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Concerta Addiction: Signs, Effects, and Treatment

4 min read · 6 sections

Healthcare providers prescribe Concerta, a brand name medication that is a long-acting form of methylphenidate, for the treatment of (ADHD).Concerta is a stimulant and is known to cause euphoric feelings as well as increased attention; and therefore, it can be misused. Misuse includes, taking more of the medication than is prescribed, taking someone else’s medication, or taking it to get high. 2 In 2021, 536,000 Americans aged 12 or older misused methylphenidate products within a 12-month period.3 That same year, about 1.5 million individuals aged 12 or older were diagnosed with a prescription stimulant use disorder, the clinical term for an addiction to stimulant drugs like Concerta.4

Keep reading to learn more about Concerta, its effects, its potential dangers, and how to get help if you struggle with Concerta misuse or addiction.

What Is Concerta and What Is it Prescribed to Treat?

The central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, Concerta, or methylphenidate, is primarily used to treat ADHD and comes in an oral tablet form.1

Concerta, like Ritalin, another methylphenidate medication used for ADHD treatment, is a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act.1,2 It is widely prescribed and legally used to help treat symptoms of ADHD including, improving focus and decreasing impulsivity and hyperactive behavior.

Concerta Side Effects

Methylphenidate works by increasing norepinephrine and dopamine activity in the brain. Dopamine plays a role in reinforcing rewarding behaviors; norepinephrine can increase an individual’s heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose, and breathing.1,4

Short-term side effects associated with Concerta use include:1

          Decreased appetite resulting in weight loss.

          Headache.

          Nausea.

          Sleep difficulties.

          Anxiety or irritability.

          Dizziness.

Chronic use can lead to marked tolerance—meaning an individual requires more methylphenidate to get the desired effect or the same dose no longer produces the desired effect—and dependence.1 Dependence occurs when the brain and body have become so used to having a substance present that when use suddenly stops or drastically reduces, withdrawal symptoms surface.

Additionally, repeated use of stimulants—even in the short term—can cause varying degrees of abnormal behaviors, including:1,2

          Psychosis (such as hallucinations or delusions).

          Anger or aggression.

          Paranoia.

Concerta Overdose

Concerta overdose may occur when an individual takes enough methylphenidate to cause life-threatening side effects or death.2 Symptoms associated with a methylphenidate overdose may include:1

          Vomiting.

          Agitation.

          Convulsions.

          Confusion.

          Hallucinations (seeing and hearing things that aren’t there).

          Excessive sweating.

Additionally, individuals may experience an irregular heartbeat, which can lead to heart attack, or high blood pressure, which can cause a stroke.

Taking Concerta with alcohol or other drugs or medications may increase the likelihood of dangerous side effects or overdose.1,5 Mixing methylphenidate with other stimulants—such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or other prescription stimulants—amplifies the effects of the substances and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, brain injuries, and overdose.5

Concurrently using methylphenidate with CNS depressants like alcohol may modify or mask the effects of one or both substances, causing the individual to think they’re not affected by either substance. As a result, they may take more of one or both substances, which increases the risk of overdose and death.5

If you suspect someone has overdosed on methylphenidate or another drug, call 911 immediately.2 Staying with the person and helping maintain consciousness while waiting for professional medical help can save their life.2 Overdose is a serious condition that can have life-long consequences. Increase their chance of survival by getting medical help as soon as possible.

Concerta Misuse and Addiction

As previously, mentioned, individuals may misuse methylphenidate by taking more than they’re prescribed, taking it to get high, or taking someone else’s prescription. Misuse is of particular concern among university students.6 Methylphenidate and similar compounds—obtained from family and friends, purchased online, or via a fraudulent prescription—are often referred to as “smart drugs,” “study aids,” or “nootropics.” Individuals take them to enhance mental alertness, concentration, memory, motivation, and creativity.6

Misusing stimulants, such as methylphenidate, long term can lead to lasting psychosis, devastating heart problems, and addiction.2

Concerta Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms may occur when an individual, who has become dependent on methylphenidate, abruptly reduces their dose or stops using it completely.8

These withdrawal symptoms may include:1

          Anxiety.

          Irritability.

          Insomnia.

          Elevated blood pressure.

          Severe depression.

Treatment for Concerta Addiction

If you or a loved one struggle with stimulant misuse, like methylphenidate addiction, help is available. Rehab centers and treatment programs offer a wide variety of settings with diverse specializations. Treatment for substance use disorders, including stimulant use disorders, may include:8,9

Detoxification. Detox is the process in which the body cleanses itself of the drug. Going through detox in a medically supervised setting can assist with unpleasant or dangerous withdrawal symptoms. It also eases the transition into ongoing drug addiction treatment.

Inpatient programs. Inpatient care provides 24/7 supervision and can occur in a hospital or residential setting. These tend to be highly structured programs intended for people with severe conditions or social issues that complicate treatment.

Outpatient programs. Outpatient services can provide multiple levels of treatment, depending on an individual’s needs. People in outpatient programs live at home or in a sober living environment, potentially allowing them to work or attend school during treatment.

Aftercare. Also called continuing care, aftercare consists of formalized programs, such as sober-living homes or community-based groups. It refers to the continued involvement in mutual-help groups or with mental health professionals to aid in maintaining life-long abstinence after formal addiction treatment ends.

Throughout each level of treatment, behavioral therapies and medication may be used. Which therapies and whether medication is used greatly depends on a person’s individual treatment needs.

Behavioral therapies can help individuals think differently about their drug use, manage triggers and stressors, and assist them in avoiding relapse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one intervention commonly used in the treatment of stimulant use disorders. Additionally, contingency management (CM) reinforces positive behaviors by providing concrete incentives and rewards for setting and meeting short- and long-term goals.8

Starting treatment as soon as possible can increase your chances for lasting recovery.9 Why choose American Addiction Centers (AAC)? AAC has treatment centers across the United States. Compassionate admissions navigators are available 24/7 to listen to your story, answer your questions, and explain your treatment options.

Most insurance plans offer at least partial coverage for substance use disorder treatment. AAC can help you verify your insurance and understand your benefits.

If you or a loved one need help with Concerta addiction, don’t wait; call today

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