The Dos and Don’ts of Ritalin Recovery

Here's a few specific dos and don'ts to help a loved one come off Ritalin.

His paper was due tomorrow and Darren had barely started (if you count typing his name and the title of the paper as “started”).

What Darren had really started to do was panic. He knew he’d have to stay up all night to finish, but he was already feeling sleepy at 10 pm. As he debated drinking coffee or Mountain Dew, he remembered something a classmate said a week or so before. “I popped one pill, and I stayed awake for hours. I was so focused, I finished a week’s worth of assignments in one night.”

The guy had been talking about Ritalin. Darren decided to give him a call and see if he could get some – just this once.

Of course, it wasn’t just once.

A List of Dos and Don’ts

As Darren continued to use Ritalin for extra “boosts,” his tolerance and dependence on the drug increased, along with the side effects. Before long, Darren’s roommate was worried. Patrick could see Darren was spiraling out of control with a Ritalin addiction, but he wasn’t sure what to do.

Patrick asked a counselor for advice and discovered several things he should stop doing – and a few different things he should start doing.

  • Don’t Throw Down the Gavel:
    A couple of times, Patrick had confronted Darren in a very judgmental way about his Ritalin use. He had hoped the shock of condemning Darren might jolt him out of his pattern of abuse. Instead, it only provoked conflict.
  • Do Throw Down the Empathy:
    Instead of judging, Patrick realized he should offer empathy for Darren. He should listen to Darren’s struggles and offer support. Patrick was a fellow student, so he knew the pressures of tests, papers and grades could quickly add up. He should offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.
  • Don’t Remain In The Dark:
    Patrick realized how little he knew about Ritalin and Ritalin addiction. He was going at this blind. He didn’t know what side effects were possible, what his roommate might be going through physically and emotionally, or what the best treatments were.
  • Do Shed Some Light:
    Patrick did a lot of research on Ritalin use and abuse. He learned about addiction and recovery. With greater knowledge, he had a better understanding of his roommate’s Ritalin use and the risks it posed. He knew what signs to look for in case of serious side effects. He also discovered what recovery programs were available in the area.
  • Don’t Enable:
    Once, Darren had asked Patrick if he could borrow a few bucks. Patrick realized later this money bought Patrick’s next round of Ritalin. Another time, Darren asked Patrick to leave their room so Darren could have some quiet to “crash” after a binge on Ritalin. Through his research, Patrick discovered he was “enabling” Darren. The actions he was taking were making Darren “able” to use, or encouraging his use.
  • Do Set Boundaries:
    After realizing he was enabling, Patrick let Darren know he would no longer engage in any activity that promoted his use of Ritalin. Darren was upset the next time Patrick would not spot him three dollars, but Patrick stuck to his resolve.
  • Don’t Stay Quiet:
    Patrick came to realize that stopping the enabling wasn’t enough. He had to speak up about Darren’s Ritalin abuse. Since he cared about his roommate, he had to intervene. In a caring and gentle way, Patrick talked with Darren about the dangers of Ritalin abuse and the consequences of addiction. He pointed out the potential side effects of the drug – Darren had already experienced a number of short-term effects, including loss of appetite, nausea, disturbed sleep patterns and increased heart rate. Patrick wanted Darren to realize he was also at risk for hallucinations, seizures, heart damage, liver damage, brain damage, psychosis and depression. Finally, he suggested that Darren seek treatment.
  • Do Intervene:
    His one-on-one conversation with Darren wasn’t enough, so Patrick arranged an intervention. Darren’s friends and family gathered to have a conversation with him; they wanted to share how his Ritalin addiction was affecting their relationships, emphasize the need for treatment and offer options for local treatment programs. Patrick’s efforts finally paid off. After seeing how much his roommate had done to help him over the past few months, and hearing how his addiction was affecting his family, Darren broke. He admitted his Ritalin use was an issue and agreed to enter an addiction treatment program.

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