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Concerta Addiction & Abuse: Signs, Effects, & Treatment

Concerta (methylphenidate) is a prescription stimulant medication that is commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).1 It works on the central nervous system (CNS) and is thought to affect the release and action of different neurotransmitters known as dopamine and norepinephrine.1

Although Concerta is a prescription drug with legitimate medical uses, it can be misused, which may lead to addiction and long-term side effects.1,2 If you or a loved one are struggling with Concerta addiction or misuse, you should know that professional treatment can help.

This article will cover:

  • What is Concerta?
  • Signs of Concerta abuse
  • Dangers and side effects of Concerta abuse
  • Concerta addiction treatment and rehabs

What is Concerta?

Concerta is a brand name for methylphenidate, a CNS stimulant medication that is FDA-approved for the treatment of ADHD.1 Methylphenidate is also known by the brand name Ritalin.3 Concerta is available as extended-release tablets that are taken orally once a day.1

Although its exact mechanism of action on ADHD is not known, Concerta is thought to increase the release and block the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine and enhance their effects.1 Norepinephrine has stimulant effects, and dopamine can result in rewarding feelings of euphoria.2

Concerta Misuse

Misuse of Concerta is also known as nonmedical use.2 Prescription drug misuse means that someone takes a medication in ways or doses other than prescribed, takes someone else’s prescription, even if it’s for a legitimate medical complaint, or takes a medication to feel euphoria.2

People misuse Concerta for different reasons, such as to increase cognitive performance, stay awake, get high, or increase energy. Despite these perceived benefits, methylphenidate abuse can pose different health risks and consequences.2

Among those age 12 and older, 1.3% (or 3.7 million people) misused prescription stimulants like Concerta in 2020, according to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.4

Signs of Concerta Abuse

It’s not always easy to spot the signs of prescription stimulant misuse. Everyone is different, and medications like Concerta can affect people in different ways. Still, there are certain common warning signs of Concerta misuse. These signs can depend on different factors, such as the route of administration and how much the person used.2

Warning signs that could indicate that someone is misusing or addicted to Concerta, include:2,5-7

  • Significant behavioral changes.
  • Rambling speech.
  • Injection marks (tracks) on their arms from injecting Concerta.
  • Having different types of drug paraphernalia (such as needles or pipes) to inject or smoke Concerta.
  • Getting into trouble or engaging in criminal activities due to Concerta use.
  • Having increased trouble at school, such as lower grades, missing classes, or skipping school because of Concerta use.
  • Having significant problems at work, with family, or with friends.
  • Doctor shopping or frequently seeking Concerta refills.

Concerta and Stimulant Use Disorder

Concerta addiction is diagnosed as a stimulant use disorder. People need to meet at least 2 of the diagnostic criteria that are outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to receive this diagnosis. Only a medical professional can diagnose stimulant use disorder, but it can be helpful to know the symptoms.

Criteria of stimulant use disorder include: 5

  • Using the stimulant in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control stimulant use.
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the stimulant, use the stimulant, or recover from its effects.
  • Cravings, or strong desires and urges to use the stimulant.
  • Recurrent stimulant use causes a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
  • Continuing to use the stimulant use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the stimulant.
  • Giving up or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of stimulant use.
  • Recurrent stimulant use in situations in which it is physically hazardous to do so.
  • Continuing stimulant use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the stimulant.
  • Tolerance, which means either a need for markedly increased amounts of the stimulant to achieve intoxication or desired effect, or a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the stimulant.
  • Withdrawal, as manifested by a characteristic withdrawal syndrome or using the stimulant (or a closely related substance) to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

It can be hard for you as a nonmedical professional to know whether a person has a Concerta addiction based on the DSM criteria alone. Remember that only a professional can diagnose Concerta addiction.

Dangers and Side Effects of Concerta Abuse

Misuse and abuse of Concerta can be dangerous and lead to various detrimental consequences, including impacting an individual’s physical and mental health and their relationships. Methylphenidate addiction is a danger of Concerta misuse; it involves ongoing substance use despite the negative effects on a person’s life.8

Some of the additional dangers and side effects of Concerta misuse can include:1-3,7,8

  • Increased blood pressure and cardiovascular problems that can cause sudden death.
  • Seizures.
  • Overdose, which can be lethal.
  • Worsened pre-existing psychiatric conditions, such as psychosis.
  • New bipolar disorder or psychotic or manic symptoms.
  • Aggressive or hostile behavior.
  • Possible long-term physical and mental health effects, such as heart problems, anger, or paranoia.
  • Ongoing problems at school, work, or home.
  • Long-term problems with learning, judgment, decision-making, memory, and behavior.

Polysubstance use, meaning using 2 or more substances at the same time or within a short time of each other, is another potential danger associated with Concerta misuse.9

One study reports that people who misused methylphenidate were more likely to engage in the recreational use of ecstasy, cocaine, ephedrine, d-amphetamine, and psilocybin.10 People may also combine Concerta with alcohol, which can increase the risk of alcohol overdose as well as increase blood pressure.3

Mixing Concerta with other stimulants (like cocaine, d-amphetamine, or ephedrine) can increase the risk of lethal overdose, brain injury, liver damage, and heart attack. Mixing stimulants with drugs that have depressant effects (such as opioids or benzodiazepines) can result in unpredictable and dangerous effects, which can make it easier to overdose.9

Concerta Addiction Treatment and Rehabs

If you or someone you care about misuses or is addicted to Concerta, it’s important to get help. Addiction can have detrimental consequences on your life, but it is a treatable condition.9 top Proper treatment can help you or your loved one stop the cycle of drug misuse and start the path to recovery.

There are different types of treatment programs and different levels of care to suit individual needs. Treatment can vary in duration, intensity, and setting, depending on your needs. An effective treatment program should consider not only the addiction but your unique needs as well, including any physical, mental, or social problems.8

Concerta rehab might start with detox to help people safely stop using Concerta and help keep them safe as they go through withdrawal.11,12 Detox is often followed by inpatient Concerta rehab or outpatient treatment for Concerta to help people work on the underlying issues associated with addiction.12 Inpatient treatment means that you live onsite at a methylphenidate rehab for the duration of treatment, while outpatient treatment means you live at home but travel to a rehab center on a regular schedule.

It’s important to know that there are no FDA-approved medications for stimulant addiction, so treatment typically focuses on counseling and behavioral therapies, such as those that are typically used to treat addiction to other stimulants, like cocaine or amphetamine.3

Behavioral therapies can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or contingency management (CM) to help people stop Concerta misuse, make positive behavioral changes, and stick to their recovery plans.2

If you’re struggling with Concerta misuse or addiction, or you know someone who is, please contact American Addiction Centers at to learn more about methylphenidate addiction treatment options.

You can also look at the facilities listed below to see if they provide the program you are looking for:

Does Insurance Cover Concerta Addiction Rehabs?

For those who have insurance, using health insurance to pay for rehab should cover at least some of the cost of addiction treatment. Depending on your individual insurance plan, treatment at a specific facility may or may not be covered. It’s important that you know what is covered prior to attending a rehab. Use the free online insurance coverage checker tool below to find out if your health insurance provides coverage for addiction rehab  and other rehabilitation treatment plans for substance abuse recovery.

Coverage may vary depending on your needs and insurance plan. To find out if your policy covers rehab, click here, or fill out the form below. Your information is kept 100% confidential. You can also click here to find a rehab near me.

Concerta Addiction and Treatment FAQs

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