By Naomi Carr

Last updated: 30 January 2024 & medically reviewed by Dr. Celeste Small

Concerta is a stimulant medication containing methylphenidate. It is used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and is available as an extended-release tablet, to be taken once per day. [1]

Methylphenidate is a Schedule II controlled substance, due to its potential for abuse and dependence. Concerta is sometimes abused or misused because of its euphoric and stimulant effects and can cause withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation, especially if it is abruptly stopped.[2]

Concerta Withdrawal Symptoms

Does Concerta cause withdrawal symptoms?

Some people who take Concerta as prescribed do not experience stimulant withdrawal symptoms when stopping the medication for breaks in treatment or discontinuation. However, others may experience withdrawal symptoms, particularly after using Concerta for prolonged periods or abusing the substance by taking large doses or using unintended administration methods.[2][3]

It is recommended to seek professional advice and gradually taper off Concerta when stopping use, to help prevent or reduce the impact of withdrawal symptoms.[1]

Concerta is sometimes abused or misused to enhance academic or athletic performance. It impacts dopamine levels in the brain, contributing to a feeling of euphoria and reinforcing use. Although Concerta differs from amphetamines, it is found to cause similar euphoric effects and can result in similar withdrawal symptoms.[2][3]

With prolonged use or abuse, Concerta can cause the development of tolerance and dependence. This can result in the use of larger or more frequent doses to achieve the desired effects. Heavy use can increase the risk of physical dependence development, which can cause mental and physical withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped.[1]

Concerta withdrawal symptoms

Some people may not experience withdrawal symptoms after stopping Concerta use, while others may experience withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Common Concerta withdrawal symptoms can include:[1][2][4]

  • Low mood

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Fatigue

  • Insomnia

  • Increased need for sleep

  • Changes in appetite

  • Concentration impairments 

  • Headaches

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Cravings

In some cases, particularly after prolonged and heavy use, severe withdrawal symptoms can occur that require professional intervention. This can include:[1][2]

  • Severe depression and thoughts or attempts of suicide

  • Extreme changes in mood and behavior, including the onset of psychotic or manic symptoms

Concerta withdrawal timeline

Concerta is an extended-release medication, which means that the substance is slowly released into the body over a long period, and the effects last several hours. [1]

Often, withdrawal symptoms begin within the first few days of discontinuation and can last for around one month. Typically, the most severe withdrawal symptoms involve mood disturbances, which should be monitored and treated by a medical professional throughout the detox and discontinuation process. [2][5]

Withdrawal symptoms can vary, with some people experiencing short-lived and mild withdrawal symptoms and others experiencing persistent and ongoing changes in mood, appetite, and sleep. Generally, withdrawal symptoms are more severe for those with heavy Concerta use or when Concerta is used alongside other substances. [2]

Concerta cessation timeline

A safe Concerta cessation timeline can vary depending on the needs of the individual. Some people may be advised to stop their medication every so often, to determine if it is still needed. However, others may require gradual tapering to safely reduce Concerta use and reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms. [1]

Cessation will often involve small dose reductions every few days to weeks. During this time, it is recommended to be monitored by a medical professional who can advise on how to manage cessation and treat any withdrawal symptoms that occur. Long-term Concerta abuse will likely require slower and more gradual tapering than short-term prescribed use. [2][4]

Is Concerta safe to withdraw from at home?

In some cases, it can be safe to withdraw from Concerta at home, particularly if it has been used as prescribed, in small doses, and for a short period. However, individuals who have abused Concerta in large doses or alongside other substances may require professional intervention during withdrawal and it may not be safe to withdraw at home. [2]

It is recommended to always seek professional advice before reducing or stopping Concerta use, especially if this is done at home. Doctors can advise on a safe withdrawal process and monitor for any dangerous withdrawal symptoms that occur. Professional support can be received through outpatient services, allowing the individual to remain in their home during this process. [1][4]

As with other stimulant substances, withdrawal symptoms can cause severe mood changes, which can lead to new or worsening thoughts of suicide. This is more likely to occur following prolonged and heavy usage. In these instances, withdrawing from Concerta at home may be unsafe, as professional monitoring and treatment will be required. [5]

Concerta detox treatment

Individuals taking prescribed Concerta will receive regular medication reviews with their prescribing doctor, who will advise when and how to safely stop use. They will often gradually reduce the dosage to reduce severe withdrawal symptoms and provide regular monitoring and treatment of any withdrawal symptoms that occur. [1]

Those who have misused or abused Concerta, have additional substance use disorders or are engaging in harmful addictive behaviors may require professional treatment. Outpatient programs can provide regular consultations in which individuals can receive medicinal and therapeutic support. [2][4]

Inpatient programs, such as rehabilitation centers, can provide more extensive treatment, including individual and group therapies, medications, continuous monitoring and treatment of withdrawal symptoms, and holistic care. [4][5]

Medications may be provided short-term to help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms, such as:[4]

  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants, such as mirtazapine, can help reduce depression and anxiety symptoms that are common during Concerta detox.

  • Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines can help reduce anxiety, agitation, and sleep disturbances that may occur during Concerta detox.

Following Concerta detox, it can be beneficial to receive continued support to manage substance use and addictive behaviors during the recovery process. This can include psychotherapy, psychosocial interventions, support groups, 12-step programs, and physical health care. [4]