Concerta Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options
Concerta is a form of methylphenidate, which is a type of drug that stimulates the central nervous system (CNS). Because of how Concerta interacts with the body, it is often prescribed to people suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
When taken as prescribed, Concerta is considered safe and effective for helping people manage their ADHD symptoms. However, because Concerta interacts with the body’s natural reward system and heightens the levels of dopamine in the brain, it can have addictive qualities.
What Is Concerta?
Concerta is a prescription drug approved by the FDA for use in individuals suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, Concerta can also be found on the recreational drug market as it promotes higher levels of dopamine in the brain, a chemical linked to feelings of happiness and elation.
Concerta and other drugs that increase dopamine levels are considered to have a high risk of misuse. This is because dopamine, while naturally occurring, is naturally addictive. It is a fundamental component of the body’s natural reward system, and misusing drugs that alter dopamine levels can create a feeling of “high.”
Chemically, Concerta is almost identical to Ritalin. Both Concerta and Ritalin are brand names of a drug known as methylphenidate. The difference is that Concerta is a slow-releasing formula that offers effects lasting up to 12 hours.
One thing that makes Concerta unique is the proprietary “osmotically controlled release oral-delivery system,” also known as OROS. This means that when you first take Concerta, about 22% of the dose is released immediately. The rest of the dose is absorbed by your body in intervals since the medication is constructed of inner compartments that take time to dissolve.
The extended-release form of Concerta makes it highly effective at controlling key symptoms of ADHD, such as hyperactivity, over the course of 10-12 hours. However, because of the nature of extended-release tablets, they are more prone to abuse.
Because methylphenidate (the key component of Concerta) is chemically similar to amphetamine and cocaine, it can be very addicting. People who want to experience a rush or “high” feeling might crush up Concerta tablets for snorting. This leads to all the medication being absorbed by the body at once, which can create intense feelings, like an elevated mood.
Why Do People Take Concerta?
There are a few reasons why someone would take Concerta. Concerta is approved for use for people with ADHD between the ages of 6 and 65. Government-funded studies have also found success in using Concerta for children as young as 3 who suffer from ADHD.
However, even for those taking Concerta for a medical condition under a doctor’s supervision, misuse is possible. Misuse can begin accidentally, like if a person misses a dose and decides to double up, only to realize that the effects of a higher dose are enjoyable. Since Concerta interacts with the body’s reward centers to produce dopamine (the “happy hormone”), misuse can rapidly lead to a substance use disorder.
Meanwhile, there are also people who use Concerta for recreational purposes. Because Concerta is similar to other stimulant medications like cocaine, the elated feeling it produces can be very addicting.
Does Concerta Have Any Health Benefits?
The health benefits of Concerta are recognized by the FDA, which is why it is prescribed by doctors for people with ADHD. However, there are no known health benefits for individuals who do not suffer from ADHD.
Those struggling with mental health problems, such as depression, may try to self-medicate with Concerta due to its mood-boosting effects. However, because Concerta can lead to mood swings and other symptoms, it’s dangerous to experiment with off-label uses like this.
Even though Concerta has legitimate medical use cases, it can lead to drug addiction if misused. For those who need ADHD medications, it’s important to speak with your doctor to get help with prescriptions, dosing, and symptom management.
Side Effects of Concerta
There is a common misconception that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs, even for recreational use. It’s important to recognize the short-term and long-term effects of Concerta abuse because taking too much Concerta can be dangerous.
Even when taking Concerta as prescribed, side effects are possible. The most common side effects of Concerta include:
- Loss of appetite and stomach pain
- Headache, dizziness, and vision problems
- Dry mouth, nausea, and vomiting
- Anxiety, nervousness, and irritability
- Trouble sleeping
- Sweating, numbness, tingling, and feeling cold
- Skin rash
The more often you take Concerta or the higher the dose you take, the more likely you are to experience these side effects. Over time, you will also begin to experience more severe symptoms of abuse.
Symptoms of Concerta Abuse
Drug abuse does not necessarily mean someone is addicted to a medication. In fact, there are five phases that lead up to what is officially classified as a drug addiction.
The five phases of Concerta abuse are:
- First use: The first use of Concerta might consist of recreational experimentation or being prescribed Concerta for your condition. Since it’s pushed as a performance-enhancing drug, a student might take Concerta before a big test.
- Continued use: As a person continues taking Concerta more frequently, they may find themselves falling into a routine dosage or schedule. This could mean that a student begins taking Concerta before every test or during every study session.
- Tolerance: Tolerance can develop rapidly once you begin taking Concerta regularly. Tolerance means that the dose you first took no longer has the same effect. The effects may feel dull or weakened, which gradually leads people to take more and more.
- Dependence: Once tolerance forms, physical dependence is soon to follow. Physical dependence on a drug happens when your mind and body have adapted to having Concerta in your system. If you suddenly stop taking it now, it could be dangerous, and you will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
- Addiction: While physical dependence on a medication forms the foundation for addiction, there are also psychological changes that occur once addiction takes hold. You might find that you experience cravings when you don’t take the drug and that symptoms like mood swings and irritability worsen.
It’s crucial to recognize that substance abuse can rapidly evolve into an addiction, especially with a stimulant like Concerta. It’s also important to acknowledge that overcoming addiction alone is difficult, and it can be dangerous.
If you or a loved one is experimenting with Concerta, it’s important to reach out to a treatment center for help identifying the underlying cause and working through the addiction treatment process together. Call our team at (855) 430-9439 or contact us online to learn more.
Concerta Withdrawal Symptoms
Once a person becomes physically dependent on Concerta, their body will go through a withdrawal process when they stop taking Concerta. However, the withdrawal process is not just uncomfortable; it can also be dangerous.
Suddenly quitting Concerta after dependence has developed can lead to severe symptoms and a higher risk of relapse and overdose. Some of the symptoms you may experience during Concerta withdrawal include:
- An irregular or fast heart rate, sometimes accompanied by irregular blood pressure
- Extreme fatigue, trouble sleeping, and nightmares
- Nausea and changes in appetite
- Changes in mood and behavior, including irritability
- Anxiety, depression, and panic attacks
- Dysphoria, which leads to an uneasy or dissatisfied feeling
- Psychosis, which could result in hallucinations and delusions
Because stopping Concerta cold turkey can be dangerous and difficult, it’s important to work with healthcare providers who can guide your treatment program. As part of your plan, they may suggest tapering off Concerta, and they may also provide other therapies to minimize the effects of withdrawal.
A medical detox program is commonly recommended for prescription stimulant abuse, as it can help keep you safe, minimize long-term side effects, and make the transition back to a healthy lifestyle easier.
Risks of Concerta Overdose
Because Concerta is an extended-release form of methylphenidate, people who misuse it are at a high risk of accidental overdose. The nature of Concerta means that it contains a large dose, but that dose is meant to be absorbed by the body over the course of 12 or so hours.
Crushing up Concerta tablets to snort them, or otherwise modifying the medication to release more of the dosage at once, can lead to dangerous effects on the body.
With a high enough dose, or if you take Concerta often enough that it accumulates in the body, you could suffer from serious outcomes, such as a heart attack or even sudden death. This is why inpatient treatment is often recommended for those misusing Concerta.
Treatment Options for Concerta Abuse
There are multiple levels of care you might participate in based on how often you use Concerta, how much you take, and whether physical dependence or addiction has developed yet.
For individuals who have only begun experimenting with Concerta or recently started using it, the path to recovery may be possible with an outpatient treatment program, which is considered the least intensive option. Meanwhile, for those who are dependent on or addicted to Concerta, an inpatient program may be necessary to help them safely get through withdrawal.
Here is a brief overview of the levels of care available to you. A healthcare professional can lead you to the best fit for your needs.
- Outpatient treatment: This is the least intensive and most flexible way to approach treatment, and so it is often utilized by those who have a strong support network and healthy living environment. College students and young adults often participate in outpatient programs so they can continue working and/or studying.
- Intensive outpatient treatment: For those who need more structure but can still continue living at home and working or going to school, intensive outpatient treatment programs require you to meet for therapies multiple times each week. You can also be assigned text support and participate in behavioral health therapies to help with impulse control and underlying behaviors that contribute to addiction.
- Residential treatment:A residential treatment program involves living in a home-like setting with 24/7 support, which is ideal for individuals who experience environmental triggers at home or perhaps have family members or friends who are using substances themselves. A residential treatment program may last many days or months, depending on your needs, and incorporate a variety of therapies.
- Inpatient treatment: Inpatient treatment is an intensive, short-term program where you will stay in a hospital with 24/7 medical care. Inpatient treatment is often recommended for those who have been using Concerta for a long time, as the withdrawal and detox process can be difficult and dangerous and may require medication and/or monitoring. Once you finish an inpatient treatment program, you’ll likely go to a residential facility or join an outpatient program.
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan when it comes to treating Concerta addiction, so it’s important to understand your options and take the time to find the best program for your needs.
Seeking Treatment for Concerta Addiction
It’s difficult to own up to substance abuse problems, and it can be even harder to overcome them. However, with the right support groups in place and an attentive rehab center that’s ready to support your goals, you can overcome Concerta addiction and get on the path to a healthy life
At Zinnia Health, we believe that finding the root cause of addiction is key to treating it and avoiding relapse. That’s why we design custom treatment plans for each individual that may include talk therapy, group meetings, and alternative medicine (like massage) to help heal the whole body.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Zinnia Health can support your recovery journey, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of kind, caring professionals. Call us today at (855) 430-9439, or send us a message online to learn more.