Concerta is a brand name for the drug methylphenidate. Methylphenidate, also found in other brand-name drugs like Ritalin, is a stimulant medication. It is often prescribed for people who struggle with narcolepsy or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Concerta is an important treatment option for these disorders. However, some people use this medication recreationally. Sometimes, even when used as prescribed, Concerta can become habit-forming. Understanding how this drug works and how it can become a problem are important steps in ending the use of it.
How Concerta Works
Methylphenidate works in the brain. Essentially, it affects the central nervous system. When taken as prescribed, the effects of this drug are mostly positive. In the brain, neuron cells transmit messages thanks to neurotransmitters. These are chemical signals that travel from neurons to other cells. The other cells might be other neurons, but they could also be things like gland or muscle cells. The neurotransmitter chemicals are made within the neurons.
In some people, there’s an imbalance in the chemical signals in the brain. Medications like Concerta are used to restore the proper balance. Research shows that methylphenidate works particularly on dopamine by increasing levels of that chemical in the brain. Dopamine is implicated in several very important processes in the brain and body. It’s linked to things like movement, behavior, and even motivation. Dopamine has also been linked to the development of substance use disorder.
Concerta is generally used in combination with other treatments like talk therapy. In people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Concerta makes it easier to focus and pay attention. There’s even some evidence that it can improve listening skills in users with ADHD. Methylphenidate also helps narcoleptics stay awake and alert during the day. For many people, Concerta is a life-changing medication. It has the potential to improves people’s lives and makes it easier to function.
As with all medications, there are some potential side effects with the use of Concerta. These can include insomnia, rash, nervousness, changes in appetite, headaches, and nausea. Men may experience priapism when taking this medication. This is a persistent and painful erection. It’s a serious problem that won’t go away on its own; it requires medical attention.
If people stop taking Concerta abruptly, they may experience withdrawal. It’s important not to stop this medication without stepping down. Symptoms of withdrawal can include mood changes like depression. Some people may even experience suicidal ideation when coming off methylphenidate.
In general, Concerta is safe when used as prescribed. Most people tolerate it well and have few, if any, side effects.
Habit-Forming Potential of Concerta
People can become dependent on Concerta. This is particularly true if they have a history of substance use disorder. When patients take Concerta in its extended-release form, that also seems to be linked to dependence. Some people also use methylphenidate without a prescription. Recreational use of this drug can be problematic.
As an upper, Concerta appeals to people who work long hours and need to focus. However, taking this drug recreationally can be problematic. People may not be prepared for exactly the dose they are taking. Usually, doctors will carefully step up a dosage over time as patients develop a resistance to the medication. A doctor’s guidance doesn’t happen with recreational use, so a user may up their dose much too quickly. They may also experience withdrawal symptoms or drug interactions.
Recreational Use of Concerta
Using Concerta as prescribed is unlikely to produce a “high” or feeling of euphoria, but some people use this drug without a prescription. In a high dose, it can potentially have that kind of effect. Sometimes, people even attempt to get high by snorting methylphenidate because they expect that it will have the same kinds of effects as cocaine. Typically, Concerta is prescribed in tablet form. If people crush extended-release forms and snort them, it increases the chance that they can overdose.
Taking methylphenidate recreationally, particularly by snorting, can increase the chances that it will become a problem in the future. Snorting Concerta delivers it to the bloodstream more quickly. That may intensify the good feelings that can come from this drug. However, it can also amplify the downsides, such as side effects or withdrawal symptoms.
Snorting Concerta in this way can even create other side effects. For example, some people become confused and start to hallucinate when snorting Concerta. A fast heart rate and profuse sweating can also occur. People may even feel as if they’re having a heart attack. Recreational use also makes it difficult for medical providers to know what dose has been used. This information is important for them to have in treating people with these problems.
Sometimes, people mix Concerta with other drugs. This can be dangerous because of the potential of drug interactions. For example, mixing a stimulant like Concerta with a depressant like alcohol can increase the potential for an overdose. Concerta is a stimulant designed to make the central nervous system work more efficiently. Alcohol, on the other hand, depresses the central nervous system.
Methylphenidate is generally prescribed in such a way that it’s in the body at all times. It’s also available in a long-lasting, extended-release form. When people drink alcohol while taking a drug like Concerta, the stimulant medication can dull the effects of the alcohol. This might influence people to drink more in order to feel the buzz they were expecting. That can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.
Drinking while taking Concerta can also lead to serious side effects. When mixing drugs, people can become dizzy, nauseous, and confused, finding it hard to concentrate. Other effects can include anxiety, dry mouth, and even increased symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Doctors do not recommend mixing alcohol with Concerta.
Another drug that people commonly mix with methylphenidate is cannabis. In some studies, it seems that combining these drugs could potentially affect learning abilities. In other studies, the combination of these drugs has been shown to affect the cardiovascular system as well as reaction times and performance.
Cannabis is a complicated drug. It can produce a variety of effects in different users by acting as a stimulant, hallucinogenic or depressant. However, chemically, marijuana has a depressant effect on the central nervous system like alcohol. Mixing stimulants with depressants is generally a bad idea. It’s important to be aware of these kinds of negative interactions before mixing Concerta with other drugs.
Signs of a Problem
Even in people who have a prescription, it’s possible to develop a substance use problem around methylphenidate. Luckily, there are some common signs of a problem developing that loved ones can be aware of. One of the biggest warning signs is a fixation on the drug. The user may start to become very concerned about where their medication is. They might talk about using it or worry about taking it. For recreational users, they may start to strategize more about how to find Concerta and talk more about taking it.
Another important symptom to be aware of is a change in habits. If someone loses interest in activities they previously loved, that can be a big warning sign. Isolating from friends and healthy group activities can be a signal that substance use is becoming a problem regardless of the drug at issue.
Finally, there can be physical changes in someone who is taking a lot of Concerta. They may start to sweat a great deal, lose weight or have trouble sleeping. Stimulants like Concerta give people a boost in energy. If someone is staying up all night while working on ideas that don’t make sense to others around them, that can also be a sign of a problem.
There is hope for people who have become dependent on Concerta. There are plenty of resources available to help drug users recover and live a sober life. Professional rehab, like the kind offered at Granite Recovery Centers, is one option. Rehabilitation centers can help people who’ve developed a problem get their lives back on track. Often, rehabilitation is a multi-step process.
When it comes to a drug like Concerta, it’s important to start with supervised medical detox. People who are coming off methylphenidate can deal with serious withdrawal symptoms. During supervised detox, they’re being monitored so that the process remains safe. Medical professionals can provide medications to ease negative symptoms during detox. Providers will also monitor vitals during the process. They check and record indicators like temperature and blood pressure to make sure that everything is progressing normally. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.
The next step tends to be inpatient rehab. Inpatient treatment provides structure for people at a critical point as they start to really recover. At Granite Recovery Centers, inpatient treatment can last between 30 and 90 days. During that time, clients will be on a schedule. They will participate in individual and group therapies. They will also learn to structure their time and organize their lives by doing activities like cleaning their personal space every day. Goal-setting and planning are other important parts of inpatient rehab.
At the conclusion of an inpatient stay, clients will transition to an outpatient program. This is less intensive. It might involve meeting with a therapist once a week, for example. Clients are also encouraged to attend support group meetings.
For some people with packed schedules, it may be appropriate to start with outpatient treatment. An addiction specialist may offer recommendations as to the right type of treatment.
Types of Therapy
At Granite Recovery Centers, we know that recovery is individual. Every person who embarks on this journey ultimately has to carve out their own path. We offer programs that make it easy for people to tailor treatment to their needs. For example, women sometimes have traumas that men do not have. We have a women-specific treatment program to address these concerns. We also have programs designed for men specifically.
We also recognize that some professions can cause PTSD, and they may provide people with easier access to medications. Our uniformed professionals treatment program may be a good fit for paramedics, soldiers, police officers, and firefighters. We are also able to offer treatment for dual-diagnosis patients who struggle with mental health disorders in addition to substance use problems.
The foundations of all of our treatment programs include a 12-step curriculum, individual therapy and a focus on evidence-based medicine. For some clients, medication-assisted treatment is an important option.
For more information, please reach out to Granite Recovery Centers today. We are here to help demystify the rehab process for you and answer all your questions about quitting Concerta safely. We take pride in assisting people as they rebuild their lives.