Ritalin Misuse: Effects & Addiction Treatment

While prescription stimulants can be beneficial for those who are experiencing specific physical and mental health conditions, they also carry a high potential for misuse.1 In fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 16.3% of Americans ages 12 and older misused methylphenidate products like Ritalin in 2021 alone.2

This article will discuss what Ritalin is, the possible effects of misusing it, withdrawal symptoms, and what treatment for stimulant use disorder can look like.

What is Ritalin?

Ritalin is a brand name for the drug methylphenidate, a prescription stimulant medication that is used to treat both the neurodevelopmental disorder known as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the sleep disorder narcolepsy.1 It works by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine activity in the brain, affecting executive function and attention.3 This medication is available in both immediate and extended-release tablets.1

It is considered safe and effective to take Ritalin as prescribed for the approved conditions, however many people misuse it by taking it in a way other than prescribed, using someone else’s prescription, or taking it only for the effects it produces.1,4 Ritalin is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II substance, which includes drugs that possess a high potential for misuse.5

Effects of Ritalin

Like any prescription medication, Ritalin use is associated with potential adverse effects. Common Ritalin side effects may include:1

  • Increased heart rate.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Vomiting.
  • Stomach pains.
  • Decrease in appetite.
  • Feelings of nervousness.
  • Increased respiratory rate.
  • Suicidal ideation.

Potential Health Effects of Ritalin Misuse

Some health effects associated with the misuse of Ritalin can be dangerous and potentially lethal.1 Consider the following:

  • Cardiovascular complications. Methylphenidate increases heart rate and blood pressure, and sudden death, stroke, and heart attacks have been reported in association with therapeutic doses of prescription stimulants in patients with preexisting cardiac abnormalities or other serious heart problems. Irregular heartbeat can occur as a result of misuse at high doses, which could potentially lead to additional cardiovascular complications.6
  • Psychiatric problems. Misuse of prescription stimulants like Ritalin can lead to psychosis, anxiety, paranoia, and suicidal or homicidal ideation.1
  • Overdose. An overdose occurs when a drug is used to the extent that it causes life-threatening health reactions and possibly even death.4 Ritalin overdose can include symptoms ranging from agitation and restlessness to heart palpitations, changes in blood pressure, and even death.1 Mixing stimulants with other addictive substances can increase the risk of overdose.7

Is Ritalin Addictive?

Yes, Ritalin can be addictive, especially considering that this substance activates dopamine in the brain, which can reinforce continued use.3

Addiction is a chronic medical disease characterized by compulsive and uncontrollable substance use regardless of the development of harmful consequences.8 Providers utilize the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in order to properly diagnose stimulant use disorder, which outlines 11 various criteria, including but not limited to:9

  • Using more of a stimulant than initially planned or for longer than expected.
  • Continuing to misuse a stimulant even with the knowledge that doing so exacerbates or causes a physical or mental health problem.
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, home, or school due to preoccupation with stimulant use.
  • No longer engaging in previously enjoyed activities or hobbies as a result of continued stimulant use.
  • Making attempts to cut back or stop using but being unable to do so.

To receive a diagnosis of stimulant use disorder, an individual must meet 2 or more of the DSM criteria.9

Symptoms of Ritalin Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms occur when a person who is physiologically dependent on drug suddenly reduces their dose or entirely stops their use.

Some common withdrawal symptoms associated with Ritalin can include:1

  • Irritability and depressed mood.
  • Fatigue.
  • Vivid nightmares.
  • Sleep disturbances, including hypersomnia and insomnia.
  • Increases in appetite.
  • Feeling lethargic, moving sluggishly.
  • Restlessness.

At AdCare, we offer a detox program staffed with highly experienced and skilled medical and mental health professionals. When detoxing with us from Ritalin and any other drugs of dependence, we can help make the process of withdrawal safer and more comfortable. A supervised medical detox may be especially beneficial for those who are dependent on multiple substances (e.g., Adderall and alcohol) and likely to experience more than one withdrawal syndrome at the same time.10

Treatment for Ritalin Addiction at AdCare

Our team of dedicated professionals can provide the appropriate care for your Ritalin addiction so that you can make a fresh start.

At AdCare Treatment Centers, we offer a variety of levels of care, including inpatient drug rehab in Rhode Island, intensive outpatient programming, standard outpatient programming, and detox services. Our team will work with you to develop a treatment plan that includes evidence-based therapies to help you overcome your active addiction.

Call us right now to learn more about admission to treatment, insurance coverage, and payment options. You can even begin the process of recovery by filling out our secure online to have your insurance verified within minutes.

Reach out to AdCare Treatment Centers for help. We can be contacted any time by calling . Help is available today.

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