Concerta Addiction: Effects & Treatment

Concerta is a prescription stimulant that can be helpful for those who need it, but the medication also has known potential for misuse.

Prescription drug misuse is a serious public health concern across the nation. In 2021, more than 3.7 million Americans misused prescription stimulants like Concerta. Of those, an estimated 536,000 people reportedly misused methylphenidate, the main psychoactive ingredient in Concerta.1

If you or a loved one is struggling with stimulant addiction, help is available. Read on to learn more about Concerta abuse, side effects and dangers, and treatment options at our Orange County rehab.

What Is Concerta?

Concerta is an extended-release, brand-name formulation of the central nervous system (CNS) stimulant methylphenidate. Doctors may prescribe Concerta to treat or manage attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).2

Although methylphenidate is not an amphetamine, its effects on the body have been described as “amphetamine-like.” People with ADHD who take Concerta may experience improved focus and attention, as well as decreased hyperactive behavior and impulsivity.2

Concerta Misuse

While Concerta can be an effective part of an overall treatment plan for people with ADHD, prescription stimulants are also widely diverted and used in ways other than how they are prescribed.

Misuse of Concerta involves:3

  • Taking someone else’s prescription.
  • Taking more than prescribed (or more often).
  • Taking the drug to get high.
  • Taking it non-orally (e.g., snorting, smoking, or injecting).

Misuse of prescription stimulants is especially common among youths and young adults, who sometimes use drugs like Concerta as “study drugs” or to improve academic performance. Other motivations for misuse include weight loss or the intent to get high.4,5

Although less common, older adults may sometimes misuse Concerta and other prescription stimulants to improve memory.3

Side Effects of Concerta

Concerta may have unwanted, adverse side effects that only intensify with misuse. Some common side effects of Concerta include:2

  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Irritability.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Nausea.
  • Decreased appetite.

Misusing Concerta at high doses, by taking it non-orally and/or in combination with other substances, may increase the risk and severity of adverse effects.3,4

Dangers of Concerta Misuse

Regular or chronic misuse of Concerta can also pose other significant risks to a person’s health and well-being. These potentially serious effects of Concerta misuse include:2

  • Marked tolerance and psychological dependence.
  • Abnormal behavior.
  • Psychotic episodes (more common with non-oral routes of misuse).
  • Chronic blood pressure elevations.
  • Increased likelihood of catastrophic cardiovascular events, such as stroke and heart attack in susceptible individuals.
  • Increased risk of seizures.

In rare cases, prescription stimulants like Concerta can cause symptoms of psychosis and mania (e.g., hallucinations, delusional thinking, or paranoia), and may also worsen pre-existing mental health conditions, such as bipolar and other psychotic disorders.2,3

Can You Overdose on Concerta?

Yes, it’s possible to take too much Concerta and overdose. Concerta overdose may result in dangerous overstimulation of the nervous system and other adverse physiological issues that could require medical intervention.2

Here are some potential signs of a Concerta overdose:2

  • Agitation.
  • Seizures/convulsions.
  • Hallucinations (auditory and visual).
  • Markedly elevated body temperature.
  • Abnormal heart rate and rhythm.
  • Rapid or irregular breathing.

Taking illicit Concerta or other pills made to resemble prescription stimulants—obtained from anywhere other than a pharmacy with a legitimate prescription—can increase the risk of overdose. Drugs on the street aren’t regulated, meaning you never know what’s in them. Many illicit pills are counterfeit and could contain other potentially harmful ingredients like fentanyl.6

Fentanyl is a highly addictive, potent synthetic opioid and the number one cause of fatal overdoses in America. Ingesting even the smallest amount of fentanyl can lead to an overdose or death.6,7

Recent lab testing by the DEA found that 6 out of every 10 illicit pills tested contained a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.6

Is Concerta Addictive?

Yes, prescription stimulants like Concerta are Schedule II controlled substances with a known risk for misuse and addiction.2,3 In 2021, an estimated 1.5 million Americans met the criteria for a prescription stimulant use disorder, the clinical term for addiction to prescription stimulants.8

Methylphenidate and other CNS stimulants increase dopamine and norepinephrine activity in the brain.2,3 Heightened dopamine activity within the reward centers of the brain can reinforce drug use behaviors, which could increase the drive for continued and, eventually, compulsive misuse of drugs like Concerta.5

Additionally, non-medical use of prescription stimulants is associated with the use of other licit and illicit substances. Polysubstance use may increase the risk of subsequent use disorders and addiction.5,9

Evidence also suggests that people who misuse prescription stimulants by snorting, smoking, or injecting them are more likely to develop substance use disorders.4

Concerta Withdrawal & Detox

When a person has been misusing Concerta regularly for a long time, they may experience withdrawal if they abruptly stop or cut back on their use.

Withdrawal symptoms can include:3

  • Fatigue.
  • Depression.
  • Sleep problems.

Typically, withdrawal from prescription stimulants like Concerta is rarely associated with medical complications. However, certain psychological symptoms, such as the risk of severe depression, may benefit from careful supervision or monitoring by a doctor.2,10

Treatment for Concerta Addiction

Therapies like contingency management (CM), community reinforcement, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and motivational interviewing (MI) are generally the main focus of stimulant addiction treatment. Research also continues to support the use of exercise and mindfulness activities to help produce better treatment outcomes.5

At Laguna Treatment Center, our different levels of addiction rehab are designed to meet the individual needs of each patient. We provide expert, evidence-based medical care, along with top-notch amenities and accommodations.

Deciding to seek help for Concerta addiction is a huge step that can come with many uncertainties. People often have questions about paying for rehab. For example, does health insurance cover rehab? Or is it possible to attend treatment without insurance?

At Laguna, our admissions navigators are available around the clock to help answer these questions and more. Call us at to start the rehab admissions process and begin the road to recovery today.

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