Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common diagnosis, especially among children, and is associated with inattention, excess movement, and impulsive behavior.
Concerta, the brand name for an extended-release formulation of the drug methylphenidate, is one of these medications. If Concerta is abused, withdrawal symptoms may occur after stopping use.
Concerta is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that it has a high potential for substance abuse leading to physical or psychological dependence.
And while dependence can develop as a result of properly prescribed use, any form of Concerta misuse greatly increases the risk of serious short and long-term side effects, dependence, tolerance, and addiction.
Like other ADHD medications including Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse, wrongful use of Concerta may occur for one of several different reasons:
- to increase focus and concentration in school or college classes
- to increase energy and physical performance in athletic competitions
- to suppress appetite for weight loss
- to trigger a stimulant high (when taken in high doses)
Concerta Withdrawal Symptoms
Concerta works by increasing the activity of two specific neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain: norepinephrine and dopamine. Increasing these neurotransmitters stimulates the central nervous system, artificially increasing energy, focus, and attention.
However, when you lower your dosage or stop taking the drug after developing a physical dependence on it, you may experience rebound symptoms as your body attempts to adjust and rebalance itself.
These symptoms of withdrawal are generally opposed to the effects of the drug and tend to be more severe the longer you took the drug and the higher your dosage.
Concerta withdrawal symptoms may include:
- changes in blood pressure
- extreme fatigue
- foggy thinking
- increased appetite
- irregular heart rate
- jittery muscles
- nausea and vomiting
- panic attacks
These symptoms can range from mild to severe. In the case of severe dependence, medical detoxification and tapering are strongly advised to help you safely lower your dosage and manage your symptoms before moving on with the rehabilitation process.
Concerta Withdrawal Timeline
A rough timeline of Concerta withdrawal symptoms, sometimes known as stimulant withdrawal syndrome, is outlined below. Note that tapering can lessen but extend symptoms, and quitting cold turkey may tend to intensify but shorten symptoms.
Because Concerta is formulated to be long-acting, withdrawal symptoms typically do not begin until around twenty-four hours after taking the last dose, though symptoms can sometimes emerge unexpectedly after several days for some people.
Withdrawal symptoms often begin with a headache that can make it difficult to concentrate, and urges or cravings to take more of the drug begin.
Symptoms generally peak around day three and can be intense or even dangerous in some situations. Mood swings and distress are common but likely temporary.
4-7 Days Or More
After the peak, symptoms will likely begin to resolve and fade as the body readjusts. After seven days, most individuals report that withdrawal symptoms end.
However, some individuals, especially those who severely misused the drug, may experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) that can continue for several months.
Dysphoria, a feeling of unease or dissatisfaction, is a common symptom of PAWS that is likely to resolve in time.
Health Effects Of Concerta Abuse
When misused for non-medical purposes or abused recreationally in high doses, Concerta is known to cause a range of short- and long-term health effects.
These effects are similar to those resulting from abuse of other stimulant medications and may include:
- reduced inhibition and impulsive or risky behavior
- elevated blood pressure
- elevated or irregular heart rate and heart palpitations
- increased risk of cardiac arrest in those with preexisting heart issues
- insomnia and sleep disturbances
- reduced appetite and unhealthy weight loss or malnutrition
- mental health decline and development of anxiety, depression, or personality changes
- psychosis and hallucinations
- lack of pleasure or dissatisfaction with life
- increased risk of developing tolerance, dependence, or addiction
Note that while cases of harmful overdose from methylphenidate use alone are rare, they can occur.
Overdoses and adverse effects are also much more likely if methylphenidate is used with other CNS stimulants, used during periods of intense physical activity, or used with other drugs of abuse to counteract or enhance certain physical effects.
Treatment For Concerta Addiction & Dependence
If you or a loved one has developed dependence or addiction on Concerta or other ADHD medications as a result of substance abuse, professional treatment programs can give you the support you need to successfully quit Concerta and achieve lasting recovery.
- tapering and medical detox
- behavioral therapy
- peer support group participation
- education and supportive services
- aftercare and ongoing support
To learn more, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health representative today.
Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - Label for CONCERTA (methylphenidate HCl) Extended-Release Tablets
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - Prescription Stimulants DrugFacts
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Methylphenidate
The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry - Methylphenidate Abuse and Psychiatric Side Effects (nih.gov)
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