As a stimulant drug, Concerta (methylphenidate) raises heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, respiration rate, and energy and focus levels, and it suppresses the appetite and need for sleep. A prescription medication primarily used in the treatment of ADHD, Concerta is a powerful extended-release drug that is commonly abused. When taken in higher doses than intended, or outside of the bounds of a legitimate and necessary prescription, prescription stimulants like Concerta can increase levels of dopamine in the brain to unnatural levels, producing an intense and euphoric “high,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) publishes.

Abuse of Concerta increases the odds and risk for developing dependence and becoming addicted to the drug. Drug dependence happens when brain chemistry is altered by the presence of drugs, and normal levels of some of these natural chemicals (like dopamine, for example) are disrupted. Once the drug wears off, difficult withdrawal symptoms can occur. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warns that methylphenidate is most closely related to cocaine, and as such, the withdrawal syndrome can be intense and significant.

Concerta Withdrawal Timeline

Withdrawal from a stimulant often means that the body will experience some of the exact opposite symptoms that the drug itself produces. According to the prescribing information, Concerta is meant to remain active in the bloodstream for about 12 hours. Withdrawal typically starts when a drug wears off. A typical timeline for Concerta withdrawal follows:

  • Around 12-24 hours after the last dose: Withdrawal symptoms usually start and include irregular heart rate and blood pressure, fatigue, hunger, insomnia, tremors, vivid dreams, restlessness, and agitation.
  • Between a day after the last dose and 3-5 days later: Withdrawal symptoms typically peak and may include muscle aches, irritability, depression, anxiety, hallucinations and delusions, suicidal ideations, intense cravings, difficulties concentrating, trouble with short-term memory and learning functions, hostility, episodes of violence, and self-harming behaviors
  • 1-2 weeks after last dose: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that acute stimulant withdrawal typically lasts between 1-2 weeks, and symptoms continue during this time.
  • Two weeks to one month after last dose: Withdrawal symptoms may start to dissipate; however, depression, cognitive abilities, cravings, and sleep disturbances may continue.

The withdrawal timeline will be affected by personal biological and genetic factors, like co-occurring disorders and family history of drug addiction as well as by environmental aspects, such as high levels of stress and experiences of trauma. Polydrug abuse can also impact the drug withdrawal timeline and its severity. The more dependent on Concerta a person is, the more significant withdrawal will be.

Medical Detox

Detox is the process by which drugs are naturally processed out of the body. As mentioned, Concerta withdrawal can include intense emotional upset, with depression and possible suicidal thoughts and actions. It can also disrupt the central nervous system and may lead to psychotic side effects, seizures, and aggressive and violent behaviors. As a result, Concerta is not a drug that should be stopped suddenly, without professional help. Medical detox is considered the safest method of withdrawal, and it can result in a shorter withdrawal timeline, as medications can be used to manage cravings and more significant side effects.

A medical detox program typically lasts 5-7 days, on average. Clients are able to remain in a secure and specialized facility while the drug safely processes out of the body. Medications and supportive care, along with 24-hour monitoring and supervision, help to ensure the personal safety of clients and increase the likelihood that detox is successful