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The Effects of Ritalin Use

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Is Ritalin Bad For You?

Ritalin (generic name: methylphenidate) is a stimulant prescribed to reduce the effects of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It is also sometimes prescribed for the treatment of narcolepsy.

Street Names

While Ritalin is widely prescribed for use, it is also widely abused, especially among younger users. It is often sold on the street under the following names:

  • Kiddie coke.
  • Diet coke.
  • Poor man’s cocaine.
  • Skittles.
  • Smarties.

When taken as intended, and under supervision of the prescribing physician, Ritalin is generally viewed as safe. However, not everyone takes this stimulant as prescribed. Ground up into powder form to facilitate unintended routes of administration – including inhalation and intravenous injection – Ritalin can be absorbed into the body in a speedier manner. In this manner it becomes a far more powerful (not to mention, dangerous) drug, providing effects similar to those of cocaine.

On a broad potency scale of nervous system stimulants, Ritalin falls somewhere between caffeine and amphetamines. Taking high doses of Ritalin and/or taking it via alternate methods such as snorting can:

  • Give rise to a number of negative physical effects.
  • Result in mood and personality changes.
  • Quickly lead to a pattern of abuse, tolerance, and addiction.

If you’ve gotten caught in the spiral of Ritalin addiction, you can come back from it. Call to speak to someone about treatment centers that will specifically address your stimulant dependency issue.

Short-term Effects

At least initially, and like other stimulants, Ritalin can produce the following “desired” effects:

  • Increased alertness and activity.
  • Feelings of euphoria.
  • Suppressed appetite.
  • Talkativeness.

Ritalin is often referred to as a “smart drug” by users who take it recreationally to improve their performance in school. However, it has not been proven that it actually lives up to this moniker for those who don’t have ADD or ADHD. Over the course of time, as tolerance and dependency grow with persistent Ritalin use, academic performance is sure to suffer – certainly not the performance enhancer that users may bet on.

Side Effects

The severity of Ritalin’s effects will depend on how the drug is administered (i.e. pill form, intranasally, or intravenously) and how much is taken. Also, like any prescription drug the effects will typically be stronger for those inappropriately taking it without a condition that merits its use. Side effects of Ritalin abuse can include:

Man with heart attack

  • Confusion.
  • Agitation.
  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Paranoia.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue.
  • Altered heart rate.
  • Nausea.
  • Headache
  • Respiratory depression.
  • Chest pain.
  • Raised or lowered blood pressure.

Long-term Effects

drugabuse_istock-43797340-man-head-in-hands-lamp-in-backgroundThe long-term effects of Ritalin abuse may include:

  • Disorientation and apathy.
  • Delusions, hallucinations, and other signs of a psychotic disorder.
  • Frequent seizure activity.
  • Anorexia and marked weight loss.
  • Alternating bouts of mania and depression.
  • Thoughts of suicide.

Additionally, Ritalin addiction can result in a number of social and personal changes that can significantly diminish the user’s quality of life, as well as that of his family and friends. You may notice the following types of changes in someone suffering from a dependency on Ritalin and/or other substances:

  • Profound mood changes.
  • Financial hardship due to paying for Ritalin consistently.
  • Compulsion to seek drugs, such as by seeing multiple doctors.
  • Withdrawal from family and friends.
  • Decreased performance at work or school.
  • Impaired judgment and changes in priorities.

Ritalin Dependency

Again, Ritalin dependency is minimized when taken in proper dosages. However, when it is abused and large quantities are ingested in a variety of ways, it can be highly addictive.

As with other stimulants, users become tolerant as time goes by and they need higher and higher doses to achieve the same

Alarming Ease of Access

Ritalin is relatively easy to access. The drug can be found in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of “most-stolen” medications every year.

In fact, the Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) showed that 1.3 million teens misused a prescription stimulant in 30 days prior.

high. This can create strong cravings and panic attacks if the user is not able to easily obtain the drug.

Users with a significant Ritalin addiction often engage in a “binge-crash” cycle, with continual use and no sleep for days, followed by heavy sleeping that can be akin to a coma. This pattern of use, along with the tolerance and dependency dangers, are almost identical to cocaine.

The potential for abuse and dependency is great due to the fact that diagnoses of ADD and ADHD are increasing, along with Ritalin and other methylphenidate-based prescriptions. IN fact, in 2011 alone, 11% of children in the U.S. were given an ADHD diagnosis.


Withdrawal and Addiction Treatment

Ritalin withdrawal can be extremely difficult. Individuals seeking to kick this habit can experience feelings that are so intense that, in attempt to stave off the onset of withdrawal, they effectively drive the compulsion to continue abusing the drug. Symptoms of withdrawal can include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Nightmares.
  • Bouts of insomnia alternating with long periods of heavy sleep.
  • Weight gain/increased appetite.
  • Muscle twitching.
  • Drug cravings.

Inpatient rehab facilities include clinical supervision and observation to ensure safe withdrawal from Ritalin and to better manage the patient’s comfort. Additionally, after detox is complete, the treatment will shift to focus on therapy and skills training to increase the likelihood of successful recovery and long-term sobriety. Other treatment options include outpatient treatment, sober living facilities, and participation in support programs such as AA or NA.

To get the help of a team committed to you overcoming your Ritalin habit, or to helping someone you love end his/her abuse of this drug, call to discuss your Ritalin recovery options with a treatment support specialist.

Recommended for you:
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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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