Concerta (Methylphenidate) is a psychostimulant drug that is used to treat ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). It is also used in some cases for the treatment of narcolepsy and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). It contains the same active ingredient found in the popular medication Ritalin. This drug works well when taken for its intended purpose – to help people manage their ADHD symptoms.
In some cases, psychiatrists have also utilized this drug as an augmentation strategy for treatment resistant depression. Select studies have found this medication to be pretty successful at treating cases of refractory depression. Other uses for Concerta include: offsetting the depressant effects of opiates as well as enhancing overall cognition. This is a drug that also is used recreationally by college students to help with academic performance.
When used for non-medical purposes, people can build up a quicker tolerance and there is a higher potential for abuse. Although Concerta is a very popular medication to treat ADHD, it doesn’t work well for everybody. Many people try it and don’t get as good of an effect as a medication like Adderall or Vyvanse. If you have been taking Concerta for awhile and plan on withdrawing from it, you may want to know the withdrawal symptoms that you may experience.
Factors that influence Concerta withdrawal
When you take any drug, there are going to be factors that play a role in determining the severity of your withdrawal. These factors that will influence your withdrawal from Concerta include: time span (how long you took the drug), dosage (how much you took), your personal physiology, and whether you quit cold turkey or tapered.
1. Time Span
How long were you taking Concerta? Was it for a couple months? Or have you been on this drug for years? Individuals that have been taking this drug consistently (e.g. on a daily basis) for an extended term have a greater likelihood of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Your body and brain will essentially become dependent on this drug for functioning if taken over a long term.
2. Dosage (18 mg – 72 mg)
Most people are on a dose between 18 mg and 72 mg – depending on age as well as body weight. In any regard, when you take a psychostimulant drug like Concerta at a high dose for an extended period of time, your brain becomes accustomed to receiving this high dose for daily functioning. Individuals that are taking a lower dose tend to have an easier time with the withdrawal process than a person who was taking the maximum daily dose. If you were near the maximum dose of 72 mg per day, it would be recommended to gradually taper down the dose before you officially “quit.”
3. Individual Physiology
Although most people experience similar withdrawal symptoms for a similar length of time when coming off of a medication, individual physiology plays a big role in any withdrawal. Some people report zero withdrawal symptoms while others are tired and can’t seem to roll out of bed for weeks. Your nervous system, environment, and how sensitive you are to medications can play a role in determining how you react to a withdrawal.
4. Cold Turkey vs. Tapering
Should you quit this medication cold turkey or conduct a gradual taper? Anyone that has been on this medication for an extended period of time should conduct a gradual taper. The longer term you are on a drug, the more your body expects to receive it for daily functioning. If you suddenly discontinue Concerta, your physiology will produce many withdrawal symptoms. It is always best to conduct a gradual taper by slowly weaning off of the medication so that you gradually adapt to functioning without the drug.
Concerta Withdrawal Symptoms: List of Possibilities
There are no guaranteed withdrawal symptoms from any drug, however, most people experience a few of the symptoms listed below. The duration and intensity of these symptoms will vary based on your physiology and other individual circumstances. The following symptoms can be used as a reference if you are planning on withdrawing from this drug.
- Anxiety: Many people experience anxiety when they stop taking Concerta. In some cases the anxiety is severe and can lead to panic attacks. Just realize that this anxiety will not last forever – it is likely a result of neurotransmitter changes. Your neurotransmitters will reset themselves and your anxiety level will eventually drop.
- Appetite changes: Some people really notice that their appetite increases when they stop Concerta. This is because the appetite-suppressant effect is no longer received from the drug. You may start to
- Concentration problems: Since this is a drug that is used to treat symptoms of ADHD, most people experience improvements in concentration and cognition while they take it. When they stop taking it, ADHD symptoms may re-emerge. In fact, your focus may be significantly worse during withdrawal than pre-Concerta treatment.
- Cravings: Some recreational users of this drug experience cravings when they stop taking it. This is usually more likely in people that abuse Concerta by taking significantly higher amounts than the recommended dose.
- Depression: It is very common to experience a mild, low-grade depression when coming off of a stimulant. Most stimulants tend to increase activity in the central nervous system, which can lead to improvements in mood, mental acuity, etc. When a person stops taking the drug, their nervous system slows down, brain activity slows down, and dopamine level may be lower than normal. This depression will eventually subside if given enough time.
- Fatigue: Most people experience some sort of fatigue or lethargy when they stop Concerta after a long term treatment. This is because when you are giving your body and brain stimulation for a long period of time from a drug, it becomes dependent on that drug for functioning. If you cut off the supply (i.e. withdraw), it no longer has the energy or dopamine stores that it once did.
- Foggy thinking: A lot of individuals report that their thinking is not as sharp when they stop taking Concerta. If you are experiencing “brain fog” or foggy thinking when you stop this medication, it’s likely because you are experiencing a mental crash. Your brain is no longer receiving the stimulation from the drug and your neurotransmitter levels may be temporary low.
- Headaches: This is a pretty standard withdrawal symptom from any drug. When you stop taking it, your physiology signals that something is wrong by producing a headache. As your body adjusts, the headache will subside.
- Irritability: It is common to become irritable during Concerta withdrawal. You may notice that every little thing in your environment irritates you and you cannot control how you react. Family and friends may notice that you have become more difficult to socialize with.
- Mood swings: Many people experience mood swings when they stop taking this drug. This can make for difficult social interactions within a couple weeks of quitting. You may feel grumpy one minute, then happier another minute. These sudden swings in mood should stop within a couple weeks of your withdrawal.
- Motivation problems: In some people, Concerta really helps them get motivated and stay motivated to accomplish tasks, work, school-related work, etc. If you stop taking this medication, you may experience a period of time where your motivation level drops off significantly.
- Nausea: Some people have reported feeling nauseated when they stopped taking this drug. In some cases this can be severe, but most people do not experience significant nausea to the point of vomiting. Do your best to deal with the nausea and know that it will likely stop within a week.
- Sleep changes: This is a drug that tends to keep people awake and promotes wakefulness. In general, most people notice that they want to sleep more when they stop taking Concerta. The increase in sleep should only last a few weeks, but may be longer if you were on this drug for a longer term.
- Tiredness: Many people report feeling excessively tired and low energy when they come off of Concerta. This is a counter-effect to the increases in energy that they got while taking it. Since they quit the drug, their dopamine is lower and their brain will need some time to reset itself.
- Weight changes: This is a drug that can help people lose weight while they take it. Concerta and other psychostimulants not only suppress appetite while speeding up the metabolism. When you stop taking this drug, your metabolism resets to normal speed and your appetite tends to return. In most cases, if you lost weight while taking this drug, you will likely experience weight gain when you stop taking it.
Concerta Withdrawal: How Long Does It Last?
There is no set withdrawal timeline for Concerta, it really depends on individual factors. Some people won’t be affected by withdrawal from this drug, while others will hit an unexpected brick wall of various symptoms. Doctors do not typically discuss withdrawal symptoms from Concerta with patients, so when the symptoms come, they are typically unexpected.
In general, most individuals notice that the bulk of withdrawal symptoms subside within the first few weeks of quitting. The best thing you can do for yourself is to realize that none of the symptoms are permanent and you will eventually bounce back to normal functioning. Doing things like getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, and drinking plenty of water will help ensure the quickest possible recovery.
Also take the time to socially engage with your family and friends, and partake in as many routine activities as possible. Eventually you will return to your normal self and state of functioning. Some people notice that symptoms clear up within a week or two, while others it takes almost a month to fully recover back to normal. In any event, if you have experienced withdrawal from Concerta and/or are currently experiencing symptoms – feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.