Ritalin Addiction and Abuse

Ritalin – the brand name for methylphenidate, a stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy – has been used for over 50 years, but has become especially widely prescribed over the last two decades as the number of ADHD diagnoses has soared. Ritalin prescriptions grew by over 50% in the UK between 2007 and 2012, with much of that growth fuelled by the increased use of Ritalin to medicate children proving disruptive and/or inattentive in schools. This association with school-age users has contributed to a misconception that Ritalin is “just for kids”; however, a significant number of adults also use the substance and, unfortunately, a growing proportion of users are experiencing problems with the drug.

Ritalin functions by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain. There are a host of different reasons why Ritalin is abused, including to lose weight, stay awake or boost alertness, as well as to get high. Ritalin also has the potential of becoming a gateway drug into taking other addictive substances. If consumed in higher doses, or through routes such as injecting or snorting, which exacerbate its effects, the risk of addiction increases. If you or a loved one are dealing with Ritalin addiction and abuse, you should speak to an addiction specialist now.

The Various Forms of Ritalin

Ritalin can be found in both pill and liquid form. The liquid form of Ritalin makes it easier for children to ingest, especially when swallowing pills or capsules is a challenge for them. Liquid Ritalin also ensures more accuracy in dosage. Sometimes, your ideal dose may lie somewhere between the available dosage strengths of the pill forms.

Your doctor can recommend the most effective dosage for you, using a liquid extended-release formulation. This formulation usually comes as a powder that can be mixed into a liquid, and is designed to last 12 hours.

Ritalin Addiction and Abuse – What is it?

Physicians generally prescribe Ritalin after ADHD is diagnosed. The effects of Ritalin are quite short, lasting around one to four hours, and include increased sharpness of focus, an enhanced feeling of confidence and well-being, and mild euphoria. These pleasant feelings can lead to the desire for more and more regular consumption, which in turn can cause problems of dependence and, eventually, addiction.

If abusing Ritalin, you might take larger doses to increase the duration of its effects. This sort of abuse can put you at risk of negative side effects, including increased blood pressure, anxiety, suppressed appetite, chest pain, and confusion. If you’re struggling with bipolar disorder or any other mood disorders, abusing the drug may bring out even worse symptoms, including addiction.

What Causes Ritalin Addiction and Abuse

Ritalin’s stimulant effects are a significant reason for its abuse and addiction: Ritalin is commonly used non-therapeutically as a “party drug” to stay awake longer and experience feelings of euphoria. A large number of teenagers or young adults can acquire prescription-only stimulant drugs such as Ritalin without actually having a prescription (either via friends or family, or via media such at the internet). This can result in widespread abuse.

It’s also abused by college students to study and cram for exams because of its reputation for increasing focus. Additionally, Ritalin can be used as a weight loss pill, because of its stimulant effects which lower the appetite and increase energy levels. People using Ritalin in this way often become dependent thanks to their association of the drug with the increased confidence and self-esteem resulting from weight loss.

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How Addiction Develops

Addiction to prescription drugs can progress, sometimes rapidly, from occasional use to abuse and addiction. Initially, these drugs are often used out of curiosity, to relax or feel high, alongside their medical purposes. However, a substance-use problem can develop if the drug is consumed to excess, and/or if untreated behavioural problems or psychiatric conditions are already present. With teens or young adults, addiction and problems related to use can develop if experimentation begins before the age of 15.

Usually, a tell-tale sign that addiction is forming is continuing to use Ritalin even though there is a desire to stop or if your doctor has determined that the drug is no longer necessary. If you notice that there are serious negative consequences related to your Ritalin use, but still find it hard to quit, an addiction has likely developed. Some of these consequences may include strained relationships or spending large amounts of money to buy the drug.

How Ritalin Addiction and Abuse Affect the Brain and Body

Recreational or severe use of Ritalin, especially through injection or snorting, can put a heavy strain on your brain and body. If ingested in a way other than recommended, Ritalin can produce effects similar to cocaine. Grinding up Ritalin for injection or inhalation helps the drug get absorbed more quickly into your body. This increases its potency and can result in dangerous effects such as altered heart rate, raised or lowered blood pressure, and respiratory depression.

Like other stimulants, Ritalin raises the level of dopamine received by the neuron receptors in the brain. The naturally occurring brain chemical dopamine is produced for the stimulation of the brain’s reward system. This system reinforces behaviour that boosts dopamine production. Therefore, if you abuse Ritalin, there is a higher amount of dopamine reaching your brain receptors, especially when you’re not taking it as a treatment for ADHD.

Signs, Symptoms, and Effects of Ritalin Abuse and Addiction

If you think that you or your loved one might have a problem with Ritalin abuse and addiction, it can be helpful to know the signs, effects, and symptoms, so you can watch out for them. Some of the symptoms and signs that can occur with Ritalin abuse and addiction include:

  • Fatigue
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Pupil dilation
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness/feeling faint
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired vision
  • Depression
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Paranoia
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Violent tendencies
  • Repetitive actions
  • Grandiosity

If you notice any of these in your loved one, you should take immediate steps to get more information about available treatment options.

Short-Term Effects of Ritalin on the Body

Like other stimulants, Ritalin initially produces certain “desired” effects, such as increased alertness and energy, and suppressed appetite. However, this amphetamine-like substance also causes undesired effects such as increased heart-rate, insomnia, and loss of appetite (when the person is not intending to lose weight). Additional short-term effects of Ritalin on the body include dilation of pupils, increased blood pressure and body temperature, disturbed sleep patterns, hyper-excitability, panic, convulsions and seizures. Death can also occur in some cases, from extremely high doses.

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Long-Term Effects of Using Ritalin

The long-term effects of using Ritalin may include: destruction of tissues in the nose (if sniffed), infectious diseases and abscesses (if injected), respiratory (breathing) problems (if smoked), strong physical and psychological dependence, malnutrition, weight loss, liver, kidney and lung damage, and exhaustion.

Permanent damage to blood vessels in the heart and brain can also occur, including high blood pressure leading to strokes, heart attacks or death. Using Ritalin for a prolonged period can also lead to apathy, confusion, disorientation, depression, and psychosis. There is also the possibility of damage to the brain, including strokes or epilepsy.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Ritalin Abuse and Addiction

Lack of energy or fatigue is a physical symptom of Ritalin abuse and addiction. Ritalin causes fatigue, and it is one of the main signs of Ritalin withdrawal after addiction has developed. After you’ve abused Ritalin for an extended period of time, your body gets used to the drug. Attempting to lower or discontinue use can lead to fatigue as your body tries to adjust.

Sleep disorders also occur with Ritalin abuse and addiction. One of the functions of Ritalin is to regulate sleep. Abusing the drug can therefore cause disturbances in your sleep cycle. Heavy and prolonged use leads to less sleep, and quitting the medication can provoke major sleep issues.

Psychological signs and symptoms of Ritalin Abuse and Addiction

Ritalin abuse and addiction can also be identified by certain psychological signs and symptoms. These can include:

  • Irritability
  • Periods of unusual agitation or hyperactivity
  • Sudden mood swings or angry outbursts
  • Appearing paranoid, anxious or fearful
  • Appearing lethargic or “spaced out”
  • Lack of motivation
  • Unexplained change in attitude or personality

Signs of Ritalin Withdrawal and Overdose

Ritalin withdrawal and overdose are potentially dangerous side effects that can occur when Ritalin is abused. The signs range from moderate to severe, depending on the dosage consumed and if it has been abused with other drugs. This signs may include: irritability, agitation, sweating, palpitations, vomiting, tremors, confusion, dry mouth and nose, muscle twitching, seizure and hallucinations.

The signs experienced during Ritalin withdrawal and overdose may be more severe if the drug is taken in extremely large doses. In addition, they typically occur in a progression, beginning with irritability, agitation and restlessness, and advancing to more intense physical symptoms such as heart palpitations and convulsions.

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The Social Impact of Ritalin

Ritalin addiction has far-reaching consequences for family, friends, employers, and other people related in some way to the addict. If you suffer from Ritalin addiction, the effects of this can negatively impact on your home/family life, marriage/relationships, employment, education, personality, and so on.

Also, it’s difficult for young adults or teens to overcome the temptation to abuse drugs. Addiction therefore occurs more quickly in such individuals. If you’re a parent who suspects that your child has become addicted, you may be able to tell for sure by identifying different social and behavioural changes. These include anti-social or erratic behaviour, reports of violence from the school, or unexplained absences from school.

Coping with Withdrawal

Ritalin is a central nervous stimulant which alters and improves your mood and physical well-being. However, when you stop taking the drug, your brain and body can react with withdrawal symptoms. Some of the symptoms include: agitation, irritability, lack of focus, severe anxiety, depression, insomnia and so on. These symptoms can be uncomfortable, but there are different ways of coping with Ritalin withdrawal.

During withdrawal, you should do whatever you can to get plenty of sleep. Your sleep schedule may be strange as a result of insomnia or hypersomnia during the process. Therefore, even if you can’t sleep, try to rest. Spend some time with your eyes closed in a dimly-lit room. You can also attend therapy treatment. Most treatment centres offer different therapy types and support groups designed to help you during withdrawal.

How to treat Ritalin withdrawal

While Ritalin withdrawal is not usually life-threatening, suddenly quitting the drug can lead to stroke or heart complications. Ritalin withdrawal can last from three days to one week; and can be difficult to the point of causing a relapse. The extreme anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide that can occur require proper treatment.

Ritalin withdrawal can be treated in a professional medical setting. This is usually the most successful and comfortable form of detox. Medical professionals in the treatment centre can improve your safety during withdrawal, and wean you off Ritalin with minimal bodily reactions. You can also get the appropriate doses of medication to cope with feelings of discomfort.

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Therapy, Treatment and Rehab for Ritalin Abuse and Addiction

The course of therapy, treatment and rehab for Ritalin abuse will differ depending on when you began to take the drug. If prescribed at a young age, it can be more challenging because of a severe physical and mental dependence on Ritalin. Treatment and rehab will therefore focus on the underlying behaviours causing your substance use.

You don’t have to continue struggling with Ritalin abuse and addiction. If you’re ready to enter rehab for Ritalin, you can call a confidential helpline now to speak to experienced rehab counsellors. They can provide you the best assistance in finding the right treatment program for your recovery.

Ritalin Addiction Rehabilitation and Detox

Detoxification is one of the first steps in treating Ritalin addiction. Withdrawing from stimulants such as Ritalin can be draining. A medically-supervised detox can help to manage your symptoms and ease the withdrawal process. The duration of the detox will vary depending on your bodily system and how severely addicted you are to the drug.

Rehabilitation is the next step in addiction treatment and it addresses your emotional or psychological dependence on the drug. Ritalin addiction rehabilitation includes therapy and group counselling. Skills for relapse prevention are also provided to increase your chance of living without the drug outside the treatment centre.

Aftercare: Staying off Ritalin

After completing your detox and rehabilitation for Ritalin addiction, a comprehensive aftercare plan is essential so that you can remain successful in recovery. You may be required to meet with recovery experts and take part in one-on-one sessions. They may also provide you with quality referrals for any follow-up appointments you need after you leave rehab.

Treatment representatives may contact you after you complete your inpatient or outpatient program to assist you in seeking and receiving any additional services you require. All the assistance provided in aftercare is designed to help you cope with your day-to-day life in recovery, and ensure you stay off Ritalin.

Individual Counselling

Individual counselling for Ritalin addiction offers a wide range of benefits, including helping you to understand your addiction and the causes of abuse. Individual counselling and personalised treatment planning usually require meeting with your primary counsellor at least once a week.

You’ll be assisted in understanding why you began to abuse Ritalin and how you can avoid going back to it.

You’ll also learn practical relapse prevention skills, how to cope with cravings and how to overcome future temptations to engage in substance abuse.

Support Groups

Overcoming any type of addiction can be challenging, and a Ritalin addiction is no exception. Prolonged use of a stimulant like Ritalin can result in a physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to quit. Withdrawal symptoms including depression and insomnia can be severe and require a professional detox.

However, treating your physical dependence is only one aspect of recovery. Support groups are another essential aspect of addiction recovery and can play a huge role in helping you achieve long-term sobriety. Support groups, in addition to behavioural therapy, have successfully helped countless people overcome their addictions.

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Family therapy

You and your family members can also benefit from family therapy services provided by your treatment centre. Family participation can contribute hugely to the recovery process. Many treatment centres hold weekly family sessions, usually on the weekends to address the effects of addiction as a whole.

Other treatment programs may also include a two-day intensive family program, which includes a combination of family process groups, skill-building and education. The main goal with family therapy is to teach you how to cope with the addiction of a loved one, and learn the dangers of enabling behaviours and how to motivate them to stay committed to the treatment and recovery process.


FAQs

What is Ritalin?

Ritalin is the trade name of methylphenidate, a stimulant drug that can affect the chemicals in the nerves and brain that control hyperactivity and impulse control. It is a prescription drug in the UK.

What is it Used For?

Ritalin has been used by doctors for many years to treat a variety of conditions such as fatigue, depression syndrome, and narcolepsy. Ritalin is also prescribed as a treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Who Becomes Addicted to Ritalin?

Ritalin is often abused by students, professionals and athletes as a way to boost productivity or simply to feel high. Some students with a Ritalin prescription sell or give out their medication to other students. The drug enters the brain and changes how it works, and these changes can lead to addiction, especially when the risk factors for addiction are present.

What are Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms?

If you’re struggling with Ritalin addiction and abuse, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug. These can include: fatigue, depression, hunger, insomnia or hypersomnia, cravings, vivid dreams or nightmares, and the inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia).

What are the Effects of Ritalin Abuse and Addiction?

Normally, Ritalin’s effects last a few (one to four) hours. If you’re abusing the drug, you can start to experience some negative effects of Ritalin abuse and addiction including: anxiety, confusion, headaches, chest pain, increased blood pressure, hallucinations, suppressed appetite, loneliness, financial problems and loss of family or relationships.

What are the Various Forms of Ritalin?

Ritalin is usually prescribed in tablet form, though it is also available in a liquid stimulant option, which can enable a more precise and individualised dosing.

Can Ritalin be Abused?

Ritalin is a commonly-prescribed stimulant medication which is also commonly abused. The medication can be abused by taking more than the prescribed dosage or using Ritalin without a prescription. Continued abuse of this substance can lead to Ritalin addiction

Ritalin Addiction Symptoms: Can they be Treated?

Entering a drug rehabilitation centre is the ideal course of action to treat Ritalin addiction symptoms. In addition to detoxifying you, rehab centres can help you develop a new and practical plan involving individual and group counselling to help you in your recovery.

How much Ritalin does it take to OD?

Your body can only process a certain amount of Ritalin. Overdosing on Ritalin occurs when more than the amount that can be safely processed is intentionally or unintentionally ingested. Typically, the therapeutic dose of Ritalin is about 20 to 30mg per day and can go up to 60mg per day, in rare cases. Taking a much larger dose than your therapeutic dose can cause you to overdose.

Can you get High on Ritalin?

Using Ritalin in ways other than those recommended can cause a high that is not experienced with the prescribed use of the drug. For instance, snorting Ritalin produces a feeling of euphoria, which mimics that of cocaine.

Where can I Find Help?

If you’re struggling with Ritalin addiction and abuse, help is available at treatment programs for methylphenidate addiction. These programs could be inpatient rehabilitation or outpatient treatment. To find out more about what treatment offers and to choose the best treatment provider for you or a loved one, call a professional addiction specialist.

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