Man in Black Top Sitting on Bench Beside of Door
Stressed Woman Covering her Face with her Hands

Tragically, addiction is an extremely serious issue in the United States. Many drugs – prescription and otherwise – can be abused. One such example is Concerta (Ritalin). Sadly, there are many ways that Ritalin can be abused, and it has become all too common for individuals to become addicted to it. Fortunately, despite the challenges that Ritalin abuse and addiction can present, many potential treatment methods are available to overcome this addiction.

What is Concerta?

Concerta is an extremely popular drug that has a long history of being used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder1 is a prominent disorder, one that is best known for its effects on children. Individuals who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder will have a troublesome time paying attention and controlling impulses. This may be expressed via hyperactive behavior or by having a hard time listening to and following instructions. According to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Contro2,children%20aged%202%E2%80%935%20yearsl, about 6.1 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD. The amount of kids diagnosed with ADHD has risen significantly over time, jumping from 4.4 million in 2003 to 6.4 million by 2011.

Though it may sound paradoxical, Ritalin is a stimulant, which is a class of drugs that can stimulate the production of certain brain chemicals. Its principal ingredient is methylphenidate, which acts as a central nervous system stimulant. As such, taking Concerta is associated with an increased focus, ability to follow instructions, pay attention to details, and complete tasks.

Ritalin is typically taken orally, usually as a pill. The dosage and frequency in which the medication is taken will vary from person to person, depending on their size, metabolism, and the severity of their symptoms. It is usually taken 2-3 times a day. As ADHD diagnoses have risen, so have prescriptions for Concerta. From 1991-2000, Ritalin prescriptions increased a massive 700%3 As of 2019, it is believed that there were over 2.1 million Ritalin prescriptions on the market. However, this increase in prescriptions has not been without cautions and concerns. Concerta has been known to have some significant side effects. These include:

  • Physical symptoms, such as stomach pain, weight loss, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, headaches, vision problems, sweating, increased heart rate, numbness.
  • Emotional symptoms, such as increased nervousness, anxiety issues, sleep problems, or agitation.

In extreme cases, Ritalin use has been associated with suicidal thoughts or psychosis. Thankfully, these issues are rare. Starting in the 2000s, the drug came under increasing scrutiny, with many professionals4 worrying that doctors were overprescribing the substance and giving it to kids who didn’t need the medication. Furthermore, Ritalin’s side effects – and potential for abuse – became increasingly apparent.

How is Concerta abused?

Unfortunately, the rise in Ritalin prescriptions has also meant that more people are abusing or misdirecting the drug. The drug can be abused in many ways. Individuals will resort to acquiring Ritalin on the black market, meaning that they will purchase the drug online, from a friend, or a dealer. They will then use the drug, even if they have not been prescribed it by a doctor. The abuse can take many forms, including:

  • Swallowing the pill
  • Crushing it, then snorting it, for an added high
  • Crushing it, mixing it with water, then injecting the mixture

It is important to note that Concerta is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substance Act. This means that the substance should only be used by individuals for whom it is prescribed, and that using the drug when you haven’t been subscribed it may be a crime. Schedule II drugs5 are drugs that have a “high potential for abuse,” meaning that they can cause serious harm to individuals who take the drug in a manner not prescribed by a doctor.

What are the effects of Concerta abuse?

Ritalin abuse occurs for many reasons. Unfortunately, as noted by many studies6, Concerta produces a feeling that is like getting high on cocaine: a rush and an intoxication. It can also produce a feeling of euphoria as dopamine levels are increased. These sensations are particularly acute if the drug is snorted or injected, as individuals will then experience Ritalin’s intoxicating effects faster than they would have if they just swallowed the drug.

However, misdirection of Ritalin isn’t always done for euphoria or high. Since Ritalin is used to improve attention and focus, some individuals will take the drug in a manner not prescribed by a medical professional to stay up late, cram for a test, or finish a project. This is common among high school or college students. One survey from 200 found that up to 4%7’s%20Monitoring,abused%20among%20adults%20as%20well of high school students had abused Concerta within the past month, and those numbers only got worse. A 2012 study8 found that one in eight teens had abused some sort of stimulant – such as Ritalin – within their lifetime, with 9% having done so in the past month.

The numbers are worse for college students: A 2014 study9 found that 20% of college students abused stimulants, including Concerta. Even more striking was that 1 in 7 adults between 18-25 said the same thing.

Among the most common reasons for stimulant abuse was that students wanted to stay awake or do better at work or in school. These are not the only reasons for Ritalin abuse or misuse: For example, Concerta reduces appetite in healthy adults, and as a result, some individuals – including celebrities, like Lily Allen – use stimulants to lose weight, eventually becoming addicted to these stimulants. Indeed, there are many stories of individuals using Ritalin for exactly these purposes.

The misdirection and abuse of Concerta have frightening potential consequences for individuals. Ritalin use can be dangerous, and as noted above, might cause a slew of dangerous physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms. Exact statistics about Ritalin overdose deaths are not known, but the CDC has reported that deaths from the use of stimulants – such as Concerta – have been on the rise10 of late. Furthermore, Ritalin has been tied to the death of healthy individuals as a result of its potential to cause heart problems. Recent news reports have also illuminated this crisis and danger.

What are the signs of Concerta abuse or overdose?

There is, unfortunately, an outdated model of drug abuse. Far too many people think an abuser will be easy to discover – that they will have obvious physical problems or other clear indicators that they are abusing drugs. The truth is that drug abuse often goes undetected. Individuals who are addicted to substances become very good at hiding their behaviors and seeking their next high in the most covert way possible. As such, you must understand the potential signs of abuse to keep alert for potential problems. Thankfully, individuals who are abusing Ritalin or are addicted to it often have some discernable habits and signs. These include:

  • Physical signs, such as hyperactivity, euphoria, an abrupt change in sleeping patterns, upset stomach, irritability, weight loss. Many of these negative signs get worse when an individual is coming down from a Concerta high.
  • Emotional signs, such as increased agitation, paranoia, and irritability. These issues can get worse when someone is withdrawing from Concerta use, or coming down from a Concerta crash.
  • Social signs, like an abrupt change in friend groups or social activities. This often happens when someone abuses or becomes addicted to a substance: Old friends who don’t use the drug fade away, replaced by new ones who enjoy it more. Furthermore, an individual may become more secretive in their behavior as they attempt to conceal their drug use.
  • Cognitive or performance signs, such as dramatically increased productivity.

It is possible to develop a tolerance to Ritalin11 When that happens, an individual will take more and more medication to produce the same effect. Unfortunately, this has extremely dangerous side effects and might cause a Concerta overdose. If that happens, the person in question needs immediate medical attention, and you should contact authorities as quickly as possible in order to ensure that they receive it.

What are the treatment options for Concerta abuse?

Concerta abuse is real, and that it can have devastating or deadly consequences. Thankfully, individuals who become addicted to Ritalin have no shortage of options to help them overcome their addiction.


Many therapeutic modalities exist that can help individuals overcome their addiction and the issues that led them to abuse certain substances in the first place. These include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which examines how ways of thinking can lead to negative behaviors. By altering someone’s unhealthy thought patterns, an individual can be taught better behaviors. This has many applications with addiction recovery, as it can help a person recognize why they became addicted to Ritalin or other substances.
  • Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), which helps a person learn how to think more rationally, thus avoiding the need to turn to medication.
  • Contingency Management (CM), which takes advantage of motivation, rewarding positive behavior in order to help a person develop better habits that can help steer them away from substance abuse.
  • Medication, which can help deal with the underlying issues that led to substance abuse. Medication, of course, must be carefully used with an addicted person, lest they abuse that medication. However, in some instances, medication can help address underlying issues, such as depression or anxiety. This can help to lessen the stressors that made a person turn to substance abuse.

Good therapy can also explore the underlying issues that led someone to turn to Concerta. For example, some people turn to Ritalin because they fear failing in school or in work, and are thus willing to take potentially dangerous risks in order to improve their performance. Therapy can explore these issues, and individuals can use group therapy to work with other individuals who are suffering from similar struggles.

Co-occurring Disorders

Tragically, in many cases, an individual will not just suffer from an addiction to Concerta. Indeed, most times, substance abuse disorders and other forms of mental illness coexist According to available information12,37.9%25%20also%20had%20mental%20illnesses, 7.7 million adults have some sort of substance abuse and mental illness. 20.3 million American adults have a substance use disorder, and 37.9% of them simultaneously suffer from a mental illness.

In these instances, therapy can be more difficult but is still within reach. However, it is vital that specialized treatment be engaged in order to simultaneously deal with both issues. In situations like this, substance abuse and mental illness will often reinforce each other: Depression may encourage a user to want to “escape” their pain and thus turn to drugs, or anxiety may trick someone into thinking that they will be fired from work if they don’t perform well, and so they turn to Ritalin abuse. Specialized therapy is necessary in order to work with individuals who suffer from co-occurring disorders.

Life Skills

As noted above, an individual may turn to Concerta abuse because they are having a tough time coping with life or school pressures. They may be interested in admirable goals, including working more productively or losing weight, but lack the skills or knowledge to figure out more productive ways to achieve these goals. If that happens, education on life skills – such as how to manage time, develop healthy habits, or eliminate distractions – may be an appropriate form of therapy. In these instances, people can replace their Ritalin abuse with more productive and healthier habits, thus reducing the incentive for them to turn to Concerta.

Family Therapy

Engaging in family therapy is often a beneficial way for people who are addicted to certain substances to learn the concerns of their family and how their addiction has affected their lives. When done in a structured setting, it can also give individuals who are addicted to substances the chance to discuss how family issues have worsened their addiction. Family therapy and family involvement can often be extremely beneficial for people who are abusing Concerta, as it may give individuals a safe space to discuss the many stressors that they are facing. It is often considered a vital component of any successful treatment program.

If you or someone you love is abusing Concerta and lives in the California area, you should know that you have real options for treatment. One such example is Windward Way Recovery. Located in Franklin, California, Windward Way Recovery has significant expertise in helping people overcome their addictions and living the life that they deserve. At Cardinal, we offer a variety of treatment options, including outpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, aftercare programs, sober living, and more. Don’t wait another moment, wondering if there is a better life for you: Visit our website or call today at (855) 491-7694.

Related Pages

  • 1
  • 2,children%20aged%202%E2%80%935%20years
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7’s%20Monitoring,abused%20among%20adults%20as%20well
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12,37.9%25%20also%20had%20mental%20illnesses