What to Expect When Withdrawing from Ritalin

The recent increase in diagnoses of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has also given rise to an explosion of prescribing drugs to curb the symptoms.

ADHD is a developmental condition that has been found in more than 50 million people as of 2015. In many cases, it can be a debilitating disorder that can prevent people from concentrating or focusing on any single thing for a substantial period of time. Because of this, the stimulant drug Ritalin (generic name methylphenidate) has been prescribed to allow sufferers to manage the symptoms but what happens when you stop taking the drug outright?

Ritalin is, usually, a very effective treatment for ADHD, giving those with the disorder the ability to concentrate enough to function at work or in school. It also helps people suffering from narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that results in extreme drowsiness regardless of the time of day. Ritalin works by manipulating the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is deficient in those with ADHD. In effect, it causes the brain to release dopamine when you are paying attention to something, making it more “interesting”.

However, Ritalin is still a central nervous system stimulant and can easily be abused. Even though it may not be as powerful as other well-known stimulants such as cocaine or meth, it is still very possible to develop a dependence on the drug if it is used improperly. In these cases, the Ritalin withdrawal symptoms could be problematic if not dealt with in a controlled medical setting.


Because Ritalin is a relatively mild stimulant and the drug affects each person differently, there are some doctors that claim that there aren’t any Ritalin withdrawal symptoms. This is supported by the fact that there are many people who stop using Ritalin recreationally with no adverse side effects. However, there are others who experience some behavioral and mood differences when they stop taking Ritalin.

In many cases, you might experience a Ritalin “crash,” which means that your brain is used to the dopamine levels that the drug created. This can sometimes get to a stage where your brain stops naturally making dopamine. In these situations, stopping Ritalin can lead to this “crash” or dopamine deficiency. The Ritalin withdrawal symptoms of this can be:

  • Inability to focus
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Hyperactivity
  • Intense irritability

The higher the regular dosage of the drug, the greater the dopamine deficiency. In more extreme cases, some people experience more severe Ritalin withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Intense changes in mood
  • Inability to sleep
  • Depression
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • An increased appetite
  • Irregular or increased heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Muscle spasms


People who stop taking Ritalin after prolonged use usually report withdrawal symptoms within only a few hours after the last dose due to the drug’s short half-life. Keep in mind that, like any substance, the Ritalin withdrawal timeline is different for each person based on their unique body chemistry, age, sex, weight, and personal and family history.

1-3 Days – As your body releases the stimulant from your system, withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and heart irregularities may start to manifest.

4-7 Days – At this point in the Ritalin withdrawal timeline, the symptoms will be the most intense. The physical symptoms from before will combine with psychological conditions like insomnia, depression, anxiety, or abnormal irritability.

2 Weeks – Here, sufferers will usually see the end of most of their symptoms. Psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and irritability may drag on.

3 Weeks – Near the end of the Ritalin withdrawal timeline, you may still have lingering feelings of depression, but for the most part, your withdrawal symptoms should be gone.

One of the biggest factors that will influence this timeline is the amount of Ritalin taken and the length of time you have been using the drug. The lower, safer doses that are prescribed usually range between 10 and 60 milligrams. And, like many drugs, the more you use it, the more you need over time to experience the same effects.

Likewise, the amount that is taken will determine the severity of the withdrawal symptoms and the way that you should detox. If you are taking 30 milligrams, you will likely only have mild symptoms of withdrawal. However, if you have been on 60 milligrams or higher, you may need to be tapered off of Ritalin to avoid the more intense withdrawal effects. In these cases, the later parts of the withdrawal timeline can have you experiencing Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). PAWS is basically prolonged psychological effects such as depression, cravings, and anxiety that can linger for months after the last dose.


Going through substance abuse withdrawal can be uncomfortable, even if the substance doesn’t have a history of being dangerous or fatal. In the case of Ritalin, detoxing at a medical facility is not only better for your safety and health, it also is vital to successfully achieving lasting sobriety.

One of the main reasons for relapse is to medicate the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Those who try to quit cold turkey on their own, especially those that are used to taking doses of more than 60 milligrams, may find the symptoms too intense to deal with, and can easily fall back into Ritalin addiction just to stop the withdrawal.

At a medical detox center, you can rest assured that qualified addiction professionals are monitoring your health and using the best methods to mitigate the Ritalin withdrawal symptoms. In most cases, you will be slowly tapered off of Ritalin so that your body can start producing dopamine on its own before taking you completely off the drug.


Once you’ve detoxed from Ritalin, you’ve made the first step along the road to recovery. Because some of the symptoms such as PAWS can stretch out for months, it’s always best to address the root of addiction. Those that go through detox but ignore the other stages of treatment will likely end up reverting back to the destructive thoughts and behaviors that led them to addiction in the first place.

The next step along the path to true healing after detox is residential treatment where you will be able to join the recovery community and participate in group and individual therapies to help you make lifestyle changes and combat addiction where it starts. After that, you can choose to take part in ongoing maintenance through outpatient programs where you meet with your group a few times a week to stay accountable.


Maryland House Detox helps people turn over a new leaf of sobriety. Our programs are diverse, unique, and clinically proven to work. From detoxing from Ritalin to participating in outpatient programs, we connect you with the full continuum of treatment. Give us a call today for a free consultation and assessment.

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