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How to Stop Concerta Cravings, Prevent Relapse and Find Help

Managing Concerta Cravings and Avoiding Relapse

Concerta is a time-released form of methylphenidate, a stimulant medication commonly prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Concerta can be habit-forming, and users who are trying to quit can experience strong cravings that can lead to a relapse.

Concerta Cravings Signs and Symptoms

Prolonged use of Concerta can lead to physical changes in the brain and the body. When the person suddenly stops using Concerta, withdrawal symptoms usually begin within a few hours to several days after the last dose.15 During withdrawal from Concerta and other stimulants, users experience strong cravings to use the drug.15

Physical symptoms that may accompany cravings usually occur as the body adjusts to the lack of the drug in its system. These symptoms include: 1, 2, 3, 15

  • Extreme exhaustion.
  • Sleeping for 12 or more hours at a time.
  • Severe headaches.
  • Nausea.
  • Extreme hunger.
  • Slowed movements.
  • Fatigue.

Psychological symptoms that may accompany cravings include: 1, 2, 3, 15
  • Anxiety.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Depression.
  • Thoughts of suicide.
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how long cravings will last. Some people may experience cravings for Concerta for months or even years after their last dose.

Treatments and Techniques for Concerta Cravings

Learning to cope with Concerta cravings is a crucial aspect of maintaining sobriety. Therapies, coping strategies and relapse prevention methods can help you manage the physical and psychological symptoms of cravings.

You can practice some of these on your own. Others may require enlisting the help of a trained therapist in a one-on-one or group setting or at a treatment center.

  • Memory reconsolidation: Memory reconsolidation helps treat cravings by consolidating and eliminating memories associated with drug use. It helps recovering addicts experience less cravings triggered by environmental cues associated with drug-related memories. 6
  • Mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP): While most coping strategies for drug cravings recommend avoiding events that might trigger them, mindfulness embraces the craving as an inevitable experience. Mindfulness consists of cultivating awareness and acceptance of the present moment and all it contains. This includes your thoughts, feelings and surroundings. When a craving arises, you accept rather than resist its presence, remain mindful of the situation and patiently wait for the craving to pass. 7
  • Urge surfing: Urge surfing is another mindfulness-based approach to dealing with cravings. Find a quiet place to sit or lie down with your eyes closed and your attention focused inward. Observe your thoughts and feelings and describe what you are experiencing. You may think to yourself: “I am feeling mentally fatigued, and I’m craving Concerta so that I can feel more alert and focused.” Continue to observe the sensations that arise within your body and the thoughts that occur in response to them until the craving has passed.
  • Relaxation techniques: Cravings can quickly produce feelings of anxiety and stress. But you can use relaxation techniques to help calm your mind and body when a craving occurs. These techniques include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, visualization, and guided imagery. 8
  • CBT techniques: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques are some of the most popular coping methods for drug cravings. Some common CBT techniques used include redirecting your thoughts, finding a distraction from the craving and visualizing a favorite activity. 4, 5, 9
  • Self-talk: Self-talk is a means of talking yourself out of the craving through logic and reason. Some people write down all of their reasons for quitting Concerta and keep the piece of paper handy to read to themselves when they have a craving.
  • Practice good study habits: Many Concerta addicts are high school and college students who want to improve academic performance. They come to rely on the drug to study, write term papers and take exams. They later may experience cravings when assigned homework or taking tests. Learning and practicing good study habits can help them resist the urge to use Concerta while also keeping their grades up. Some good study habits students might try are: 10
    • Finish your work early: Waiting until the last minute will make you feel pressured and likely trigger a craving to use Concerta to complete your work. If you give yourself plenty of time to finish the project, you may realize that you don’t need a drug to write that paper or study for that exam.
    • Take frequent breaks: Taking breaks when working on a big project can help prevent feelings of panic and anxiety and keep your mind focused.
    • Use distraction prevention apps: If you’re working on the computer, take advantage of the many applications available to help you block distracting websites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter while you’re working.

Individual and Group Support Programs

If you try the techniques listed above and still find yourself struggling with Concerta cravings, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Individual and group therapies for Concerta addiction and relapse prevention include:

  • Individual counseling/therapy: Therapy and counseling can help recovering Concerta addicts develop coping skills to deal with cravings and address underlying reasons for addiction. Therapy also addresses any co-occurring mental health disorders that may contribute to Concerta use, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Your therapist or counselor may recommend alternative treatments for ADHD, such as cultivating better time management skills or using non-stimulating medications. 11, 12
  • Group counseling/therapy: Group therapy is highly effective because it provides recovering addicts with hope and strength through peer support. Group therapy addresses the same issues as individual therapy, but in a group setting. Some forms of group therapy may also include family and friends who have been affected by the person’s Concerta abuse.
  • 12-step programs: offer a step-by-step method for overcoming drug addiction. They also offer the added benefit of peer support. A popular program for Concerta addiction is Pills Anonymous, a 12-step group for those battling prescription medication addictions.

Addiction Recovery Programs

Concerta addiction treatment is also available on an inpatient and outpatient basis: 5

  • Inpatient treatment takes place in a residential treatment center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Treatment programs may vary in length from 28 to 30 days to 60 days to 90 days. In rare cases, treatment may last longer, sometimes for 6 months or even 1 to 2 years. A typical inpatient rehab facility will offer some combination of medically assisted detox, individual and group counseling and therapy, support groups, 12-step programs, relapse prevention education, recreation, art therapy and aftercare.
  • Outpatient treatment generally provides the same treatment options as inpatient facilities, but on a part-time basis. Outpatient treatment is generally more affordable and may be preferred by those with less severe addictions who wish to remain active in their personal and professional lives.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any medications for the treatment of Concerta addiction and cravings. However, you can use behavioral modifications and natural approaches to help combat cravings and maintain sobriety. 4, 9

How to Stop Cravings Naturally

You may continue to experience Concerta cravings even after recovering from addiction. But you can use natural ways to help prevent cravings from arising and to deal with them if they occur. The most important thing is to take care of yourself. If you are mentally and physically healthy, you will be less likely to crave Concerta.
  • Find a hobby: Hobbies are an excellent way to stay busy and distract yourself from Concerta cravings. Hobbies can help enhance your overall wellbeing, which makes you less likely to want to use drugs. Some hobbies that you might try include bike riding, sports, hiking, camping, fishing, arts and crafts, carpentry, video games, reading, cooking and sewing.
  • Nutrition: Poor dietary choices can make a person in recovery more likely to relapse. Proper nutrition is also an important of the body’s healing process. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help improve your overall mental and physical health, making you less likely to crave Concerta or succumb to a craving. 13
  • Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins and encourages the healthy production of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Daily cardiovascular exercise can help you stay physically healthy and help maintain mental health and improve focus, which will naturally reduce your cravings for Concerta. 13, 14

Cravings and Relapse

Unfortunately, relapse is common for people recovering from stimulants such as Concerta. 3 However, many observable warning signs indicate that a person may be at risk of relapsing. These include:
  • Failing to attend recovery meetings: If you start to frequently miss your support group or 12-step meetings, you may be at risk for relapse. Ongoing recovery meetings are an important component of maintaining sobriety because they remind you of the negative consequences of addiction.
  • Associating with old friends who abuse Concerta or other drugs: While you may miss your old friends, it is best to avoid people you abused Concerta with. Being around them may trigger the urge to use, especially if they are still using.
  • Isolating yourself from friends and family: Those who spend more time alone, isolated from friends and family, are at a higher risk of relapse. Cultivating healthy interpersonal relationships is important to maintaining sobriety.
  • Romanticizing the days when you used Concerta: If you find yourself looking back on your days of Concerta abuse with nostalgia, dreaming of how you aced that organic chemistry test or wrote a compelling thesis, then you could be at risk of relapse. Remind yourself of the negative consequences of abuse rather than focus on the perceived benefits of abusing Concerta.
  • Major life changes: Major life changes can lead to increased stress, which is likely to cause Concerta cravings and increase your chance of relapse. Some major life changes that may induce cravings are starting a new job or getting fired, getting married or divorced, moving to a new place or losing a loved one. Make sure you have a support system in place that you can turn to during these times.

Some other relapse prevention methods that can help you maintain sobriety and avoid using Concerta are:
  • Following up with aftercare: This is perhaps the most important thing you can do to avoid relapse. Aftercare programs exist for good reason: It is more difficult to avoid using Concerta outside of the recovery environment. Aftercare programs are designed to help you maintain your sobriety long-term.
  • Get a sponsor: A sponsor is another recovering addict who is available for you to call when you feel a craving. These are people you can turn to when you experience major life events and other stressors that may make you crave Concerta. Many 12-step programs set you up with a sponsor during the program.
  • Attend support groups on a weekly basis: If you can take an hour out of your week to attend a support group, then you can significantly reduce your risk of relapse. Consider that hour as an investment in your future.
  • Build a solid support system: Cultivate healthy relationships with people who do not abuse Concerta. Having a solid support system of friends and family can help prevent relapse and improve overall well being.

Find a Recovery Center for Concerta

If you or someone you love is struggling with Concerta addiction and cravings, it is important to seek professional help. You can receive assistance finding a recovery center near you by calling one of our recovery specialists toll-free at .

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[3]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (1999). Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders. Chapter 2: How Stimulants Affect Brain and Behavior.

[4]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Treating Addiction to Prescription Stimulants.

[5]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide.

[6]. Torregrossa, M. & Taylor, J. (2013). Learning to Forget: Manipulating Extinction and Reconsolidation Processes to Treat Addiction. Psychopharamacology (Berl). 226(4): 659-72.

[7]. Nauman, E. (July 14, 2014). Can Mindfulness Help Stop Substance Abuse? University of California, Berkeley. Greater Good: The Science of A Meaningful Life.

[8]. Ehrlich, S. (September 24, 2013). Relaxation Techniques. University of Maryland Medical Center.

[9]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (December 2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide. Behavioral Therapies.

[10]. Collins, K. Strategies/Techniques for ADHD. The Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services: College of Applied Health Sciences at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

[11]. Clay, R. (February 2013). Easing ADHD without meds. American Psychological Association.

[12]. Budur, K, Matthews, M., et. al. (July 2005). Non-stimulant treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Psychiatry, 2(7): 44-8.

[13]. Berger, F. (February 24, 2014). Diet and Substance Abuse Recovery. U.S. National Library of Medicine.

[14]. Smith, M. & Lynch, W. (2011). Exercise as a potential treatment for drug abuse: Evidence from preclinical studies. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2:82

[15]. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders fifth edition. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.

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