Concerta (methylphenidate) is an oral medication used primarily to treat the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) along with behavioral therapies and counseling. It has also been used to treat narcolepsy.
It is part of a a class of medications called norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRI) and is a central nervous system stimulant. It works by increasing the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, two neurotransmitter chemicals that play an important role in maintaining mental acuity.
It is believed that a possible cause of ADHD is a low amount of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, among others. In the brain, the space between where two neurons meet to communicate is called a synapse, and the synapse is where norepinephrine, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters are used to communicate between neurons. In ADHD, people may not have enough norepinephrine and dopamine in their brain. Normally after a chemical message is sent between neurons, the neurotransmitters are reabsorbed by the sending neuron (presynaptic neuron).
A norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor will bind to the presynaptic neuron and prevent it from absorbing the norepinephrine and dopamine, and leave the neurotransmitters active in the synapse, improving mood and anxiety symptoms. Concerta also acts as a releasing agent and therefore psychostimulant, meaning that in addition to preventing reuptake, it also causes the extra release of neurotransmitters.