Recreational use of Ritalin has put this medication on the radar as one to watch, particularly among college students who want to use a “study drug” to enhance their academic performance and help them pull all-nighters or party. However, such use of this drug, which was originally intended for use by people with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is abused for its effects that are reportedly similar to that of other stimulants, such as amphetamines and cocaine. Repeated use of Ritalin can lead to dependence and addiction, and users may find it hard to concentrate and continue with life if distracted by a Ritalin addiction that may not end until they seek professional help from a treatment center.
Ritalin is the brand name for methylphenidate, a stimulant prescribed to treat Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder.
The medication can come in the form of patches, tablets, capsules, and a liquid. People who are prescribed Ritalin for ADHD management typically have an underactive prefrontal cortex. The medication acts on the central nervous system and works to increase two brain neurotransmitters—dopamine and norepinephrine—which results in brain activity being sped up. Users take the Ritalin to increase their concentration, stay focused on the activities they engage in, make them more productive and motivated to be productive, and control problematic behavior. The medication is also said to help people organize their tasks and improve their listening skills.
Ritalin was created to help treat adults who had severe depression. It was patented in 1954, but it wasn’t until 1962 that children could benefit from its effects. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for treating cognitive disorders, specifically in children. The drug also gained popularity and it became one of the most common drugs used to treat ADHD. Its cognitive-enhancing properties made adults want to try it as well as students.
The oral medication, which is typically prescribed to adults and children today, is found to be most effective when it is taken regularly at the same times each day. When taken as prescribed, Ritalin is not habit-forming, and it calms people down where they can focus. It provides the brain chemicals they do not have and helps them achieve balance. People who do not have ADHD but use Ritalin anyway will feel more alert and experience euphoria because of the excess amount of dopamine in the brain. They won’t, however, feel high. Crushing up Ritalin to snort it is considered abusing it, and using it in this manner leads to high doses that can cause fever, irregular heart rate, and seizures. It can also cause heart rate. Using the drug in high doses can be addictive. Crushing up an extended-release version of Ritalin skips the time-release feature, which makes the drug even more potent when it’s used all at once.
A serious psychological dependence on it may result from such use. Ritalin has a high potential of being abused because young people mistakenly think Ritalin can be dangerous because it’s a prescription drug. But that’s not true. There’s also non-prescription Ritalin. Users are advised to be careful using that one, too.
Slang names for Ritalin include kiddy coke, kiddy cocaine, uppers, Vitamin R, R-ball, Skippy, diet coke, study buddies and R Pop among others.
Habitual Ritalin use can bring on mental, physical, and social changes. If you or your loved one has experienced any these after excessive Ritalin use, the next option is to seek professional help. Signs and symptoms of Ritalin addiction consist of:
One major sign that addiction is underway is the presence of withdrawal symptoms after one stops using the drug. People in Ritalin withdrawal may feel what is known as a “crash.” This means the brain has become used to being provided with a certain amount of dopamine because of the Ritalin, so the body stops making it as it comes to rely on the drug. Symptoms of a Ritalin crash can happen quickly as the drug’s half-life is very short, usually only three to four hours.
After the drug wears off, the “crash” begins. Symptoms of that crash include irritability, anxiety, hyperactivity, and an inability to focus. Excessive or chronic use of Ritalin isn’t good, but quitting the drug suddenly after heavy use isn’t good either. Such a drastic move can shock the body from a sudden loss of dopamine, and that process can be harmful and lead to relapse, or worse, an overdose that could end in death. Professional addiction treatment is recommended to end Ritalin addiction.
Ritalin addiction recovery programs are available at many treatment centers. No one has to face stimulant addiction alone. A medical detox that keeps you safe as the drug is being removed from the body requires medical professionals to be present. This medically-monitored process involves around-the-clock care to ensure all traces of Ritalin and other drugs and toxins are safely removed from the system. During this process, clients are kept safe and comfortable as they are given medicines and other care to ease withdrawal symptoms and make them manageable. Medical professionals may use a tapering method to wean clients slowly off Ritalin and any other harmful substances used.
Detox is the first step in drug rehabilitation treatment. This process alone is not enough to stop someone from abusing Ritalin again. The resolve to do that involves a much longer process that varies according to the person who is on the road to recovery.
An evaluation will help determine how far along a person is in barbiturate addiction and whether the person has a co-occurring disorder, which means a mental health disorder is present, such as depression, anxiety, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and bipolar disorder, along with their substance use disorder. Both conditions must be addressed at the same time to give the person the best chance at recovery, so finding a treatment program that can do that is recommended. If you or someone you know is facing this situation, Maryland House Detox can help with these needs. Call us at 888-263-0631.
Once the detox process has been completed and an evaluation has taken place, clients are presented with treatment program options that best fit their situation based on the results of their assessment. These options include residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, and partial hospitalization programs. In all of these programs, recovering Ritalin users can address their addiction and begin to heal on all levels—mentally, physically, emotionally, and perhaps spiritually. These treatment programs can be tailored to an individual’s needs and preferences.
Ritalin treatment also can be customized according to the needs and preferences of the person. It can include 12-step fellowship programs (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, for example), motivational therapy, trauma therapy, holistic therapies such as yoga and acupuncture, and individual counseling and group counseling sessions.
Aftercare services can help people recovering from stimulant addiction by giving them the tools and guidance to focus on their recovery goals and lessen their chances of experiencing a relapse. There are many opportunities out there that can help one achieve this goal, including follow-up medical care and ongoing therapies to help manage post-acute withdrawal symptoms, known as PAWS, which often happens long after dependence on the drug has passed.
Recreational Ritalin use among non-ADHD users can lead to a psychological addiction to the drug. It also can alter one’s brain chemistry linked to behaviors involving risk-taking, sleep disruption and other unwanted side effects, according to an article published on Futurity.org. Excessive Ritalin use can lead to extreme physiological dependence and overdose, which can be fatal. An overdose of this medication can bring on a sudden heart attack as well as:
If these symptoms happen to you or a loved one after taking a large dose of Ritalin, you should seek immediate emergency medical attention.
Polydrug use is common among recreational substance users. Alcohol is the most common substance used along with various drugs. When the substance is used along with Ritalin, it changes how the body processes Ritalin, according to Healthline. One may think because Ritalin is a stimulant and alcohol is depressant, the two would cancel each other out. But that’s not what happens.
Instead, the effects of both substances cause bigger problems when they interact. A person using both concurrently could experience increased side effects of both substances and risk a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal. If someone who takes Ritalin also begins drinking, the person may not be able to gauge how much they have been drinking. That means the possibility is there that the person will drink more than intended, which can lead to alcohol poisoning as a result of Ritalin and alcohol use. A person will find it difficult to breathe, exhibit confusion and fall unconscious or die if they do not recover from alcohol use and Ritalin.
Healthline also writes that in rare but serious cases, Ritalin can also cause a heart attack, a stroke, or sudden death. There also is a small but real risk of having serious heart problems as a result of Ritalin and alcohol use.
Ritalin is a highly addictive stimulant that can cause many health problems down the road if addiction to it is not addressed. Recreational use, which is common among college student populations, can harm the brain and body, and change how one thinks, feels, and acts as a result of Ritalin abuse.
If you or someone you know is struggling with Ritalin addiction or stimulant addiction of any kind, do not hesitate to call Maryland House Detox 24/7 at (888) 263-0631 or reach out to us here online. We are waiting and ready to help you with any questions or concerns about getting help for addiction. The road to recovery is not easy but recovery can be possible with our help. Why wait to regain control of your life? Start now!
CDC. (March 2018). “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved May, 2018 from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
Wilde, Cathy. (May 2017). “Taking Ritalin to Study May Change Brain Chemistry.” Futurity.org. Retrieved May, 2018 from https://www.futurity.org/ritalin-brain-chemistry-1429542/