Concerta is the brand name of a medication called methylphenidate. This drug falls into the broad category of stimulants and is a medication that accelerates various processes of the brain and body. Currently, methylphenidate is only prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and sleep problems like narcolepsy. Concerta, specifically, is an extended-release tablet taken once daily and used primarily for the treatment of ADHD in children, adolescents, and adults 6.
When taken as directed, Concerta can effectively manage the conditions it is meant to treat. However, it is a Schedule II drug with a high potential for abuse and addiction. In fact, Concerta produces effects similar to those of other addictive stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine 7 and is particularly addictive when taken without a prescription, taken at higher doses than recommended, or taken via an alternate method (e.g., crushing and snorting). If your Concerta use has spiraled out of your control, consider getting help in a formal detox treatment center.
What Are the Short-term Effects of Use?
Concerta can be therapeutic for those afflicted by ADHD or narcolepsy but can be harmful to those who abuse it to get high or enhance studying. Contrary to popular belief, it is not safe to take since it is a prescription medication. Someone who abuses Concerta can experience several problematic effects, such as2,8,9:
- Psychosis, when the drug is used in binging patterns.
- Extreme anger.
- Emotional blunting.
- Aggressive behavior.
- Excessive sweating or chills.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Uncontrollable movements.
- Impaired judgment.
- Mood swings.
- Disoriented behavior.
- Obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath.
Concerta abuse can lead to a medical emergency. If you believe that you or someone you know has overdosed on Concerta, call 911 immediately and wait for medical professionals to arrive.
What Are the Long-term Consequences of Concerta Abuse?
The sooner you seek help for your Concerta addiction, the less likely you will be to experience any long-lasting adverse effects of Concerta abuse. Consistent use of Concerta can damage a person’s physical and mental health. Some negative effects of long-term use may include4,8:
- Intranasal effects, such as nosebleeds or perforated nasal septum.
- Intravenous effects, such as track lines, puncture marks, abscesses, or blocked blood vessels (due to fillers in the pills).
- Increased risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis.
- Malnutrition and severe weight loss.
- Myocardial infarction.
- Increased risk of sudden death due to cardiac or respiratory arrest.
- Increased risk of injury or arrest due to erratic or psychotic behavior.
Effects and Symptoms of Withdrawal
Withdrawal refers to the set of symptoms that arise when someone who has developed a dependence on a substance abruptly discontinues use. Dependence to any drug is characterized by the body needing that drug to “feel normal.” When the drug is removed, withdrawal — and its associated symptoms — begins. Concerta withdrawal may produce symptoms that range from mild to serious, including 1,3,5:
- Anxiety and panic.
- Inconsistent sleep patterns.
- Intense thirst and hunger.
- Blunted senses and perceptions.
- Lack of energy with extreme fatigue.
The intensity of Concerta withdrawal symptoms seen when quitting Concerta will depend greatly on several factors. More severe symptoms are related to:
- Consuming higher doses.
- Using Concerta frequently.
- Using for a long period of time.
- Ingesting the medication in ways other than intended.
Another factor that influences the severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms is the mental health of the individual withdrawing from Concerta. Since the drug can trigger feelings of anxiety and panic, people with pre-existing anxiety disorders may have symptoms that are more intense or longer in duration.
Concerta Detox Timeline and Protocol
Professional detox programs will provide a level of safety and efficacy that you cannot duplicate at home.
The onset of withdrawal symptoms typically occurs early on in the detoxification process. Detoxification (“detox”) is a process in which the body is allowed to clear itself from the influence of intoxicating substances. Medications and treatments may be used to alleviate discomfort through the process. The detox timeline will be affected by a number of factors to include 1, 2, 5
- How the drug is ingested.
- How much of the drug is used.
Many individual differences will exist due to unique ways that a person metabolizes Concerta. In most cases, though, effects of Concerta withdrawal and detox will begin with a day or two of the last dose, with physical or psychological effects lasting days, weeks, or months after last use 1, 2, 5. These unwanted effects can be long-lasting because Concerta abuse can cause or uncover issues ranging from anxiety to underlying cardiac issues.
What to Expect
Professional detox takes two forms: medically supervised detox and “social” detox. In the medically supervised model, the patient is treated in a closely monitored environment with the goal of mitigating any medical risk while creating a safe and comfortable setting for clients to begin recovery treatment. Instead of focusing on medical treatment, social detox facilities provide support and encouragement to the individual detoxing from Concerta. By assessing the current symptoms, physical needs, and mental health complaints, the staff will provide:
- Substantial meals and plenty of fluids to counteract hunger and dehydration.
- A comfortable place to rest for those that need increased sleep.
- A safe environment for those that are experiencing high levels of aggression, violence, or depression with suicidal thoughts.
- Connection to follow-up treatment and encouragement to continue care.
Whether it is inpatient or outpatient, short- or long-term, social or medically supervised, professional detox programs will provide a level of safety and efficacy that you cannot duplicate at home. Staff at these centers understand how to detox from Concerta safely and comfortably.
Do I Need Concerta Detox?
Symptoms of Concerta addiction are similar to those of other drugs. If you feel uncertain about the influence of Concerta in your life, consider consulting with loved ones. Ask them and yourself questions like:
- Do my relationships seem more chaotic or conflicted?
- Do I seem more depressed, irritable, or anxious?
- Do I show declining interest in previously enjoyed activities?
- Have I seen a change in my usual activities or people I hang out with?
- Have I been spending more time talk about, thinking about, or using Concerta?
- Have I tried to stop with no success?
- Have I been doing unethical or illegal things to get more?
Answering “yes” to these questions might signify that addiction is playing an active role in your life.
Risks of Long-Term Abuse
Concerta abuse is linked to many physical and psychological repercussions, including 3, 4:
- Increased blood pressure.
- Visual disturbances like blurred vision.
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Unhealthy weight loss.
- Aggressive behavior.
- Onset of psychotic symptoms.
- New or increased anxiety.
- Manic symptoms such as grandiosity and aggression.
By engaging in treatment early, you can avoid experiencing the progression of these symptoms often seen with extended Concerta abuse.
How Does Supervised Detox Help?
Detoxing in a medical or social program can ensure you have the needed support to stop using and avoid relapse. It also serves as a connection to continued treatment, which will be essential for many people looking to find sustained recovery. Detoxing under supervision also helps to ensure that any issues — whether medical or mental health-related — are addressed professionally to mitigate any dangers and keep you safe.
Finding a Treatment Program
The decision to enter treatment is an important one. Some addicted individuals may feel reluctant to attend for a number of reasons like leaving work, changing their lifestyle, or combating stigma associated with addiction. In actuality, the greatest risk is not engaging in detox or addiction treatment. This could leave you exposed to the risks and dangerous effects associated with continued use – both physical and psychological. Remember that detox alone will not completely treat addiction and dependence. Further treatment will be essential to establish lasting recovery. Appropriate options include:
- Mental health counseling – Addresses the mental health concerns that influence Concerta abuse. Treatment can aid symptoms of ADHD with behavioral techniques.
- Substance use counseling – Available in individual, group, or family sessions to address relapse prevention and healthy living skills.
- Support group meetings – Helps recovering individuals expand their support system and engage in sober activities.
- Alternative housing options like sober living – Provides a sober place to live for those transitioning out of treatment.
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- Morton, W. A., & Stockton, G. G. (2000). Methylphenidate Abuse and Psychiatric Side Effects. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 2(5), 159-164.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (1999). Quick Guide for Clinicians: Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017). Methylphenidate: MedlinePlus Drug Information.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Drug Fact Sheets.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th Edition). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017). Methylphenidate.