Concerta Dose: Getting It Right

Concerta is a newer, long acting preparation of Methylphenidate – which is the medication name for Ritalin.

It has been out for several years in the USA and Canada, and many other countries in the world.

Despite the fact that it has been around for quite some time, I still see dosing mistakes in patients who are sent to my office.

Allow me to explain to you how Concerta should be dosed.

To start off, we need to go back to the original Ritalin.

Here are the dosing guidelines for Ritalin:

Recommended daily max = 60 mg
Timing: as each dose only lasts 3-4 hours, it is generally dosed 3 times daily – i.e. morning, noon and 4 pm
It is not dosed too late in the day, as it may lead to insomnia
Children would be started at 5 mg twice to three times daily, and the dose would be increased upwards as needed.

When Concerta was developed, they used a fascinating technology called OROS. OROS refers to: osmotic-controlled release oral delivery system. What OROS does, is use the water in the gut to cause the medicine to be absorbed gradually, through osmosis. Suffice it to say that this new pill takes a medicine that has to be taken 3 times daily, and makes it once per day. You can see a short video of how this works here.

Concerta comes in 4 doses:

18 mg
27 mg
36 mg
54 mg

The way to convert Concerta doses into the equivalent of Ritalin doses is this:
Take 22% of the Concerta dose, and that becomes the effective Ritalin dose, three times daily. In other words, the initial 22% is quickly released, and the whole rest of the pill supports that dose.

You need to remember that not all of the medicine is released from the Concerta pill – about 10% is not absorbed.


Just picture a ketchup bottle – can you ever get the last bit out?

So, here is a conversion:

18 mg Concerta = 4 mg Ritalin 3 times per day
27 mg Concerta = 6 mg Ritalin 3 times per day
36 mg Concerta = 8 mg Ritalin 3 times per day
54 mg Concerta = 12 mg Ritalin 3 times per day

Here is an example of how some people get into trouble:

Let’s say that a teen required 60 mg of Ritalin per day – i.e. 20 mg three times daily.

If the doctor converts the dose of 60 mg Ritalin to 54 mg of Concerta – because they seem close, this can have dire consequences.

54 mg of Concerta is like 12 mg of Ritalin 3 times per day, so there would be a significant dose drop from 20 mg 3 times per day to 12 mg 3 times per day (i.e. a 40 % dose reduction!). It would be no surprise if the people noticed a change and felt that Concerta wasn’t working.

In the recent past, there has been approval in the US for 72 mg of Concerta for teenagers if needed.

Recent ADHD practice guidelines published by CADDRA – the Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance, suggest that teens and adults with ADHD may require up to 108 mg of Concerta daily.

To put these doses into perspective:

72 mg Concerta = 16 mg 3 times per day
90 mg Concerta = 20 mg 3 times per day
108 mg Concerta = 24 mg 3 times per day

To achieve these doses, you can use:

72 mg Concerta = two 36 mg tablets, or 54 mg + 18 mg
90 mg Concerta = 54 mg tablet + 36 mg tablet
108 mg Concerta = two 54 mg tablets

What’s the bottom line ?

If you or your loved one was switched from another form of methylphenidate to Concerta, and it seemed that Concerta didn’t work, please consider the information above.

You may even want to print this article, so that you can take it with you to your next doctor’s appointment.

Concerta is a great preparation of methylphenidate, and can work very well.
Don’t give up on it unless you are sure you have had the right dose.


  1. Hello

    I started taking concerta 18mg about a month ago. It makes me incredibly sleepy, even zombie like. I stopped taking it and my doc today said that I need to increase my dosage to not feel so sleepy. I am afraid to take the new 36mg rx because I do not want to be zombie like again. What do you think? Will taking a higher dose actually make me feel more alert than tired?

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