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Concerta Addiction: Symptoms, Effects, and Treatment

Concerta is a stimulant medication prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); however, it is also misused by some people.1 An estimated 1.8 million people ages 12 and older in the U.S. have misused prescription stimulants in the past year, with around 758,000 people having a stimulant-related substance use disorder (SUD) like Concerta addiction.5

This article will explain:

  • What Concerta is
  • Its addictive potential
  • The signs of Concerta addiction
  • The side effects and risks of using Concerta
  • The effects of mixing the drug with alcohol or other drugs
  • Treatment for Concerta addiction

What Is Concerta?

Concerta is the brand name for the stimulant drug methylphenidate, which is primarily used to treat ADHD.1, 2 It is taken orally in tablet form.1

Concerta is like other ADHD drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Dexedrine, which are classified as Schedule II drugs. This means they have a known medical use and a high potential for misuse and physiological dependence.1, 3, 4

Is Concerta Addictive?

Yes, Concerta can be addictive.1 Concerta misuse occurs when a person:1

  • Takes more Concerta than is prescribed, or in a way it is not prescribed.
  • Takes another person’s medication.
  • Uses Concerta just to get feel the effects, or the “high.”

When people misuse Concerta, they may crush it and snort it, smoke it, or mix it with water and inject it.1 Taking prescription stimulants like Concerta over time can lead to tolerance, which means that the person needs more of the drug to keep feeling the same effects. A person can also develop a dependence on Concerta, which means they will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop or significantly reduce their dose.1

If a person develops a substance use disorder, or addiction, their use of Concerta is significantly impacting their life negatively, which may include issues like health problems and the inability to fulfill obligations at home or work.1

Concerta Addiction Symptoms

Concerta addiction is classified as a stimulant use disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), which is used by doctors to diagnose substance use disorders. The criteria for stimulant use disorder include:6

  • Taking stimulants in larger amounts and for longer periods than was intended.
  • A persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control the use of stimulants.
  • Spending a great deal of time engaged in activities to obtain stimulants or recover from their effects.
  • Having strong cravings to use stimulants.
  • Recurrent use of stimulants that leads to failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, home, or school.
  • Continued use of simulants despite having ongoing social or relationship problems either caused by or worsened by using stimulants.
  • Giving up or reducing important occupational, social, or recreational activities due to the use of stimulants.
  • Using stimulants in physically hazardous situations like driving.
  • Ongoing use of stimulants despite the knowledge that a recurring physical or psychological problem that is likely caused or made worse using stimulants.
  • Tolerance, which is defined as a need for increased amounts of stimulants to achieve the desired effect and having a noticeably diminished effect when using the same dosage of stimulants.
  • Withdrawal, which is indicated by either displaying the characteristic withdrawal symptoms for stimulants or if stimulants are taken to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

If you have exhibited 2 or more of these criteria in the past 12 months, you may benefit from further assessment. (The last two criteria, tolerance and withdrawal, do not count toward diagnosing a stimulant use disorder when a person is prescribed the medication and is taking it as directed.)6 However, it is important to note that only a trained professional can diagnose you or anyone else with any type of SUD.

Concerta Side Effects and Risks

Methylphenidate inhibits the reuptake of certain chemicals in the brain, increasing the bioavailability of dopamine and norepinephrine.2 Dopamine plays a role in reinforcing rewarding behaviors, and an increase in the availability of norepinephrine can increase a person’s heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure.2

When a person takes Concerta, they might feel short-term side effects that include:1

  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • Increased sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety or irritability

Repeated misuse of prescription stimulants like Concerta can result in not only in marked tolerance and dependence but other effects and abnormal behavior that can be severe and may include:1, 2

  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Anger issues

In addition, long-term misuse of prescription stimulants may result in more lasting psychosis and heart problems.

Concerta Overdose

People can also overdose on Concerta when they take enough of it to produce a life-threatening condition.2 When a person overdoses, they can experience:1

  • Agitation
  • Tremors and muscle twitching
  • Convulsions
  • Rapid breathing
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
  • Fever

An overdose can also result in heart problems, including an irregular heartbeat that can lead to a heart attack, seizures, or coma, and may even be fatal. Abnormally high or low blood pressure can lead to circulation failure.2

Mixing Concerta with Alcohol and Other Drugs

When a person mixes Concerta with other substances like alcohol and other drugs, it can be dangerous.8 Mixing depressants like alcohol with stimulants can lead each substance to mask the effects of the other making it more difficult to know how each substance is affecting you. When this happens, overdose can be more likely.8

Mixing Concerta with other stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine makes the effects of the drugs more intense and increases the risk of overdose.8 Mixing stimulants increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and brain injuries.8

Find Rehab for Concerta Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with stimulant misuse like Concerta addiction, help is available. Treatment options range from more intensive inpatient programs with 24/7 care to outpatient programs where you can live at home and still partake in treatment services.9

Behavioral therapy can help you think differently about drugs and manage your triggers for relapse and may include modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or family therapy.9 Contingency management can also be effective in treating stimulant use disorders. CM increases desired positive behaviors by providing incentives to set concrete short- and long-term goals.7

Typically, when a person is dependent on Concerta, and they stop using it or significantly reduce their dose, withdrawal symptoms can occur like fatigue, depression, and sleep issues.2 Detoxification can be an important first step in recovery and help people manage withdrawal symptoms and monitor them for any possible medical complications.9

At American Addiction Centers (AAC), we understand the importance of providing individualized treatment to meet the needs of each person. We offer a variety of treatment settings and interventions to help you recover from a stimulant addiction so you can live a healthier, fuller life.

Call to speak to our caring admissions team today to learn about the treatment process and to check your insurance coverage. Your call is 100% confidential. Contact us today to begin on a new path.

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