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The Effects of Methylphenidate Use

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Methylphenidate (brand names: Ritalin, Concerta) is a stimulant prescribed for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and narcolepsy. Stimulants, like Ritalin, are one of the three most commonly abused classes of prescription drugs.

Is Methylphenidate Dangerous?

When used correctly, methylphenidate is considered safe for use. Like most stimulants, however, methylphenidate can be abused and, in fact, is often bought, sold and abused similarly to illicit street stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine. The incidence of abuse is steadily rising with:

  • The number of children and adults being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.
  • The increased availability of methylphenidate from users with prescriptions.
  • The reputation of Ritalin and Concerta as “study drugs” that can improve a student’s concentration and academic performance.

Abuse of methylphenidate can produce cocaine-like effects that can put the user’s health in danger and lead to addiction. Methylphenidate should only be used as directed and never taken without a prescription.

If abuse of methylphenidate is taking over your life, know that you can get better. Check out the types of rehabilitation available to help you begin your road to recovery.

Methylphenidate Short-term Effects

When taken orally as prescribed, methylphenidate use should not produce a “high.” However, taking excess amounts and/or snorting or shooting the drug can produce feelings similar to those of cocaine and other stimulants.drugabuse_istock-52042036-girl-sad-eating-disorder

These short-term effects of methylphenidate abuse can include:

  • Euphoria.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Increased alertness and activity.
  • Talkativeness.

Because drugs like Ritalin suppress the appetite and increase alertness, they are often abused by those looking to control their weight and users attempting to get an extra edge at school.

Side Effects

Methylphenidate side effects vary from user to user, and the full list of possible side effects is robust. If you take too much methylphenidate, you may experience:

  • Nervousness.
  • Agitation.
  • Rapid pulse rate.
  • Hypertension (raised blood pressure).
  • Insomnia.
  • Loss of appetite.

Methylphenidate Long-term Effects

Long-term effects of methylphenidate abuse are largely unknown; however, there are theories that abuse may result in impaired ability to learn. Additionally, in some cases psychotic or manic symptoms may arise in users without prior history of these symptoms.

Addiction to methylphenidate, like addiction to any other drug, can lead to a number of personality and lifestyle changes that can dramatically affect the life of a user and his loved ones. These effects include:

  • Dramatic mood shifts.
  • Depression.
  • Decreased desire to participate in activities that were once enjoyed.
  • Shifting priorities – abusing methylphenidate becomes a top priority.
  • Strained relationship with family and friends.
  • Crime.
  • Decreased motivation.
  • Malnutrition and weight loss.

Methylphenidate Dependence


Developing an addiction to methylphenidate can happen. The fact that is prescribed on a frequent basis does NOT mean it is without abuse potential or addictive properties.

With sustained misuse, tolerance to the drug develops, along with the potential for full-fledged addiction. Once your body builds up a tolerance, you will have to take more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects as you did before.

Remember, the more you ingest of any drug, the more likely you are experience intense side effects and risk a deadly overdose.

Methylphenidate Withdrawal Treatment

If you are addicted to methylphenidate, stopping abruptly can induce the following symptoms of methylphenidate withdrawal:

  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Irritability.
  • Depression.
  • Confusion.

Abrupt cessation of methylphenidate can induce depression, so treatment in an inpatient rehabilitation facility can be beneficial. The immersive care that a treatment center can provide the assurance you need that you won’t harm your own recovery attempts by seeking the drug to alleviate your depression or other symptoms.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a methylphenidate dependence, please call to discuss treatment options. Our trained representatives will listen to you and get you started down the path to recovery.

Don’t be afraid to call in for a friend, family member, or anyone else close to you. Addiction and dependence can be harmful to even the brightest future, so don’t wait too long.

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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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