Once-a-Day Concerta: Less Abuse Risk?
Researchers Say Time-Released Version of ADHD Drug May Have Less Appeal to Drug Abusers
WebMD News Archive
March 9, 2006 - Surveys suggest that Ritalin abuse is a growing problem
among teens in the U.S., but there is increasing evidence that the risk of
abuse is much lower with newer, time-released versions of the stimulant most
commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Brain imaging studies and blood tests conducted by researchers at
Massachusetts General Hospital showed that the widely prescribed once-a-day
ADHD drug Concerta acts differently in the body than the rapid-release form of
Ritalin, even though both drugs contain the same active ingredient -- the
As expected, the tests showed that the delayed-released drug took longer to
reach peak effective levels within the brain and body and the regulating
effects lasted longer than with the rapid-release version of the stimulant.
And adult study participants without ADHD who took the rapid-release form of
the stimulant were more likely to report feeling a pleasant effect from the
drug than participants who took the timed-release stimulant.
"We know that drugs that cause euphoria are potentially abusable, and
euphoria requires rapid delivery to the brain," says Thomas J. Spencer, MD,
who led the research team. "The ability to show that rate of brain delivery
may determine abuse potential is important to our understanding of the safety
of different formulations."
Different Types of Abuse
According to a nationwide study of drug abuse patterns among adolescents,
known as the Monitoring the Future Survey, Ritalin abuse among high-school
seniors doubled between 1999 and 2004, from 2.5% to 5.1%.
Spencer says some of this increase may be due more to misuse of the drugs by
people without ADHD who want to exploit their stimulant effect, rather than by
serious drug users looking to get high.
Serious abusers often crush the rapid-release form of the stimulant and then
snort it like cocaine to create a high. The long-acting stimulants have less
potential for this type of abuse, Spencer says.
"We can't really say what percentage of abusers are trying to get high
and how many may be taking the drug orally to stay up and cram for a test,"