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Methylphenidate is a psychostimulant that is similar to cocaine, although methylphenidate is less potent and its effects last longer than those of cocaine. Concerta is a specific preparation of methylphenidate that requires a prescription. It has legitimate medical uses, although it also has a high potential for addiction.


Concerta is a time-release release preparation of methylphenidate with a total dosage between 18 and 54 milligrams. It releases half of the methylphenidate immediately and releases the other half over the next 12 hours. Ritalin is a different preparation of methylphenidate that releases half of its methylphenidate immediately and the other half four hours later.

Concerta was approved in the United States during the year 2000. It is primarily used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), although it is also an approved treatment for narcolepsy and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Off-label uses of Concerta include treatments for depression, lethargy and obesity in cases that do not respond to traditional drugs.

The general pharmaceutical action of Concerta is to increase the levels of noprepinedrine and dopamine in the brain, thereby increasing the activity of the central nervous system. This action maintains the user’s alertness and improves concentration, which is the effect typically sought by abusers of Concerta. Centers for addiction treatment often treat students who began using Concerta as a study aid.

Side Effects

The side effects of Concerta often become significant because this drug typically treats chronic conditions. This means that patients usually take Concerta over a prolonged period. The most common side effects for therapeutic dosages of Concerta are anxiety, drowsiness and insomnia. It may also cause the following side effects in therapeutic doses:

  • Appetite loss
  • Hair loss
  • Chest pain
  • Cramps
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Nausea

Did You Know?

Concerta is used to treat methamphetamine addiction. The longer and milder effects of Concerta allow it to serve as a substitute for methamphetamine in a type of treatment known as replacement therapy.


The potential for the abuse of Concerta has two primary sources. Students may take it as a study aid to increase concentration, and recreational users may use Concerta to achieve a euphoric effect. These users typically begin taking oral capsules in larger-than-therapeutic doses to achieve the desired effect. They usually buy Concerta pills from patients who have a prescription. Theft of the drug is also a common method of obtaining it for abuse. The purchase of Concerta from an illegal manufacturer is a relatively uncommon method for addicts to obtain this drug.

“Users may develop a tolerance for Concerta, requiring them to seek methods of obtaining a stronger effect.”Users may develop a tolerance for Concerta, requiring them to seek methods of obtaining a stronger effect. Heavy users often crush the pills into a powder, eliminating the timed-release mechanism of the drug. They may then snort the powder, which delivers all of the methylphenidate at once. This use of Concerta generally produces a strong euphoric effect similar to that of cocaine. Long-term addicts may even inject the drug intravenously. An overdose of Concerta can cause the following symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Hypertension
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures

Addiction treatment centers received about 8,000 Concerta overdose patients in 2004. Most of these patients were recreational users, although a significant minority of these patients used Concerta in suicide attempts.


The first phase of treatment in a Concerta rehab facility is the detoxification phase, in which patients lose their physical dependence on the drug. Concerta addicts may experience the following withdrawal symptoms when they begin reducing their use of the drug:

  • Anxiety
  • An increase in appetite
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares

The detox phase of Concerta addiction treatment often takes place in a specified detox center. This setting allows staff members to monitor the patient’s vital signs closely to ensure the withdrawal symptoms do not become life-threatening. The attending physician will typically reduce the patient’s intake of Concerta gradually to prevent these symptoms from becoming too severe.

Did You Know?

Methylphenidate is a Schedule II drug when prepared as Concerta. This means that Concerta has legitimate medical uses, although these uses must be closely regulated because of the drug’s abuse potential.

Getting Help

The rehabilitation phase of Concerta addiction treatment follows the detox phase. Rehabilitation can include a variety of specific programs, including 12-step programs and signature programs for each particular rehab center. These programs generally include some type of behavioral therapy, in which the therapist seeks to replace the reward-seeking behavior with healthy alternatives.

Cognitive addiction therapy may also be part of a Concerta rehabilitation program, which attempts to determine the underlying psychological causes of the patient’s addiction. Long-term addicts may also require classes in life skills if they have lost these skills during the course of their addiction. Nutrition classes may be included for Concerta addicts who suffer from malnutrition as a result of their negligence in following a proper diet.

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