use. A doctor should determine your suitability for therapy, choose the right dose, and monitor your results. If you take the drug independently or in a manner your doctor didn’t suggest, your side effects can vary. 

Researchers say that drugs like Concerta are safe for children and adolescents with ADHD. When this group uses medications for long periods, they don’t have negative psychiatric or developmental issues.[5] 

But no one is sure how the drug might work in people who don’t have ADHD and take very high doses. Your side effects could be entirely different. 

The amount you take each day could also impact your side effect risks and severity. The more you take, the more you change your brain cells. 

What About the Long-Term Impact of Concerta?

Researchers know how Concerta works in people using it for four weeks or less.[4] Doctors who want to give the medication to patients for longer periods are encouraged to monitor their patients closely. People who abuse the drug will not get this type of supervision to keep them safe. 

Without clear, long-term studies on people who abuse Concerta, it’s hard to know how a drug habit could hurt your body or mind. Risks are compounded even further if you are mixing Concerta with abuse of other substances like opioids or alcohol.

In a long-term study of children with ADHD, drugs like Concerta were associated with a lower risk of depression and conduct disorders. They also didn’t develop psychotic disorders.[6] But adults without ADHD using these drugs recreationally could have a different experience. 

If you’re abusing Concerta, know that the medication could cause long-term harm. Getting treatment could help you put your life back on track and reduce the likelihood of long-term damage.

Updated March 21, 2024
  1. Khajehpiri Z, Mahmoudi-Gharaei J, Faghihi T, Karimzadeh I, Khalili H, Mohammadi M. Adverse reactions of methylphenidate in children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder: Report from a referral center. J Res Pharm Pract. 2014;3(4):130-136. doi:10.4103/2279-042X.145389
  2. Morton WA, Stockton GG. Methylphenidate abuse and psychiatric side effects. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2000;2(5):159-164. doi:10.4088/pcc.v02n0502
  3. Methylphenidate. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Published January 15, 2022. Accessed September 20, 2023.
  4. Concerta. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published March 2007. Accessed September 20, 2023.
  5. Long-term safety of common ADHD medication for children and adolescents, global team finds. The University of Melbourne. Published March 31, 2023.
  6. Park J, Lee D, Kim C, et al. Long-term methylphenidate use for children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and risk for depression, conduct disorder, and psychotic disorder: a nationwide longitudinal cohort study in South Korea. Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health. 2022;16:80.
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