Ritalin Abuse

  1. Table of ContentsPrint
  2. Ritalin Abuse
  3. Signs and Symptoms
  4. Effects of Ritalin Abuse
  5. Abuse Treatment
  6. Key Statistics
  7. Teen Ritalin Abuse
  8. Additional Resources

Woman taking medication

Ritalin addiction can throw your life off course but recovery can get you back on track.

Ritalin is the trade name for methylphenidate, a stimulant of the central nervous system used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

It can be very addictive, especially when misused or taken via alternate methods, such as by injection or snorting.

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Ritalin Abuse

Woman experiencing depressionThe Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has classified it as a Schedule II drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse.

Ritalin addiction typically occurs when users take it non-medically, or in excess of prescribed parameters. Those who abuse Ritalin often take it to:

  • Lose weight.
  • Improve alertness/stay awake.
  • Get high.

Ritalin is often referred to as a "smart drug" and abused for its reputation of improving school performance, even though such use of methylphenidate remains a highly debated topic (Frati et al., 2015)

When users take Ritalin in ways other than those prescribed, they can experience a "high" that is not felt when the drug is taken as indicated. For example, when snorted, the effects of Ritalin can mimic those of cocaine, producing a feeling of euphoria. In fact, the pattern of abuse for Ritalin addicts is often very similar to that of cocaine addicts. Taken intravenously, effects of the drug have a significant spike, which can lead quickly to a pattern of dependency and addiction.

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Signs and Symptoms

When you suspect that you or someone you know may have a problem with Ritalin addiction, you need to understand the signs of abuse and watch for them. The signs and symptoms of Ritalin abuse include the following:

  • Reduced appetite and weight loss.
  • Agitation.
  • Pupil dilation.
  • Dizziness/feeling faint.
  • Fatigue.
  • Depression.

  • Headaches.
  • Sweating.
  • Insomnia.
  • Impaired vision.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Stomach pain.


Abuse of ADHD Medications is beginning earlier and earlier.
Learn more about this disturbing trend.


Effects of Ritalin Abuse

Long-term users of Ritalin may experience side effects beyond those listed above. Frequent, sustained Ritalin use can lead to the following:

  • Grandiosity.
  • Repetitive actions (OCD-like behavior).
  • Paranoia.
  • Auditory hallucinations.
  • Tendency toward violence.

If you notice that someone is exhibiting these types of behaviors, they may be experiencing a Ritalin abuse problem; however, recovery is possible. To get information about treatment options for Ritalin addiction, call 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?.
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Abuse Treatment

Group therapyNo two Ritalin addicts are alike. Family situations, addiction severity and psychiatric conditions will inform the best course of action for you. If you're ready to find recovery and get your life back, look into one of the following options:

Ritalin addiction can throw your life off course but recovery can get you back on track.

Call 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? to speak with someone who can explain the variety of treatment options for you or your loved one.


Key Statistics

Ritalin addiction is an increasingly prevalent problem due to the fact that 1) ADHD and ADD diagnoses are more and more common each year and 2) the availability of Ritalin increases with the number of diagnoses. The following statistics help to show the extent of the problem:

  • Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 11% of children in the U.S. were diagnosed with ADHD in 2011.
  • The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) has found that 1.3 million teens reported misusing Ritalin or Adderall in the 30 days previous.
  • According to SAMHSA's DAWN Report, the number of visits to emergency rooms due to complications from ADHD stimulant use shot up from 13,379 in 2005 to 31,244 in 2010.

Where do people get their prescription stimulants?

A lot of people in their 20s obtain prescription stimulant medications in spite of not having a prescription. This is a major issue that may give way to rampant misuse. But where do these young people get their hands on the medications?

A 2016 Recovery Brands survey revealed that a surprising 63% of young individuals between 18 and 28 years old acquire their prescription stimulants used to treat ADHD via companions. More than 20% get ahold of them through a family member, almost 20% get them from other students, and less than 15% obtain them by means of a dealer.

Individuals with doctor approval for these medications can help out by tracking their doctor-prescribed ADHD stimulants in order to protect susceptible college-age individuals from substance misuse and its consequences.

Prescription stimulant diversion graph


Teen Ritalin Abuse

It is often prescribed to young children and teens; however, when surveyed, young children often state that they believe Ritalin has no potential for abuse. For this reason, it's extremely important to talk to your teen about the fact that Ritalin can be addictive and that prescription drugs can be as dangerous as street drugs.

The Smart Drug: Teen Views on Stimulants

Teens sharing pills

Ritalin is often taken by students who believe it will make them smarter. In fact, 20% percent of teens at Ivy League schools reported misusing prescription stimulants in an attempt to boost their competitive edge.

The prevalence of the belief among students that stimulants are not only safe for use but that they actually improve academic performance is troubling because the effects of recreational use can be extremely dangerous.

If you notice that signs and symptoms of abuse (below) in your teen or you suspect that your teen is taking Ritalin for recreational use, take action immediately. By seeking treatment in the child's formative years, you increase the chances of successful recovery.

To learn more about Ritalin and similar substances and patterns of abuse, visit our article, History and Statistics of Study Drugs.


Additional Resources

See the following articles to get more information about the dangers of Ritalin addiction and the path to recovery from Ritalin addiction:

In addition, you can join a supportive community of others who are talking about addiction and recovery by visiting our Forum today.
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