Ritalin is a stimulant drug used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and narcolepsy. It’s classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II narcotic — meaning it’s in the same class as cocaine, morphine and amphetamines.
By some accounts, the number of 26- to 34-year-olds taking drugs like Ritalin rose roughly 84 percent between 2008 and 2012 alone. On top of that, the CDC estimates that as many as 10,000 toddlers are now taking stimulant ADHD medications. The question is, with thousands of Americans taking Ritalin, how do you know if you’re addicted?
Here’s a look at four physical signs you’re hooked:
Sign #1 No Energy
Kara couldn’t believe how tired she felt. Her energy was completely zapped. She found it hard to focus. All week, she had been zoning out during class. Why couldn’t she pay attention? Why was she so worn out?
Kara needed an energy boost; she called her roommate, Blaire, who always seemed to have access to Ritalin. Blaire was the one who introduced Kara to the drug in the first place…and she’d used a lot of it to get through this semester. Kara wondered if her Ritalin use had anything to do with her feelings of fatigue…
Kara can stop wondering. Yes, Ritalin addiction causes fatigue. It’s one of the top signs of withdrawal. Once you’ve misused Ritalin for a period of time, your body becomes accustomed to the drug. When you lower or discontinue its use, you experience fatigue…and it takes time for your body to readjust.
Sign #2 Heart Damage
Darren was in the middle of this third double-shift this week. He’s working two jobs just to make ends meet.
To keep his energy level up, he took Ritalin – often several pills each day. But he ran out of pills two days ago. He hoped to get more from his cousin this weekend. Darren figured he could stop using the pills once he got to a better place financially and things slowed down at work.
Unfortunately, he might never get the chance. Darren felt his heart suddenly start to race. He was hit with an intense headache. He collapsed on the floor as his whole left side went numb. He heard his co-worker call 911. Darren didn’t understand what was happening to him…
Darren’s Ritalin abuse was more serious than he thought – he was addicted. This caused serious cardiovascular problems when his body experienced withdrawal. Effects can include increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure, even leading to stroke or sudden death.
Sign #3 Nutrition Deficiency
Sarah’s sister was worried about her; she’d lost a lot of weight recently. At first, it wasn’t all that concerning. Donna was happy for Sarah, who was excited to drop two jean-sizes. Now, however, Sarah didn’t look healthy and she refused to see a doctor. In truth, Sarah was using Ritalin more and more frequently. Sarah knew a trip to the doctor would reveal her abuse of the drug.
Sarah is experiencing a common result of Ritalin addiction. The drug use decreases your appetite, which often leads to malnutrition, as your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs. When suffering from Ritalin withdrawal, people commonly experience severe nutritional imbalances, which can cause serious health complications.
Sign #4 Sleep Disturbance
Nick was having a rough junior year of college. He always felt like he was behind. To help him keep up, he started taking Ritalin. He figured he could stop whenever he wanted.
When his friends expressed concerns of addiction, he blew off their warnings. Now the semester was over, so he stopped taking the pills – just like he said he would. The problem was, he couldn’t sleep. He felt like he would go crazy if he didn’t get a good night’s sleep soon.
Nick should have listened to his friends. He’s addicted to Ritalin and experiencing withdrawal. Sleeping disorders are a common symptom of Ritalin withdrawal. And since part of Ritalin’s purpose is to regulate sleep, misusing it throws off your body’s sleep cycles. Chronic use results in decreased sleep, and stopping can result in major sleep issues.
Stop the Cycle
Are you or a loved one experiencing Ritalin withdrawal symptoms? All too often, people start using again because they’re desperate to lessen the symptoms. But this just continues the cycle of addiction and poor health. If you’re struggling with Ritalin addiction, find help here.
Additional Reading: The Dos and Don’ts of Ritalin Recovery
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