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Concerta Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Medically reviewed by

Jennifer Cousineau, MSCP, LPCI, NCC

March 27, 2019

Concerta is a brand name of the drug, methylphenidate. This medication is useful when taken properly, however abusing Concerta can have devastating effects, including addiction and death

What Is Concerta?

The active ingredient in Concerta is methylphenidate, and is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. Concerta increases or stimulates many areas of the brain that result in an increase in focus and attention, but also increases physiological responses like blood pressure, heart, and respiration rates.

Concerta is prescribed to individuals over the age of six to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Concerta is available in 18 mg, 27 mg, 36 mg or 54 mg tablets, and by prescription only.

Methylphenidates, like Concerta, are classified as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). If Concerta is abused, or taken in a way other than prescribed, it puts the person at high risk for dependence and addiction.

Concerta tablets are in an extended-release form, which is an important factor in treating ADHD. This allows for lower amounts of the medication to be dispersed through the body over several hours. Additionally, the structure of Concerta also makes it difficult to ingest in a way other than prescribed, such as snorting or injecting.

Concerta Abuse

Abusing Concerta simply means a person is taking Concerta in a way that is not prescribed to them. This can include any or all of the following:

  • taking Concerta that is not prescribed to them
  • obtaining a prescription for Concerta by faking symptoms
  • increasing amount of Concerta taken at one time without consulting prescribing doctor
  • adding doses of Concerta
  • breaking Concerta pills in half or smashing to destroy the extended-release bonds

Concerta Tolerance And Dependence

Even when taken as prescribed, it is not unusual for a person to develop a tolerance to Concerta. This means that a person would need to increase the dosage of Concerta in order to maintain the same effects of the drug. If a person experiences tolerance, it is completely appropriate to reach out to the prescribing doctor and discuss dosage options. It is not appropriate, however, to just take more Concerta without medical supervision.

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Over time, the body is likely to develop a dependence to Concerta, even when taken as prescribed. This does not mean that the person is addicted to Concerta. It simply means that the body depends on the medication to function at ‘normal’ levels. Addiction occurs when a person abuses Concerta and other behaviors are present, in addition to tolerance and dependence.

Concerta Addiction

Many people who struggle with an addiction to Concerta attempt to mask their substance abuse. That said, there are some indicators of addiction that are hard to hide, such as:

  • finding and using Concerta becomes time-consuming, and a priority over other tasks
  • asking others for their Concerta or other medications containing methylphenidate
  • continued Concerta use, even though it is negatively affecting their lives
  • making several appointments with different doctors just to get Concerta
  • having to take Concerta before beginning specific tasks

These outward symptoms can be a good indicator of a problem, but Concerta can also have some serious negative effects on the person abusing it. These side effects include:

  • dilated pupils
  • euphoria
  • extreme anxiety
  • headaches
  • lack of hunger
  • aggression
  • insomnia
  • rapid heart beat
  • excitability
  • increased blood pressure
  • formication

Concerta Overdose

Taking too much Concerta at once, or destroying the extended release bonds can result in an overdose, which can end up being fatal. As the Concerta continues to release in the body, amounts of methylphenidate continue to rise in the bloodstream. This can result in seizures, coma, heart attacks and even death.

When a person takes more Concerta than their body can handle, there are some early stage indications that a person is experiencing an overdose. These indicators include:

  • increased body temperature
  • confusion
  • extreme thirst
  • diarrhea
  • tremors
  • restlessness
  • flush skin
  • headache
  • muscle spasms

If a person who is taking Concerta begins experiencing these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Because Concerta is an extended release medication, it will continue to raise methylphenidate levels in the body. Allowing this to continue without medical intervention can be fatal.

Concerta Withdrawal

When a person stops taking Concerta while they are addicted, they will usually have symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms from Concerta are usually uncomfortable, but they are not typically fatal.

Some symptoms associated with Concerta withdrawal are:

  • feeling extreme exhaustion
  • bizarre dreams
  • depression
  • hunger
  • methylphenidate cravings
  • suicidal thoughts
  • anxiety
  • struggle to feel pleasure
  • psychosis

One way to reduce the intensity or eliminate some Concerta withdrawal symptoms is by attending a detoxification program. These facilities offer support in a variety of ways to people attempting to stop abusing drugs, like Concerta. Usually, detox programs are offered as part of drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, described below.

Concerta (methylphenidate) Statistics

  • Nearly ⅓ of college students report abusing stimulant drugs, like Concerta
  • Street names for Concerta include kibbles & bits, kiddy coke, and skittles
  • Stimulant prescription medications are the most abused by high school students
  • Approximately 5.6 million people over the age of 12 reported abusing prescription stimulants, like Concerta, in 2016.
  • 540,000 people meet criteria for a substance use disorder involving stimulants each year

Concerta Addiction Treatment

Substance abuse treatment locations that offer detox programs are helpful for people struggling with a Concerta addiction. Medically supervised detox programs can provide the stability and assistance a person needs to stop abusing Concerta and other medications that contain methylphenidate.

Once a person is no longer abusing Concerta, they can continue their commitment towards sobriety by completing a substance abuse program that works with them to identify the reasons for their addiction, and develop appropriate coping strategies to move forward into the life they deserve.

Concerta is not an “as needed” medication. It is a once daily tablet that its purpose is to increase attention and ability to focus overall. It is not intended to improve performance on any given task, but more than it is to create a balance within the function of the brain to allow a person to perform at a level they would not be otherwise able to.

A person who takes Concerta in any way other than prescribed is at risk for Concerta addiction. There are substance abuse treatment options available to help a person address these behaviors before they can affect their lives any further. Contact our team today so we can help you on your path toward an improved life.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention - 2018 Annual Surveillance Report of Drug Related Risks and Outcomes

Janssen - Concerta Prescription Information Insert

Drug Enforcement Administration - Drug Scheduling

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