ADHD Drug Less Prone to Abuse

Harvard study finds Concerta doesn’t produce euphoric effect

A recent Harvard study found that Concerta, an alternative delayed-release drug used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) may be less likely to be abused than traditional medications.

Thomas J. Spencer of Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, the chief researcher, said Concerta addresses the problem of abuse on two levels—in addition to not producing a euphoric effect, the drug comes in a nearly indestructible capsule. According to Spencer, this makes Concerta “phenomenally difficult to abuse,” as it is impossible to crush in order to inhale.

While past ADHD drugs have often been used recreationally to produce feelings of euphoria, Concerta does not have the same effect, although it is equally effective in treating the disorder, according to the study published in this month’s American Journal of Psychiatry.

ADHD is a neurological disorder associated with inability to focus, hyperactivity, and drastic mood shifts, generally treated with the stimulant methylphenidate.

In the past, however, drugs containing methylphenidate—of which Ritalin is best known—have been quick-releasing, therefore causing an immediate strong high. People frequently abuse the drug by crushing tablets and snorting them.

To test Concerta’s euphoric effects, the researchers took a group of twelve healthy adults and randomly assigned them to take either the slow-release or quick-release stimulant, according to a press release. They were monitored over the next ten hours on whether they felt the effects of the drug, the press release said.

Though peak blood levels of the medication were identical in both instances, implying that both drugs were equally effective, only those who took the quick acting medication noticed the effects, according to the press release.

These findings could revolutionize treatment of ADHD—the new medication could treat the condition just as well, but be unavailable for the purpose of getting high.

Concerta will, of course, continue to be abused by students to help them in their studies, but Spencer said addressing rapid-release drug abuse was a significant first step.

“We don’t want any misuse,” Spencer cautioned, “but the people who use to get high, those are the ones we’re most concerned about.”