How Ritalin Can Be Addictive

Ritalin (Methylphenidate) Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

How Ritalin Can Be Addictive

Methylphenidate, brand name Ritalin, is a prescription drug commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It has a high potential for abuse and is becoming more widely available, especially among teens and young adults.

Some people use methylphenidate outside of prescription guidelines to boost focus, produce a high and facilitate weight loss. They do not necessarily have a prescription and may obtain the drug from someone who does. Using methylphenidate without a doctor’s guidance and for purposes that it was not intended is substance abuse, and can have unpleasant results.

Is Methylphenidate (Ritalin) Addictive?

As a central nervous system stimulant, Ritalin increases the availability of brain chemicals that produce stimulation. This helps a person with ADHD becomes less inclined to self-stimulate and allows them to focus on the task at hand.

Regardless of whether the person taking methylphenidate has ADHD, the drug prevents dopamine from being reabsorbed by the brain, allowing more of it to be present. This surplus of dopamine can produce a euphoric feeling, similar to the effects of cocaine.

In a normal state, the brain naturally releases dopamine as a reward when a person does something that makes their brain happy, eating ice cream or falling in love.

As the brain becomes accustomed to methylphenidate increasing dopamine levels, it stops releasing as much dopamine on its own. This leads a person to develop a mental dependence (addiction) and to believe that they need the drug in order to function normally and feel good.

The Dangers Of Methylphenidate Abuse And Addiction

Methylphenidate abuse is most commonly linked to students who use Ritalin in order to focus better on certain tasks. It makes it easier for someone to cram for a big test or project, allowing them to concentrate more deeply and for longer than usual. For this reason, methylphenidate is sometimes called a “study drug.”

Someone who begins abusing methylphenidate this way may feel that it is harmless since they only take it once in a while. The success a person acquires after taking the drug (a good grade or finished project) may reinforce this belief.

When the next big task comes up, though, they may use methylphenidate to help them complete it, and eventually become accustomed to using it for every project. This could lead them to depend on the drug to get anything accomplished.

Sometimes, the increased ability to focus may lead someone to take on more work than they can normally handle. Their ability to complete tasks and stay focused may cause those around them to think they are happy and successful, but this lifestyle can lead to exhaustion.

Some people abuse methylphenidate for its potential to produce euphoria. They may take high doses of the drug to achieve this. As with other stimulants, such as amphetamine (Adderall), methamphetamine, and cocaine, a person may experience a burst of energy, heightened alertness and exhilaration after taking methylphenidate.

Also cocaine, a methylphenidate high may be followed by a crash, with symptoms extreme fatigue, exhaustion, insomnia and depression. To avoid this, people suffering from methylphenidate addiction may take repeated doses of the drug.

This can create a build-up of methylphenidate in someone’s system, which increases the risk of overdose. It is possible to overdose on methylphenidate if too much is taken at a time. It is also dangerous to take methylphenidate with other substances, as it can have adverse effects and increases the risk of overdose.

Methylphenidate comes in pill form and is usually taken orally. That being said, a study on prescription stimulant abuse among college students reports that 38 percent of people surveyed who used stimulants outside of prescription guidelines took them by snorting (insufflation).

Snorting methylphenidate is a faster route of administration, as blood vessels in the nose absorb it immediately. It can severely damage the inside of the nose, inflaming the nasal tissue and irritating the throat and lungs. Over time, methylphenidate can wear away the roof of the mouth or the wall between the nostrils.

Because methylphenidate is an appetite suppressant, some people abuse it as a way to lose weight. Whether this is the case or not, prolonged use can cause dangerous weight loss. The stimulant properties of methylphenidate can also lead to long-term insomnia. Not having proper nutrition or sleep can weaken the immune system and lead to poor overall health.

Signs And Symptoms Of Methylphenidate (Ritalin) Abuse And Addiction

Prescription drugs come with side effects — negative health consequences that can happen even with regular use. Some are more serious than others, and possibly fatal. Abusing a prescription drug methylphenidate (Ritalin) increases the chance of these side effects as a person takes higher doses of the drug more frequently.

Side effects that may indicate methylphenidate abuse include:

  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • headaches
  • irregular or rapid heart rate
  • nausea and vomiting
  • skin rash
  • drowsiness
  • raised blood pressure
  • muscle twitching or involuntary movements
  • anxiety and restlessness
  • aggression
  • painful, long-lasting erections (priapism)
  • seizures, possibly with coma

People with existing behavior disorders may experience worsened psychological symptoms if they abuse methylphenidate. New psychotic symptoms hallucinations, delusions and mania can result from this abuse as well.

If a person has become addicted to methylphenidate, they may be secretive, trying to hide the problem. Still, they may show signs of methylphenidate addiction, such as:

  • using methylphenidate only to experience a high or focus on a project
  • ignoring negative physical and mental effects of methylphenidate
  • spending a lot of time and money obtaining and using the drug
  • performing poorly at work or school
  • taking Ritalin pills that were not prescribed to them
  • visiting many doctors in order to fill multiple prescriptions (“doctor shopping”)

Since ADHD is a fairly common mental disorder, some people will fake the symptoms or claim that their child has ADHD in order to convince their doctor to prescribe medication Ritalin. Once they obtain the pills, they may use them, share them or sell them.

Ritalin has been called the adolescent version of cocaine. As ADHD becomes more and more frequently diagnosed, more children and teens are being prescribed Ritalin and sharing it with their friends. The wide availability of this drug makes it easy to get, causing many people to develop a methylphenidate addiction early in life.

Treatment For Methylphenidate (Ritalin) Addiction

While there are no medications approved for treating methylphenidate (Ritalin) addiction, there are plenty of options. The best addiction treatment programs use a combination of therapies to educate the individual and explore personal issues related to substance abuse.

Behavioral therapies are commonly used to help people with a methylphenidate addiction to examine thoughts and behaviors and identify negative influences in their lives. These therapies may be combined with counseling and support groups to encourage emotional growth and positive relationships.

Many programs also include nutrition and fitness programs to support healthier living in every way. Because the goal of addiction treatment is complete and lasting recovery, treatment plans can be created uniquely for each individual to ensure the highest quality care for their needs.


Ritalin (Methylphenidate) Addiction: Signs, Symptoms And Treatment Options

How Ritalin Can Be Addictive

Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a stimulant drug that is often prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It may also be used for narcolepsy, a condition that causes sudden attacks of uncontrollable sleepiness.

When used as directed, it can help people with ADHD stay organized and focused on necessary tasks. But it can be abused, and those who abuse it can become addicted to it.

Ritalin (Methylphenidate) Addiction Signs And Symptoms

Ritalin works by stimulating the central nervous system and brain activity. As a result, an individual taking it experiences an increase in energy and focus. If someone exhibits an unusual amount of energy and focus, it is possible they are abusing the drug.

The symptoms of abuse can be both physical and mental, and may include:

  • headaches
  • seizures
  • chest pain
  • dizziness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • hallucinations
  • insomnia

Many people who abuse stimulants do not suffer from ADHD or narcolepsy but take the drug to help them perform well at work or school.

They may feel a strong sense of being in control of everything in life while using Ritalin. They may also feel more socially likable and able to focus more intensely on tasks and projects.

It can be difficult to recognize these things as warning signs as the person may seem happy and satisfied with life. Underneath it all, the person may be overwhelmed and may suffer from anxiety, paranoia, and high blood pressure.

If someone has become addicted to Ritalin (methylphenidate), they are ly to show signs of addiction, such as:

  • loss of control over drug use
  • seeming to accomplish more than should be possible
  • exhaustion from taking on too many obligations
  • “doctor shopping,” or obtaining multiple prescriptions
  • obtaining the drugs from friends or online

We can help you overcome addiction and get your life back. Your calls are always free and 100% confidential.


Long-Term Effects Of Ritalin

Ritalin abuse can lead to long-term effects on an individual’s physical and mental health.

Circulation issues can cause numbness and nerve pain in the hands and feet. Heart problems may result from high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and rapid heartbeat that often accompany Ritalin use.

A common long-term effect of stimulant abuse is formication, or the sensation of bugs crawling beneath the skin. This is a hallucination that may be caused in part by dry skin and dehydration that often results from stimulant abuse.

In severe cases, long-term Ritalin abuse may result in psychosis. A person suffering from stimulant psychosis will be unable to tell what is real and what is imaginary. This can lead to extreme paranoia as well as suicidal or homicidal thoughts or actions.

How Common Is Ritalin Abuse?

In a recent study, the University of Southern California found that as many as 17 percent of college students may be misusing Ritalin (methylphenidate) or a similar prescription stimulant Adderall (amphetamine).

Additionally, Ritalin and its kin are commonly used stimulants among those who are trying to work long hours and stay focused on highly demanding jobs. Since 2006, the prescription stimulant industry has expanded by 53 percent.

How Is Ritalin Abused?

When prescribed, Ritalin is generally taken as a pill by mouth once daily. Some people who abuse this medication take it orally multiple times a day, while others take it only before an event that requires extreme focus or energy.

Over time, the brain gets used to Ritalin’s assistance, and the person taking it relies more and more on the boost it gives them. They may begin to take it before any project, big or small, which causes more brain changes and fuels the cycle of addiction.

People who abuse Ritalin often develop a tolerance quickly. This means they need more of it to feel the same results. They may begin crushing the pills and snorting the powder or dissolving it with water to be injected into a vein. These methods take the drug into the bloodstream faster and may cause it to have a more intense effect.

Ritalin Street Names

Ritalin (methylphenidate) goes by many names. Some are slang terms while others are unrelated brand names that allow open discussion of the drug in public or around unsuspecting loved ones.

Street names for Ritalin include:

  • Vitamin R
  • Speed
  • R-ball
  • Diet Coke
  • Kibbles & Bits
  • Smarties

These lighthearted nicknames present a disturbing and dangerous misconception about Ritalin. Many people believe that because it is prescribed by a doctor, it can’t be that bad. But Ritalin addiction can be deadly.

Ritalin Overdose Risk

Addiction to Ritalin usually leads someone to take high doses with increasing frequency. Taking too much of it at once or over time can cause an overdose. The risk of overdose is higher when the drug is combined with other stimulants, such as Adderall or cocaine.

Ritalin overdose may have many symptoms resulting from high blood pressure, raised body temperature, and increased brain activity. Some of these symptoms include:

  • muscle twitching
  • rapid heart rate
  • enlarged pupils
  • vomiting or nausea
  • fever or sweating
  • hallucinations
  • loss of consciousness

Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms

A person who abruptly stops using Ritalin (methylphenidate) may experience psychological withdrawal symptoms. Some of these are the opposite of Ritalin’s effects, such as difficulty thinking, concentrating, and processing information.

Ritalin withdrawal can also cause depression, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts or actions. Because of this, many people are unsuccessful detoxing without support. They may take more Ritalin to relieve the frightening and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which keeps them addicted to it.

Treatment For Ritalin (Methylphenidate) Addiction

Many people suffering from Ritalin addiction benefit by leaving their home environment and being immersed in an inpatient rehab program. At Vertava Health Ohio, we offer personalized treatment in a safe, therapeutic community.

Evidence-based practices for stimulant addiction treatment include the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps a person dealing with Ritalin addiction to assess their destructive thought patterns and develop a positive way of thinking, which leads to healthier behavior.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) supports emotional regulation and expression and teaches individuals to control their reactions to stressful situations.
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment addresses addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders at the same time, giving someone a better chance at lasting recovery.

Vertava Health Ohio also offers non-traditional therapies such as music, art, yoga, and adventure. Our holistic philosophy encourages recovering individuals to spend time hiking, swimming, and connecting with nature for the healing of the mind, body, and spirit.


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