Concerta Addiction and Abuse

Concerta is a stimulant with a high potential for addiction. It is often abused by students and athletes to boost focus and attention.

Concerta Addiction

Concerta (methylphenidate) is a prescription stimulant in the same class as Ritalin. The chemical makeup of Concerta is similar to cocaine and amphetamine, which makes it highly addictive.

Those who use the drug recreationally, without a prescription, and those who take more than the prescribed dosage are at risk for developing an addiction to Concerta. Signs of Concerta addiction include:

  • Needing higher doses to feel the drug’s effects (tolerance)
  • Experiencing strong urges to use Concerta
  • Finding new ways to obtain the drug—legally or illegally—in order to abuse it
  • Using Concerta even if it’s causing issues with loved ones or responsibilities

A person with an addiction to Concerta will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking the drug. Those with a Concerta addiction are advised not to quit taking the drug without medical supervision. A medical provider can set up a tapering program for the user where the drug will be administered in increasingly smaller doses. The medical professional will be able to help users manage and treat withdrawal symptoms.

“When abused by older teens or adults – especially if it’s crushed or poured from capsules then snorted or injected – the drug is more like other forms of amphetamine, including methamphetamine, that have damaging and addictive psychological and physical effects.” – Dr. Lawrence Diller, The Sacramento Bee, 2015

Understanding Concerta (Methylphenidate)

Concerta pills are cylindrical in shape and either red, gray, yellow, or white, depending on the potency. They are formulated in 18 mg, 27 mg, 36 mg, and 54 mg strengths. One brand name for Concerta is methylphenidate. Other brand names of methylphenidate include:

  • Aptensio XR
  • Metadate CD
  • Metadate ER
  • Ritalin
  • Ritalin LA
  • Ritalin SR

Street names for Concerta include kibbles & bits, kiddy cocaine, pineapple, kiddie coke, smarties, and skittles. Concerta is a Schedule II regulated stimulant.

Concerta is primarily used as a stimulant medication to increase attention span and decrease hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

Concerta and other similar drugs are stimulants that have a calming effect and increase focus, so they are widely used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The drug also slowly raises the user’s dopamine levels in the brain, achieving a therapeutic effect.

Concerta affects chemicals in the brain and nervous system that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. It is often prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Although many people take Concerta to treat these conditions, others abuse the drug for its stimulant properties.

Concerta is often abused by crushing and snorting large doses of it for a more powerful high. The drug can also be abused intravenously.

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Concerta Effects and Abuse

Obtaining or using Concerta without a prescription is considered abuse. For those with a prescription, increasing the dose and/or frequency without the prescribing doctor’s recommendation is also considered Concerta abuse.

People may abuse Concerta to:

  • Improve academic performance – As a stimulant, Concerta increases focus, concentration, alertness, and energy levels. College-age students commonly abuse stimulants as study aids.
  • Weight lose – Stimulants are appetite suppressants, so people abuse Concerta in order to lose weight.
  • Get high – Because Concerta activates the reward system in the brain, the drug can provide a high when taken by someone who is not being treated for ADHD. Increased dopamine levels are associated with attention and pleasure.

Taking too much Concerta can lead to overdose, which can be life-threatening.

A Concerta overdose can affect the individual both physically and psychologically. Physical Concerta overdose symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Twitching
  • Convulsions
  • Headache
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sinus arrhythmia
  • Dry mouth

Psychological symptoms of Concerta overdose include:

  • Manic-like state
  • Psychoses
  • Aggression
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Disorientation

Common Concerta Drug Combinations

Concerta is sometimes taken in combination with other drugs, such as alcohol, especially among college students. The mixing of Concerta with alcohol can have dangerous consequences.

As a stimulant, Concerta can override the depressant effects of alcohol. Users may not feel the effects of alcohol like they normally would, causing them to drink more. This increases the risk of alcohol poisoning.

Combining the drug with alcohol can also intensify the negative side effects of Concerta, such as nausea, headaches and dizziness. It can also cause anxiety and impaired concentration in the user.

Concerta Abuse Statistics

6.4 million

Approximately 6.4 million children ages four to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD.

1/3 of all college students

Approximately one-third of all college students have abused stimulants like Concerta.

15,585 ER visits

There were 15,585 emergency room visits related to ADHD treatment medications like Concerta reported in 2010.

Overcoming a Concerta addiction can be difficult. Professional treatment can help with the process. Please call us now for help finding a Concerta addiction treatment program.

Signs of Concerta (Methylphenidate) Abuse

Someone abusing Concerta will exhibit certain behaviors and physical changes. Those who abuse Concerta can appear either restless or very busy. They may also have trouble sleeping, act aggressively, and begin losing weight.

While abusing methylphenidate, some users experience hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and psychosis.

Depression and suicidal thoughts are also common among those who abuse the drug. Other symptoms of Concerta abuse include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Vision problems
  • Skin rash
  • Numbness
  • Sweating

Individuals who abuse Concerta typically take high doses of the drug in one of several ways. It may be taken orally or in pill form. The pills can be crushed up and then snorted, smoked, or intravenously injected.

The Dangers of Concerta

When Concerta is abused in high doses, often by crushing a pill and snorting it, there is a rapid increase of dopamine produced in the brain. When this occurs, the normal connection between brain cells becomes disrupted, leading to serious consequences.

Abuse of stimulants like Concerta can cause side effects that are harmful to the body, including:

  • Sweating
  • Impaired coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach cramps
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Suicidal thoughts

Chronic abuse of Concerta can cause psychological disorders. Paranoia, delusions, and hostility are often associated with chronic abuse. The most serious effect of abusing Concerta is toxicity or overdose. Concerta toxicity can cause delirium, confusion, toxic psychosis, and hallucinations.

An overdose on Concerta can be fatal. It can even be dangerous for other people, as the user may become extremely aggressive and hostile.

“The fact that students often use these drugs around deadlines, when their natural adrenaline is already high, elevates the risk even more…Sporadic use can lead to severe sleep deprivation and cause stimulant-induced psychosis, when a student gets paranoid and may hallucinate.” – Dr. Josh Hersh, Staff Psychiatrist at Miami University, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, 2014

Questions about treatment?

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Recognizing a Concerta Addiction

Addiction to Concerta can happen relatively quickly. Because Concerta causes a quick release of dopamine in the brain, the user experiences a sense of euphoria, higher energy levels, better focus, and concentration. They often desire to relive this high, which leads to repeated abuse. Continued abuse changes the user’s brain and increases their dependence on the drug.

A person who is addicted to Concerta will experience withdrawal if they quit taking the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe. The user will begin craving the drug, leading to relapse.

Certain behaviors are indicative of a Concerta addiction, including:

  • Constant cravings for Concerta
  • Spending more and more time trying to get the drug
  • Wanting to stop using Concerta but always going back for more
  • Recognizing health problems (like increased heart rate or dramatic weight loss), but continuing to use the drug
  • Spending more money than they can afford on Concerta
  • Problems with relationships as the drug takes center-stage in their life
  • Using Concerta as a crutch any time there’s a test, work project or big game
  • Obsessing over getting the next high, or feeling unable to focus normally without the drug


When someone first experiments with Concerta, they may consider it a harmless drug after all “they’re just using to help them study.” However, stimulants can quickly create a psychological dependence in the user, leading them to believe their academic performance will suffer if they quit using.

Intervention for a Concerta Addiction

A Concerta addict’s loved ones may suspect the user has a substance abuse problem. They may even confront the user about the issue. But unfortunately, loved ones are often met with anger and denial. People in active addiction are rarely able to have a reasonable discussion about their problem.

An intervention is a highly charged, emotional and unpredictable event that should be managed by a professional interventionist. A skilled interventionist can help loved ones get through to the Concerta user by guiding an effective intervention.

The interventionist will do pre-intervention research and interviews with the family to determine if there are enabling behaviors or other factors contributing to the user’s addiction. In a successful intervention, the user agrees to treatment and is then admitted to a drug treatment facility.

During an intervention, family and friends confront the addict and let them know they will not enable the addiction. They also offer their love and support for the addict’s treatment and recovery.

Rehab for Concerta Addiction

When Concerta is abused in high doses and/or for a long period of time, it is not safe to stop taking the drug “cold turkey.” The onset of withdrawal symptoms will make it difficult for the user to continue with recovery. A medically supervised, gradual tapering of the drug is recommended.

An addiction treatment professional can place the Concerta user on a tapering program over a period of time to slowly acclimate their body to reduced levels of the drug. This weaning process minimizes and reduces the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

An outpatient or inpatient treatment program can guide those struggling with Concerta addiction towards a sustained recovery. Please call us now for help finding treatment.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

Concerta withdrawal is sometimes referred to as the “Concerta crash.” Symptoms of withdrawal vary depending on the severity and history of the Concerta addiction. A long-term addiction to Concerta usually results in more pronounced and longer-lasting withdrawal.

Common Concerta withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Severe headaches
  • Depression
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Panic attacks
  • Nightmares
  • Extreme hunger
  • Psychosis
  • Irritability
  • Foggy thinking

Concerta withdrawal symptoms, like depression, can be very severe. For this reason, medically assisted detoxification is recommended instead of quitting without a doctor.

Questions about treatment?

Call now to be connected with a compassionate treatment specialist.

Duration of Withdrawal

Withdrawal from Concerta usually begins within 24 hours of taking the last dose. The whole process can last anywhere from a couple weeks to several months.

Quitting “cold turkey” generally results in a more intense, but quicker, withdrawal period. Although it takes longer, tapering off use is the recommended method of detoxification because the withdrawal is much less intense.

Concerta Withdrawal Timeline

First 24 hours Symptoms of withdrawal usually present within the first 24 hours after stopping use. Former users often develop a headache, feel very tired and find it hard to concentrate. They may also experience mood swings.
Days 2-4 Symptoms peak over the next several days. Anxiety, depression and irritability may be intense.
Days 5-14 Withdrawal symptoms gradually subside and become more manageable as the body adjusts to the absence of Concerta. Depression may persist and can last several months for some users.

Treatment for Concerta Addiction

Receiving professional treatment at a residential treatment center or an outpatient program will offer Concerta users their best chance at a successful recovery. Finding a program that offers medical detoxification is important to ensure the user’s safety during the withdrawal period.

For help finding a Concerta treatment program, please call us now.


Inpatient Rehabilitation for Concerta Addiction

Inpatient rehabilitation is often very effective in treating all kinds of addiction, including to Concerta. Residential treatment centers can provide a high level of care, making them the ideal treatment choice for those with a severe addiction. Rehabilitation is supportive and structured, giving the patients a safe, medically supervised environment.

Residential treatment centers offer stays as short as 28 days or as long as several months. Residents can also be treated for any co-occurring mental health disorders during their stay.

Concerta withdrawal is best managed by a prescribed tapering program. This involves the patient receiving gradually reduced doses of the drug over a period of weeks. Tapering off Concerta allows the body to slowly adapt to the reduction of the drug, thereby preventing the most severe withdrawal symptoms.

Counseling is an important component of treatment as it can help change the user’s response to certain triggers that motivate their Concerta use.

A very effective treatment for treating addiction behaviors is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The psychological components of Concerta addiction are targeted in these one-on-one therapy sessions.

Inpatient rehabs offer different therapeutic approaches for Concerta users, including:

  • Neurofeedback
  • Biofeedback
  • Group counseling
  • Individual counseling

Questions about treatment?

Call now to be connected with a compassionate treatment specialist.

Ongoing Treatment and Relapse Prevention Strategies

For those with a mild addiction to Concerta, an outpatient treatment program that offers medically assisted detoxification may be an appropriate option. Outpatient programs may be a good choice for those who do not have the flexibility in their schedules to attend an inpatient program. Outpatient services may include family therapy, counseling, support groups, continuing education, and relapse prevention methods.

Because addiction is a chronic disease, relapses happen. Ongoing therapy, relapse prevention education and support groups can help stop relapses from happening.


A relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed, it just means the treatment plan needs to be reinforced or adjusted.

The following tips can help former Concerta users prevent relapse:

  • Stay organized so triggers don’t catch you off-guard – During treatment, Concerta users will identify the specific triggers, typically people, places or things, that contributed to their addiction. In these cases, avoiding the trigger may be impossible. Instead, stay organized and proactive so you know when these stressors are coming and have a plan for how to tackle them in a healthy way.
  • Manage your time and commitments – Improving your time management skills and cutting back on commitments can help make your schedule less stressful. With less stress in your life and a more manageable schedule, you won’t feel the need to turn to Concerta to help you achieve your goals.
  • Grow your support system – Support is a crucial element in addiction recovery. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals and loved ones who will have your back as you go through tough times and face temptations.
  • Avoid people that make you want to use – They may be people who encouraged you to use Concerta during active addiction, like a dealer, or a friend you partied with. They may be those who made you feel like you needed the drug to succeed—like a competitor, someone who pressures you to be the best, or someone you’re trying to impress. Instead, surround yourself with a solid support system and people who share your enthusiasm for sobriety.
  • Make your health a priority – Getting sufficient sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising, and learning how to manage stress can improve mental clarity and focus—two of the main reasons many people abuse Concerta in the first place. By simply providing your body with the rest and nutrition it needs, you’ll find you’re capable of reaching your goals without the drug.

“[My relapse] lasted two days. Then, I got totally involved with the complete program of recovery and have not stopped.” -Vinny, recovering from addiction to stimulants and other drugs

Get Help Now

An addiction to Concerta can quickly take over your life, but you don’t have to let it. There are many treatment options available to Concerta users, including inpatient rehab and outpatient treatment. Many programs offer special financing and accept insurance to ease the burden of paying for addiction treatment.

Take the first step toward sobriety today. Please call us now for help finding treatment.