Ritalin Effects, Addiction & Treatment

Between 2016-2021, the percentage of people receiving stimulant prescriptions increased.1 One widely prescribed stimulant is Ritalin—an FDA-approved stimulant medication that treats attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults and children over the age of 6.2

While Ritalin is FDA-approved for the treatment of ADHD as well as narcolepsy, it is also a Schedule II controlled substance, which means it has a recognized potential for misuse, dependence, and addiction.3 This page will help you learn more about Ritalin’s effects, its potential for misuse and addiction, as well as Ritalin addiction treatment options.

What Is Ritalin (Methylphenidate)?

Ritalin is a brand name formulation of the drug methylphenidate. It is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.2

Ritalin works by increasing the activity of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.2,4 These neurotransmitters affect motivation and reward, as well as blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.4

Ritalin is similar to Adderall in terms of use; both are stimulant medications commonly used to treat ADHD.4

What Are The Side Effects of Ritalin?

Like many medications, Ritalin use is associated with side effects. Common Ritalin side effects can include:2

  • Headache.
  • Sweating profusely.
  • Nausea.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Heart palpitations (abnormal heartbeat).
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Insomnia.
  • Nervousness.

Adverse Effects of Ritalin Misuse

Ritalin misuse, especially at high doses, can increase the risk of adverse health effects.4 People may misuse Ritalin by:4

  • Taking larger doses or using it more frequently than prescribed.
  • Taking someone else’s medication.
  • Taking it specifically for the euphoric effects.
  • Crushing tablets or opening capsules to either snort the powder or dissolve it in water and inject it into a vein.

Adverse effects of Ritalin misuse may include:2

  • Increased blood pressure, respiratory rate, and/or heartrate.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Tremors.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Flushed skin.
  • Vomiting and/or abdominal pain.
  • Anxiety.
  • Hostility.
  • Aggression.
  • Psychosis.
  • Suicidal or homicidal ideation.

Ritalin Overdose Symptoms

An overdose happens when a person uses enough of a substance, like Ritalin, to produce a life-threatening reaction in their body.4 Ritalin overdose symptoms may include:2

  • Agitation.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Tremors.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Muscle twitching.
  • Confusion.
  • High fever (above 106 degrees).
  • Irregular or fast heartbeat.
  • Convulsions, possibly followed by coma.

Non-oral routes of administration, including snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug, increase the risk of a Ritalin overdose. These methods of administration produce a more rapid onset of the drug’s effects than oral ingestion.5

Is Ritalin Addictive?

Yes, misusing prescription stimulants like Ritalin can lead to a substance use disorder or addiction.4 Addiction is characterized by an inability to control one’s substance use despite negative or harmful consequences resulting from use of the substance.2

Because Ritalin and other stimulants increase the activity of certain brain chemicals linked to reward, these prescription drugs can have reinforcing effects that can contribute the development of a substance use disorder.4

While Ritalin is commonly used to treat ADHD, it is classified as a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act because it is known to have a high potential for misuse that can lead to dependence.3

Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone has developed a physiological dependence, they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly discontinue using the substance or abruptly decrease the amount they use.6

Stimulant withdrawal may include the following symptoms:2,6

  • Dysphoric mood (profound unhappiness and dissatisfaction)
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Increased appetite
  • Agitation

There are no specific FDA-approved medications for stimulant withdrawal management; however, going through the withdrawal and detox process with professional help may be beneficial, particularly for those at risk of severe depression or suicidal ideation.7,8

A medically assisted detox can provide a safe space where medical professionals can monitor a person’s physical and mental well-being while they are going through the process of detoxification.

Although there aren’t pharmacological interventions specifically for stimulant withdrawal, there are medications to help treat specific symptoms of withdrawal, like insomnia for example. 7,8

Treatment for Ritalin Addiction at Desert Hope

Research has found certain treatment modalities to be effective in treating stimulant use disorders.

There is significant evidence of effectiveness for contingency management , which includes motivational incentives for positive behaviors, like abstinence from Ritalin. Incentives can be in the form of vouchers or small cash rewards.4,7

Other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people learn to recognize and manage triggers, stress, and unhealthy patterns of behavior.4,7

If you or someone you love is struggling with Ritalin addiction, help is available. At Desert Hope Treatment Center—an outpatient and inpatient rehab in Las Vegas—compassionate admissions navigators are available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have and help you start the admissions process.

Desert Hope offers several levels of addiction treatment and utilizes evidence-based ways to treat addiction.

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