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Methylphenidate Abuse

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Passed out on computer with pills

Methylphenidate is a psycho-stimulant drug that works on the central nervous system. It is frequently prescribed as a treatment for ADHD and ADD under the brand names of Ritalin and Concerta.

Methylphenidate Abuse: An Introduction

Methylphenidate comes in pill form for therapeutic use. Some other common trade names for methylphenidate include Methylin and Metadate.

While methylphenidate has been studied for more than 50 years and is considered safe for use when taken as prescribed, it does have the potential for abuse and, in turn, dependency and addiction.

Street Names

  • Kiddie coke.
  • Vitamin R.
  • Skittles.
  • Smarties.
  • Diet coke.

It can also have significant side effects when misused. Consider that:

  • Increasing numbers of people have been prescribed methylphenidate in recent years, which has increased the availability of drug for abuse.
  • More and more young adults are misusing methylphenidate for study purposes; drugs like Ritalin and Concerta are commonly referred to as “smart drugs” or “study drugs.”
  • Addiction can result when methylphenidate is taken in doses and/or via methods (e.g. injection or snorting) other than those prescribed.

Statistics show that prescriptions for methylphenidate are increasing steadily each year, and, in turn, so is the problem of methylphenidate abuse.

Signs and Symptoms

When misused, and especially when taken intravenously, the effects of methylphenidate can mimic the effects of cocaine. There are many signs of methylphenidate abuse that may show up in users. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Abnormal movements (similar to Tourette’s).
  • Agitation and anxiety.
  • Altered sexual desire.
  • Chest pain.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Dizziness.
  • General nervousness.

  • Gastrointestinal distress.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • OCD-like syndrome.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Thoughts of suicide.

If you recognize these signs and symptoms in yourself or in another, call to speak with a treatment support specialist and learn about the path to recovery.


Effects of Methylphenidate Abuse

Methylphenidate increases the activity of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure. In high doses, methylphenidate can cause the following problems:

  • Excitation.
  • Formication (the sensation of bugs crawling under the skin).
  • Facial flushing.
  • Perseveration (excessive repetition of meaningless tasks).

Some effects of long-term methylphenidate abuse may include:

  • Delusions.
  • Grandiosity.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Mania.
  • Paranoia.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Violence.

Methylphenidate Abuse Treatment

Addiction to methylphenidate may require treatment, including supervised medical detox and rehabilitation.


Quitting methylphenidate can be made easier and more comfortable under the supervision and guidance of a qualified medical professional or addiction treatment specialist. They can give you an idea of what symptoms to expect, how they will be handled, and how long withdrawal symptoms will last.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms of methylphenidate use can include:

  • Aggression.
  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Hunger.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Hypersomnia, or excessive sleepiness.
  • Mood swings.
  • Paranoia.

Rehabilitation for Methylphenidate

Rehab programs are a useful resource when helping someone quit methylphenidate, as they provide focused care and resources to maintain sobriety.

Key Statistics on Methylphenidate Abuse

With increasing ADHD diagnoses and the resulting increase in drug availability, misuse of this drug is all too common. Note the following statistics:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of 2011 6.4 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 had been given an ADHD diagnosis.
  • Data from the CDC indicates a steady increase in ADHD diagnoses, with rates jumping from 7.8% in 2003 to 11% in 2011.
  • According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), methylphenidate is among the top ten stolen prescriptions in the U.S.
  • According to a study by the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, long-term methylphenidate use can cause serious brain injury.
  • The DEA has labeled methylphenidate a Schedule II drug, meaning is has “a high potential for abuse.”
  • According to data from the Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), 1.3 million teens reported having misused Ritalin or Adderall in the 30 days prior.

Teen Methylphenidate Abuse

There are several ways teens can be introduced to a drug like methylphenidate. They may receive Ritalin or Concerta from friends, parents or acquaintances, or a doctor may prescribe it to them for a medical condition, such as ADHD. Teens may begin abusing prescription stimulants like Ritalin in order to gain an edge in school or stay up to party.


To help prevent drug abuse in your teen:

  • Have a conversation about drugs, addiction, and specifically methylphenidate. (Drugfree.org reports that children that learn about the risk of drugs from their parents are less likely to abuse them.)
  • Lock up any prescription medications you have.
  • If you (or your teen) have a prescription for methylphenidate, monitor their use.
  • Know your children’s friends and keep on eye on their behavior.

Additional Resources

To learn more about the problem of methylphenidate abuse, see the following articles:

You can also connect with others and find support by visiting our DrugAbuse.com Forum today.

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Patrick Condron, M.Sc., M.A.C., is an addiction specialist and drug and alcohol counselor. He is Executive Director of Lazarus House, Inc., a transitional residential program for men and women who continue to work on their recovery towards independent living.
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