Signs Of Concerta (Methylphenidate) Abuse
Concerta, a medication commonly prescribed to treat ADHD, is a stimulant that enhances attention and focus, amplifies energy, reduces appetite, and reduces the need for sleep. Although the drug can help those with ADHD improve impulse control and reduce hyperactivity, it can also be abused by those looking to get high or improve academic or work performance. Someone abusing Concerta will likely exhibit certain behaviors and physical changes.
Those who abuse Concerta often appear restless or very busy. A false sense of confidence or euphoria, increased talkativeness, increased focus, and alertness are common. Concerta abusers may also have trouble sleeping, act aggressively and begin losing weight.
After long-term abuse of methylphenidate, some users may experience hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and psychosis.
Depression and suicidal thoughts are also potential consequences among those who abuse the drug (although comparatively rare). Other symptoms of Concerta abuse include:
- Stomach pain
- Decreased appetite
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight loss
- Vision problems
- Skin rash
- Dilated Pupils
Individuals who abuse Concerta typically take high doses of the drug in one of several ways. It may be taken orally, in pill form, or the pills can be crushed up and then snorted, smoked or intravenously injected.
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The Dangers Of Concerta
When Concerta is abused in high doses, especially when users crush a pill and snort or inject it—there is a rapid increase of dopamine produced in the brain. When this occurs, the normal connection between brain cells becomes disrupted, often leading to serious consequences.
Abuse of stimulants like Concerta may cause side effects that are harmful to the body, including:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Higher body temperature
- Decreased appetite
- Cardiovascular complications
- Psychiatric disturbances
- Flushed skin
- Muscle twitches
- Abdominal cramps
- Overactive reflexes
- Rapid breathing
- Mental confusion
- Uncontrollable tremors
Concerta abuse can cause major damage to the heart and circulatory system. Eventually, it may even lead to heart attack, irregular blood pressure, stroke, circulatory failure, coma, or even death.
Chronic abuse of Concerta can cause psychological disorders, such as paranoia, delusion and hostility. One of the most serious effects 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.
Common symptoms of Concerta overdose or toxicity include:
- Inappropriate state of happiness
- Uncontrollable tremors
- Muscle twitching
- Blurred vision
- High blood pressure
- Feeling flushed
- Irregular, fast or pounding heart rate
- Dry mouth and/or nose
- Severe headache
Because Concerta overdose can be fatal, medical attention or poison control should be sought immediately if any of these symptoms occur.
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.
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Recognizing a Concerta Addiction
Addiction to Concerta happens relatively quickly. Because Concerta causes a quick release of dopamine in the brain, the user experiences a sense of euphoria, a higher energy level, and better focus and concentration. They often desire to relive this high, which leads to repeated abuse. Continued abuse changes the user’s brain, increasing 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 and uncomfortable, and the user will begin craving the drug, which often leads 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
- Neglect of responsibilities or major roles at work, home, or school
- Doctor shopping to obtain multiple prescriptions
When someone first experiments with Concerta, they may consider it a harmless drug 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 Problem
In many cases, an addict’s loved ones may suspect the user has a substance abuse problem. They may even confront the user about the issue. Unfortunately, loved ones are often met with anger and denial. People in active addiction often have great difficulty admitting or discussing their problem with their drug of choice.
A skilled interventionist can help loved ones get through to the Concerta user by guiding an effective intervention. 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.
An intervention is a highly charged, emotional and unpredictable event that should be managed by a professional interventionist.
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.
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Rehab for Concerta Addiction
When Concerta is abused in high doses and/or for long periods of time, it is not advised to stop taking the drug without consulting a physician. Medications can be used to reduce the severity of some withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness. It is advised to enter a medically-supervised detox due to the severity of psychological addiction, resulting in severe cravings and urges to use. This will decrease the risk of relapse during the detox phase of treatment. It is then recommended to enter inpatient treatment, followed by outpatient treatment, to address any underlying issues and reasons for use. It also is beneficial for teaching healthy coping skills and relapse prevention, providing encouragement and support, gaining education on the disease of addiction, and building support networks.
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. Contact a treatment provider for help finding treatment.
Ashish Bhatt, MD, MRO
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Learn about Dr. Ashish Bhatt
Dr. Bhatt has been Addiction Center's Medical Content Director for more than three years, providing his expertise to ensure quality and accuracy.
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Expert in adult and child psychiatry
Over 20 years of professional experience