Ritalin Addiction Guide
Ritalin misuse and addiction has been a longstanding issue in America.1,2 A 2019 survey of prescription stimulant use, including Ritalin, showed that 4.9 million Americans aged 12 or older had misused them within the last year.1 People aged 18-25 are most likely to abuse prescription stimulants like Ritalin.1 Ritalin abuse among high school students has increased slightly among high school students in 2020.3
Ritalin use has increased significantly across the United States since 2006, but Nevada has one of the lowest rates of use in the country.2 While prescribing rates are low in Nevada compared to other states, Ritalin may be obtained through other means.2
This article will help to answer some important questions, including:
- What is Ritalin and what is Ritalin classified as?
- Is Ritalin a stimulant?
- What does Ritalin help with?
- What does Ritalin do to you?
- Why is Ritalin abuse dangerous?
- Is Ritalin bad for you?
- Is Ritalin addictive?
- How is Ritalin addiction treated?
- How can I get help for Ritalin abuse or addiction?
What is Ritalin Used For?
Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a stimulant medication that is used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.4,5,6 It is a controlled substance that is only available by prescription.4,6 Ritalin is a first-line medication to treat ADHD, and has been extensively studied since it was patented in the mid-1950s.6,7 Other medications in the same class include Concerta (methylphenidate), Adderall (dextroamphetamine/amphetamine), Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), and Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine).2,7
The effects of Ritalin are caused by the way it changes dopamine levels in the brain.6,8 This chemical in the brain is responsible for feeling good, levels of impulsiveness, motivation levels, and the ability to focus and tune out distractions.6,8 Ritalin effects can effectively manage ADHD symptoms when it is used properly and under the supervision of a medical professional.8
What Are the Side-Effects of Ritalin?
Ritalin can have positive effects when used as prescribed, but there is the potential to experience harmful effects of Ritalin.4,5,6 Side effects from Ritalin can occur both shortly after use, or after long-term use.6,7 There are mental and physical effects of Ritalin, and the likelihood of experiencing harmful side effects are increased if Ritalin is abused.4,6
Short-term side effects of Ritalin can include:4,5,6,7
- Becoming more chatty.
- Blurry vision.
- Chest pain.
- Dilated pupils.
- Feelings of anxiety or agitation.
- Feeling dizzy.
- Feelings of euphoria when taken in large quantities or used differently than prescribed.
- Grinding your teeth.
- High blood pressure and body temperature.
- Improved ability to focus and tune out distractions.
- Increased energy.
- Making poor choices.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Reduced appetite.
- Reduced need for sleep.
- Stomach pain.
Long-term side effects of Ritalin can include:4,5,6,7
- Heart problems, including damage to the heart muscle, abnormal heart rhythms, or heart attacks.
- Joint pain.
- New or worsening mental health symptoms, including bipolar disorder, depression, hallucinations, paranoia, or psychosis.
- Rashes or hives.
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
- Uncontrollable muscle movements.
- Weight loss and malnutrition.
Over time, abusing Ritalin can lead to addiction, tolerance, and physical dependence.4,7 If Ritalin is dissolved and injected, blockages can develop in blood vessels and there is an increased risk of contracting diseases such as HIV or hepatitis if needles are shared.4,7,9
If you have been using Ritalin for an extended period of time, even under the supervision of a medical professional, you may go through withdrawal if you suddenly stop taking it.7,9,10 Withdrawal symptoms can be bothersome, and many people who abuse Ritalin are likely to go through withdrawal at some point.7,9,10 Ritalin withdrawal symptoms may include:7 ,9,10
- Depressed mood, or depression.
- Increased hunger.
- Moving and thinking more slowly.
- Nightmares or vivid dreams.
- Significantly less energy.
- Sleeping more or less than usual.
- Slow heart rate.
- Thoughts of suicide, or suicide attempts.
- Urges to use Ritalin.
Is Ritalin Habit-Forming?
Ritalin is a Schedule II controlled substance, which means that there is a significant risk for abuse, dependence, and addiction.4,6 In addition, tolerance can develop after misusing Ritalin for a period of time.5 Each of these terms are related, but refer to different aspects of Ritalin abuse.
Ritalin abuse occurs when it is taken differently than prescribed.7 Taking it when it isn’t prescribed for you, taking a higher dose than prescribed, taking it more frequently than it is prescribed, or using Ritalin to get high can be considered abuse.7 When considering Ritalin abuse, effects can be felt more quickly and strongly when it is taken differently than it is intended, such as crushing and snorting or injecting the pills.7,8 Ritalin abuse significantly increases the risk of developing an addiction.5,7,8,9
When Ritalin is used over a period of time, whether it is abused or taken exactly as directed by a medical professional, you can develop a tolerance.7 This means that you become desensitized to the effects of Ritalin, and the same dose doesn’t have the desired effect any longer.7, 10 Once tolerance has developed, Ritalin abuse can occur if you begin to take larger doses or take it more frequently than it is prescribed.7,10 Tolerance can be a sign of addiction.10
Ritalin dependence means that withdrawal symptoms appear once use is stopped abruptly.7,10After an extended period of use, the body becomes accustomed to the effects of Ritalin and the brain adjusts production of dopamine.6,8 Once Ritalin use is stopped, the body has to adjust its own production of dopamine and this is what creates withdrawal symptoms.11 (p79) While dependence can occur in people who are taking Ritalin under the supervision of a medical professional, it can also be a sign of addiction among people who are abusing Ritalin.5,7,10
Addiction is a disease that makes it difficult to control your use of substances, and affects how you think and behave.10 Addiction alters how the brain looks and works, and can negatively impact your ability to function.7,10,12 Symptoms of addiction can include tolerance and dependence, but those do not need to be present for a diagnosis.10
Signs of Ritalin Addiction
If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be abusing or have an addiction to Vyvanse, there are some indicators to watch out for. These can affect the way a person looks or acts, and can signify a potential problem with Vyvanse.
While an addiction to Ritalin can only be diagnosed by a qualified professional, there are some warning signs to be aware of. Symptoms of Ritalin abuse and addiction can involve both physical and behavioral signs that can indicate a potential issue.
Ritalin abuse or addiction has physical signs, which can include:6 ,7,9,10
- Dilated pupils.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when Ritalin use is suddenly stopped.
- Signs of injection (track marks) if Ritalin is being injected.
- Stuffy or runny nose if Ritalin is being snorted.
- Weight loss.
Ritalin abuse or addiction also has behavioral warning signs, which can include:6,7,8,9,10
- An inability to stop using Ritalin even if you want to.
- Continuing to use Ritalin even after it has created or worsened physical or mental health conditions, or relationship issues.
- Getting Ritalin from more than one doctor, or illegally.
- Increased talkativeness.
- Isolating or changing social groups because of Ritalin.
- Ritalin use interfering with your abilities to get things done at home, school, or work.
- Running out of Ritalin earlier than expected.
- Sleeping or eating less than usual.
- Taking doses that are larger or more frequently than prescribed.
- Trouble sitting still.
- Using Ritalin in situations that could be dangerous.
- Using Ritalin just to get high.
Ritalin Addiction Treatment Options
Ritalin addiction treatment is available in several different settings. Various behavioral therapies can be utilized to effectively treat Ritalin abuse or addiction.12 The treatment that is provided strongly depends on your specific needs, and should be tailored for you.12
While withdrawal from Ritalin isn’t likely to be as physically dangerous as it can be with other types of substances, there can be some risks involved.5, 11 The depression associated with Ritalin withdrawal can be severe, debilitating, and ultimately lead to a greater risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors.10, 11 During medically supervised detox, you may receive antidepressant medications to treat symptoms and lower your risk of suicide, while being monitored by medical staff around the clock.5,11
Detox is only the first step in treatment, and won’t help teach you the skills you’ll need for sustained recovery.12 Attending inpatient or outpatient treatment after completing detox can help you learn how to make these important changes.12 Inpatient care involves living at a treatment facility 24/7. While there, you receive structured support, group therapy, individual therapy sessions, and psychiatric care as needed.12 Outpatient care is provided while you reside at home, and offers group therapy, individual therapy sessions, and psychiatric care as needed, in a less structured setting that doesn’t interfere with your daily schedule.12
A range of specialized therapeutic techniques have been effective at treating stimulant addiction.12 These include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Contingency Management, Motivational Interventions, The Matrix Model, 12-Step Facilitation Therapy, and Family Behavior Therapy, which can help to build relapse prevention skills, learn effective coping strategies, increase motivation towards sobriety, encourage attendance and participation at self-help meetings, and improving family relationships.7,12 In addition, once Ritalin use is stopped, ADHD symptoms can be treated with a non-stimulant medication.12,13
Finding Help for Ritalin Abuse
If you are looking for treatment help for Ritalin abuse or addiction, American Addiction Centers can help. American Addiction Centers is one of the leading providers of addiction treatment in the United States, and has facilities located across the country, including in Nevada.14,15 With tailored treatment plans and facilities that specialize in providing care from detox to outpatient, American Addiction Centers can help you beat an addiction to Ritalin and other substances.14,15,16 To learn more about how American Addiction Centers can help you overcome your addiction, call our free, confidential helpline 24/7 at 702-800-2682.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Piper, B.J., Ogden, C.L., Simoyan, O.M., Chung, D.Y., Caggiano, J.F., Nichols, S.D., & McCall, K.L. (2018). Trends in use of prescription stimulants in the United States and Territories, 2006 to 2016. PLOS One, 13(11)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in the prevalence of various drugs.
- National Drug Intelligence Center. (2003). Ritalin fast facts.
- Food and Drug Administration. Ritalin and Ritalin SR.
- Morton, W.A., & Stockton, G.G. (2000). Methylphenidate abuse and psychiatric side effects. Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2(5), 159-164.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Prescription stimulants.
- Gottlieb, S. (2001). Methylphenidate works by increasing dopamine levels. British Medical Journal (Clinical Research Ed.) 322(7281), 259.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Stimulant ADHD medications: Methylphenidate and amphetamines.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 45, DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 06-4131. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse.(2020). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (Third edition).
- Mariani, J.J., & Levin, F.R. (2007). Treatment strategies for co-occurring ADHD and substance use disorders. The American Journal on Addictions, 16 (Suppl 1), 45-56.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). American Addiction Centers.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). Desert Hope Las Vegas treatment center.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). Substance abuse treatment services.
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