Addiction is often associated with substances like alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, or hard drugs like heroin or methamphetamine. But there are a variety of drugs that people can misuse, including prescription medication like Concerta.
Concerta consists of methylphenidate.
Healthline says this substance is a stimulant known to help people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It accomplishes this goal by producing feelings of calm for people, and yet focused at the same time.
It influences the central nervous system and is meant to last up to 12 hours, so it can help people with ADHD control their symptoms all day. Concerta is also used for recreational reasons because it induces feelings of elation.
Concerta is a popular “study drug.” According to Psychology Today, many students buy Concerta and other ADHD medications from classmates because they believe it will make them do better at school or during tests.
Experts believe that some students resort to “study drugs” because their parents pressure them to excel in academics. Students do not often know enough about Concerta’s potential for misuse before experimenting with it regardless of their reasons why.
Using Concerta with a Prescription
Even using Concerta with a prescription can cause a person to misuse it. This is because:
- Concerta causes a spike in dopamine levels. Dopamine is a chemical that is associated with focus and can cause a feeling of euphoria if levels rise quickly.
- Concerta increases levels of norepinephrine. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that this hormone has effects on heart rate and blood vessels. If norepinephrine levels are too high, a person may experience psychosis, mania, or other problems organizing their thoughts.
Feeling euphoric when taking Concerta may cause a person to depend on it. People should take Concerta only as directed to avoid possible misuse and abuse.
Concerta’s Popularity as a Study Drug
Using any drug without a prescription sets a person up for dependency and addiction. Psychology Today states a few reasons why Concerta and other stimulants are becoming popular study drugs.
- Surveys show students perceive their emotional health as low, and the prevalence of current or past depression is high.
- Students report feeling overwhelmed with their responsibilities.
- Despite this, student standardized test scores are quite high.
- Students have a high drive to succeed.
There is a high rate of depression among school-aged young adults, and this can cause problems for them if they take Concerta without a prescription. Concerta should not be prescribed to people who have certain health issues.
- Anxiety or agitation
- Tourette’s syndrome or other diagnosed tics
People who take certain antidepressants should also not use Concerta.
Unfortunately, most students who buy Concerta or other study drugs from classmates do not have all the information they need to make an informed decision.
Dependency and Misuse
Brain and Behavior published a 2012 study on people who use prescription stimulants without a legitimate diagnosis and prescription. The study found that people who take medications like Concerta and do not have ADHD are at risk of:
- Psychotic episodes
- Developing heart muscle issues
- Heart attack
Using a drug can cause a person to become tolerant to its effects. This may cause a person to take larger doses to continue feeling the perceived benefits of Concerta.
A 2016 article published by The Conversation detailed reasons why using Concerta without a prescription could increase the likelihood of dependence.
Changes to the Brain’s Reward Center
Even though Concerta is legal when prescribed, taking it without supervision from a doctor affects the brain as an illegal drug would. The brain pathways are made up of nerves that govern pleasure, planning, and motivation.
A person’s body constantly manages itself using this reward center because it allows humans to survive and remain fit. When someone uses a drug like Concerta for recreational reasons, this natural ecosystem is disturbed. The brain then starts depending on Concerta, and changes occur in a person’s genetic makeup.
These disturbances cause a person to depend on drugs because their reward system has changed.
Changes in Behavior
The Conversation also mentions that people who become dependent on Concerta may set themselves up for addiction to other substances besides study drugs. Other drugs they may be prone to abuse include cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol.
Risk Of Suicide
The behavioral changes Concerta can cause if a person does not have ADHD increase the risk of triggering mental health issues. Prescription stimulants are known to cause a spike in aggression, moodiness, psychotic behavior, and suicidal ideation. Taking Concerta and other ADHD medications without a prescription have been linked to suicide in people without this disorder.
In 2017, Harm Reduction Journal published a study that showed people who fit certain criteria are more likely to use stimulants as study drugs.
- People who have special education needs that are not being dealt with
- People who struggle with feelings of inadequacy at school
- People who have low GPAs
- People who are dealing with mental health issues that are not being addressed
Recognizing Signs of Misuse
Concerta abuse resembles the misuse of other substances. Common patterns to look for are:
- Using drugs even if it makes it hard to meet responsibilities at work, school, or with family
- Change in physical appearance
- Hiding use of Concerta
- Increased aggression
- Animosity if confronted about using the substance
According to MedlinePlus, misuse does not happen overnight. Substance use disorder, known as addiction, starts in stages.
This is experimentation that usually occurs with friends and peers. Such use displays a disregard for authority figures or parents.
Frequent or Regular Use
This may cause a person to change their social circle and make more friends who use substances. At this point, a person becomes agitated about how to get drugs and may even skip school or work.
At this point, a person may hide their drug use and become worried about their habit above other things, including personal and professional obligations. This may lead a person to get into legal problems or even deal drugs so they can continue having access.
At this point, a person may have broken relationships with loved ones and can no longer control their drug use. It is difficult for them to function without the drug.
A person who deals with a severe addiction to Concerta may also use the drug differently. Some people may crush up pills and snort the powder. Such use is considered abuse and highly dangerous.
Snorting makes the drug’s pleasurable effects more intense. This aids in addiction because a drug’s crash is also more intense, which will make someone crave a drug more in order to stay high longer and avoid the discomfort of the crash.
Fortunately, help is available for people who want to stop using Concerta and/or other substances.
Quitting Concerta suddenly (cold turkey) can cause a person to experience withdrawal. The best way to moderate the use of Concerta is to find and get help or quit using it completely with the assistance of medical professionals.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse outlines a few things to look for when looking for help to quit Concerta:
- Treatment centers or plans should include a way for a person to detox from the substance they want to quit using. Medical supervision ensures a person is comfortable and might involve tapering the dosage over a period of time to minimize drug cravings.
- Follow-up treatment, such as relapse prevention, can help a person stay away from drugs. There should also be support for people who relapse to prevent it from not happening again.
- Treatment should include support for mental health issues that may have triggered a person’s misuse. Support could incorporate medication such as antidepressants.
- Not everyone will respond to treatment the same way, and all plans need to take a person’s individual needs into account.
- Behavioral therapy can help people develop coping strategies to avoid their use of drugs and stay sober for the long haul. Therapy can help a person understand why they turned to drugs, to begin with.
- Treatment can be effective for people who have had legal problems. It should teach people the skills needed to avoid further trouble with the law.
Some people may not want to get treatment for their use of Concerta because they do not want to live in a residential facility. Thankfully, many outpatient treatments have been created that allow a person to continue with work or school while they effectively address their addiction issues.
Outpatient treatment can be intense, but it can be just as beneficial to people who want to quit misusing Concerta. These programs typically include various meetings per week. The number and intensity of sessions may decrease as the person progresses in their recovery.
A Way Out
Comprehensive addiction treatment provides those struggling with Concerta addiction with a way out. It can be incredibly difficult to stop abusing a stimulant like Concerta on your own. But with some professional assistance, recovery is within reach.