Mixing Concerta and Alcohol: Effects and Risks

Last Updated: April 25, 2023

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Drinking while taking Concerta can lead to dangerous health and substance use complications, including overdose.

Alcohol is one of the most common substances in the U.S. In addition, more than 2.4 million Americans take methylphenidate, the active ingredient in Concerta. Combining these two common substances can cause many health problems, including putting you at increased risk of addiction. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the dangers of mixing alcohol and Concerta.

What Is Concerta?

Concerta is a long-acting form of the medication methylphenidate, a drug that is also sold under other brand names like Ritalin and Daytrana. The drug is FDA-approved for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but may also be prescribed off-label for conditions like narcolepsy. 

Experts are not sure exactly how Concerta works to treat the symptoms of ADHD but suspect it may work by increasing the number of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.

Concerta Addiction: Effects and Risks

Methylphenidate, the active ingredient in Concerta, is a Schedule II controlled substance and stimulant with a high risk of abuse, addiction and dependence. Stimulants impact the brain’s reward center, leading to a surge of feel-good chemicals when used. This can lead the brain to start craving more to recreate those feelings. Unfortunately, taking Concerta like this, and taking it without a medical reason, can increase the risk of addiction and overdose.

Signs of Concerta Misuse 

Drug misuse occurs when a person takes Concerta differently than prescribed. When someone starts to misuse Concerta, signs often become evident to their friends and family. Signs of Concerta misuse include:

  • Taking Concerta that does not belong to you, including buying, borrowing or stealing it 
  • Exaggerating your symptoms to your doctor to try to get a higher dose of Concerta
  • Going to different doctors or pharmacies to try to get Concerta
  • Traveling to a different state to fill your Concerta prescription to try to avoid it showing up in your state’s prescription drug monitoring system
  • Asking for early Concerta refills or asking to pay cash for the prescription because your insurance company says you are refilling it too often

Misuse can quickly spiral into addiction when the person becomes completely reliant on Concerta. Signs of addiction include:

  • Taking more Concerta than you originally intended
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down on Concerta
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from Concerta
  • Cravings for Concerta
  • Problems at home, school or work due to Concerta
  • Social or interpersonal problems from Concerta use
  • Giving up other activities due to Concerta
  • Using Concerta even when it is physically dangerous
  • Continuing to use Concerta even though you know it is harmful
  • Needing increasing doses of Concerta to achieve the same effects as before
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking Concerta

Signs of Concerta Overdose

It is possible to take too much Concerta, leading to a risk of Concerta overdose, which can be fatal. Signs that someone has taken too much Concerta include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Delirium or confusion
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Reddened skin
  • Tremors
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Chest pain with palpitations
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • High fever
  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Seizures

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Can You Drink Alcohol on Concerta? 

You should not drink alcohol while on Concerta for several reasons:

  • Drinking after you have taken a stimulant can override alcohol’s sedative effects. This can put you at a higher risk of alcohol poisoning because you will not realize how drunk you are.
  • You are at a higher risk of developing alcohol use disorders if you take a stimulant while drinking.
  • You are at a higher risk of developing an addiction to multiple substances (polysubstance abuse) if you drink while taking a stimulant.
  • You are more likely to partake in risky behaviors and have interpersonal problems if you drink while taking a stimulant.

Further, Concerta carries an FDA Boxed Warning against use in people who have ever struggled with alcohol due to an increased risk of addiction.

How Long After Taking Concerta Can You Drink Alcohol? 

It is best to avoid alcohol when you take Concerta. Although everyone’s body chemistry is different, studies have shown that even a single dose of the medication takes around seven hours to peak in your system and can linger in your body for longer than 24 hours. As a result, if you take Concerta as prescribed daily, there is no safe time of the day to have alcohol.

Side Effects of Alcohol and Concerta Use

Drinking alcohol while taking Concerta can lead to several different problematic effects. These include:

  • Alcohol poisoning: Alcohol naturally has sedative effects that can help you limit how much you drink. However, stimulants like Concerta override this sedative property, leading to a higher risk of alcohol poisoning.
  • Higher risk of addiction: Drinking while taking a stimulant not only puts you at a higher risk of alcohol addiction but also developing an addiction to other substances.
  • Risk-taking behavior: Drinking while taking a stimulant like Concerta means you are statistically more likely to engage in risky behaviors.
  • Interpersonal problems: You are more likely to have interpersonal problems if you drink while taking a stimulant.

If you or a loved one are struggling with prescription stimulant addiction or alcoholism, The Recovery Village Columbus is here for you. Our levels of care include medical detox, medication-assisted treatment and mental health services like EMDR therapy. Contact a Recovery Advocate today to get more information about our evidence-based inpatient rehab and outpatient care services.

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