Concerned about Concerta Abuse and Addiction?

Concerta abuse and addiction are reasonable concerns even if you or a loved one have a legitimate medical prescription. Concerta is an especially problematic drug that is misused often by teenagers and young adults. But, anyone at any age can develop problems with it. Prescribed for ADHD, or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, many younger people have this diagnosis and have access to this prescription drug themselves or through friends who are prescribed it. Among students, Concerta and similar medications are commonly called ‘study drugs’ and are misused to enhance wakefulness and prolonged periods of concentration for exam preparation.

Concerta is Abusable and Addictive

Concerta is manufactured with an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) warning because it contains methylphenidate which is said to carry a significant risk of serious, or even life-threatening, adverse effects. Concerta is also a controlled substance by the U.S. government. The DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) lists it as a Schedule II narcotic, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and produces many of the same effects as cocaine or the amphetamines. A Schedule II drug like Concerta is legally sold, obtained and used only with a prescription for the buyer and user. Drugs in this category are considered to have legitimate medical uses, but to also have the risk of causing severe psychological and/or physical dependence. Concerta is in a pharmacological class of drugs known as psychostimulants, or simply stimulants.

Why and How People Misuse Concerta

Concerta abuse and abuse of other psychostimulants is attractive to many for the effects of increased energy, wakefulness and performance; weight loss; decreased depression;  feelings of confidence, competence, self-worth, and self-esteem; intoxication and euphoria. It is misused in several ways: taken orally without medical need or in greater amounts than prescribed. Misuse also occurs when it is used in a way not prescribed such as being crushed into powder for use intranasally (snorted) or injection. It is also sometimes mixed with other substances such as cocaine or marijuana.

Concerta Abuse and Dependence

Problematic substance use is called by various names such as substance misuse, substance abuse, substance dependence, substance use disorder and addiction. Medically, the diagnostic term for problematic substance use is a Substance Use Disorder. Concerta, and other similar drugs like Ritalin, can cause a Substance Use Disorder or what is commonly known in layman’s terms as an addiction. Some years ago, a Substance Use Disorder was known medically a substance dependence.

Being dependent upon a substance can involve both physical and psychological dependency. Physical dependence is a state of the brain that causes cravings, compulsive use, building tolerance for greater doses of the substance, and withdrawal symptoms when the dose is stopped or reduced. Many chemical changes occur in the brain during physical dependency, as well as the way in which the brain functions, and the structure of the brain. Physical dependency causes the behavior changes we typically associate with addiction such as using despite negative consequences, and even despite not wanting to use.

The other type of dependency that develops in Concerta abuse and addiction is psychological dependence.  This involves the belief that one needs to continue substance abuse in order to cope with life. Psychological dependence involves obsessive thoughts about using, euphoric recall (remembering only the high or rush of using and not the bad experiences), intense urges to use, and anxiety and restlessness when not using.

It is often surprising to some that one may become addicted to a medication that is legitimately prescribed. However, if a substance is addictive, a prescription does not provide immunity. Abuse and misuse of an addictive legal substance progress to addiction just as they do when people use illegal addictive substances. In fact, even when used medically and in compliance with recommended use, one can experience withdrawal discomfort when use is stopped. This is a hallmark characteristic of addictive drug use and is common in appropriate medical use, not just in illicit use or addiction.

Concerta is a Powerful Psychostimulant

There are many prescriptions medications in medical use today that can lead to misuse, abuse, and addiction that are similar to Concerta and others that are very different. Among addictive prescription drugs are several psychostimulant medications similar to Concerta. Because Concerta activates the brain and nervous system, it is considered a psychostimulant or stimulant. Another and similar psychostimulant you may be familiar with is the prescription drug Ritalin which is also used medically for ADHD. Others include amphetamine, ephedrine, cocaine, and methamphetamine. There are many others.

All psychostimulants when misused have notable effects as described above. However, toxicity from heavy and/or prolonged use can seriously compromise physical and mental health, causing medical emergencies and even death. Among adverse effects are:

  • Confusion
  • Repetitive movements
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Hypertension, stroke
  • Delirium
  • Organ or brain damage
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Diagnosing Concerta Use Disorders

Concerta Use Disorders are the medical diagnoses given when one develops problematic Concerta use. These disorders are diagnosed according to a standard of criteria, and they cover a range of severity from mild, to moderate, and to severe. Sometimes drug use disorders are categorized by the broad category of substance, and so, in this case, a Concerta Use Disorder may be called a Stimulant Use Disorder to indicate the class of drug rather than the specific drug.

The symptoms used to diagnose a disorder can include both a physical and a psychological dependence upon the drug. And, the number of symptoms in a Concerta Use Disorder can range from 2 to 11, and the number of symptoms present determine the severity of the disorder. The symptoms of a Concerta Use Disorder are:

  • Concerta is often taken in larger amounts than intended, or over a longer period than was intended.
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control Concerta use.
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain, use, or recover from the effects of Concerta.
  • There is craving, or a strong desire or urge to use Concerta.
  • Recurrent Concerta use results in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
  • Concerta use continues despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of Concerta.
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of Concerta use.
  • Concerta is used recurrently in situations in that are physically hazardous.
  • Concerta use continues despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.
  • Tolerance develops which causes one to need greater amounts to achieve the same effect as time progresses.
  • Withdrawal symptoms occur when use is stopped, or the usual dose is reduced.

Because substance disorders progress in severity if use continues, the severity of a disorder will worsen over time. For example, a mild Concerta disorder is one in which 2-3 of the above symptoms are present. A moderate disorder occurs when 4-5 symptoms are present, and a severe disorder has 6 or more. One can expect that if Concerta is misused, and misuse continues over a prolonged period of time, a Concerta Use Disorder will develop, and it will worsen as time goes on.

Concerta Withdrawal Should Be Medically Supervised

Concerta withdrawal, even when low doses have been used with medical supervision, should always be supervised medically. The standard procedure is to titrate down the dose or to reduce it gradually. Stopping any addictive substance abruptly, or lowering the dose significantly can be very distressful physically as well as psychologically. There are always basic concerns in withdrawal from any substance and among these are health crises such as those described above. However, the psychological distress of withdrawal can be distressful and even severe as well. In fact, psychological distress is often the reason people do not complete withdrawal and detox on their own. It is far too compelling to resume use so the discomfort will subside. Having therapeutic support dramatically increases one’s chances of a successful withdrawal and detox.

Below are some common psychological symptoms of Concerta withdrawal that can be managed with a medically supervised withdrawal protocol and accompanying therapeutic support:

  • Severe anxiety and/or panic
  • Anger, agitation, aggression
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood instability
  • Depression
  • Suicidal feelings

If You Need Help for a Concerta Use Disorder

If you are misusing Concerta, there is help available for you no matter how severe your use is. And, remember that early intervention is wise, reducing the duration of distress, and preventing the disorder from progressing. Some mistakenly believe that their substance problem is not serious enough for treatment. However, any substance problem is considered a medical condition and to be treatable.

There is a wide range of treatment options to suit your particular clinical needs, preferences and insurance coverage. Some can be successfully withdrawn and detoxified from Concerta abuse in outpatient settings. However, this is not possible for many. There are many factors that make a rehab program more appropriate. Some reasons to consider a rehab stay for treatment of a Concerta problem include:

  • A history of heavy and/or prolonged use
  • Physical or psychological co-existing issues
  • Lack of support in daily life
  • Easy access to substances at home

If you are ready to overcome your problem with Concerta abuse, we can help you find the right help and appropriate options for you. Recovery happens and countless people have overcome their Concerta Use Disorders. You, or a loved one, can, too. Let us help smooth your way to treatment and recovery. Our help is free. Call us today for a free consultation. We will help you navigate the overwhelming task of getting the right help.