Ritalin Symptoms and Warning Signs

Ritalin is a brand name medication for the generic drug methylphenidate; it is used to treat conditions such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and narcolepsy. Being a central nervous system depressant, it can produce effects similar to those produced by other stimulant drugs like cocaine or amphetamine.

Although there are benefits when it comes to treating some medical conditions, the high chance of side effects as well as the high potential for abuse has made Ritalin a controlled drug and one that is illegal to have without a prescription.

Ritalin is commonly abused for its stimulant effects, but many individuals also take it to help with weight loss as it curbs appetite. Nevertheless, Ritalin abuse can result in harmful consequences including psychotic tendencies, aggression, and violence.

Even those prescribed Ritalin for a legitimate medical condition are at risk of addiction to their medication.

Other Names for Ritalin

Ritalin is a brand of methylphenidate. Other brands include:

  • Aptensio XR
  • Cotempla XR-ODT
  • Concerta
  • Methylin
  • Metadate CD
  • Quillivant XR
  • Metadate ER
  • Quillichew

Recognising the Common Warning Signs of Ritalin Abuse

As Ritalin is a stimulant drug, one of its effects is increasing alertness, which is why it commonly abused by students, especially when studying for exams or trying to catch up with their work. It is also abused by athletes for the perceived benefits of improved performance.

Most people assume that prescription drugs are completely safe to take. Moreover, if there were a drug that could give you more energy and help you to stay awake, then where’s the harm in taking it? Unfortunately, with drugs such as Ritalin, the potential for abuse and addiction is extremely high and many of those who take this medication without a prescription and advice from a medical professional end up suffering quite substantial negative consequences.

If you are taking Ritalin for purposes other than to treat a specific medical condition, you are guilty of prescription drug abuse. Similarly, if you have been prescribed Ritalin but start taking it other than directed when it was prescribed, you are also abusing your medication. You might be taking higher doses at each interval, taking it more frequently than advised by your doctor, or using it in a different way, such as snorting crushed pills – all of these constitute abuse, as well.

Since this medication causes a rush of pleasure followed by a crash when taken in high doses, there is a temptation to keep going back for more. As you continue taking Ritalin, your tolerance for it will increase, meaning you will keep needing higher doses to achieve the same results. In large doses, however, Ritalin can cause harmful side effects that can include hallucinations and convulsions.

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The Dangers of Ritalin Abuse

As stated above, taking Ritalin in large doses can lead to severe consequences. Hallucinations, headaches, paranoid delusions, and convulsions are not uncommon, but abuse of this medication can even lead to death due to the damage it can cause to the heart muscle.

When taking Ritalin for recreational purposes, you can expect to experience a loss of appetite, an inability to sleep, and a raised heart rate. If the abuse continues, the loss of appetite can lead to severe weight loss and even malnutrition. As the abuse progresses, a massive strain on the heart will ensue due to the increased amount of medication being ingested.

Unfortunately, there are those individuals who believe that they will get more enhanced effects from Ritalin if they dissolve their pills in water and inject them. However, although it may appear as though the pills have completely dissolved in the water, small insoluble fillers are left behind which, when injected into the body, can cause severe damage, particularly to the eyes and the lungs.

In addition to the physical implications of abusing Ritalin, there is also a risk of severe mental health problems. Hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and psychotic episodes are all common occurrences of Ritalin abuse.

Allowing Ritalin use to get out of control can mean suffering problems in other areas of your life as well. For example, you will find it hard to maintain healthy relationships with those you care about and your performance at school or work will suffer.

Recognising a Ritalin Addiction

Any type of substance abuse can progress to addiction if it is allowed to get out of control; with Ritalin, there is a high potential for addiction due to the way this drug affects the brain. Nonetheless, what often happens is that those affected find it difficult to spot the signs in themselves.

It is important to have a good look at how you are using Ritalin and how much control you have over your use to determine how serious your situation is. For example, if you have tried to quit the drug but found that you kept going back for more, it is likely that you are addicted to it.

You might find that your use of Ritalin is getting in the way of everything else in your life. Perhaps you are losing interest in those around you and are spending increasingly more time by yourself under the influence of the drug. You might be neglecting other responsibilities at home or at work. And even if you know that your Ritalin use is causing all these negative problems, you take it anyway. This is because the compulsion to use is so overpowering that you cannot resist.

Another sign of addiction is the presence of withdrawal symptoms whenever you need Ritalin. When the effects wear off, you might start feeling unwell – these are the withdrawal symptoms kicking in. Basically, your body craving the drug it has come to rely on.

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Ritalin Addiction and the Brain

Ritalin affects various parts of the brain, including the pleasure and reward centres. It can cause euphoric feelings by stimulating dopamine receptors. Dopamine is the brain’s natural feel-good chemical which, when released, causes a rush of pleasure.

In high enough doses, Ritalin is also thought to activate the brain’s reward centre, causing the user to want to recreate the feelings of pleasure again and again. It is this that subsequently leads to physical dependence and addiction.

Learn the Immediate Side Effects of Ritalin Abuse

The following are some of the immediate side effects associated with Ritalin abuse:

  • Euphoria
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of coordination
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Nervousness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Irritability
  • Nausea.

Learn the Long-Term Ritalin Abuse Side Effects

Some of the more long-term side effects of using Ritalin include:

  • high blood pressure
  • heart irregularities
  • increased risk of stroke and heart attack
  • weight loss

  • malnutrition
  • psychosis
  • paranoia.

Intervention for a Ritalin Addiction

Whether Ritalin has been prescribed for a loved one or he or she is taking it without a prescription, it is important that you are alert to the signs of possible addiction. As you have ascertained from the information provided throughout this article, Ritalin addiction can cause negative consequences. One of the earliest signs that something is not right though is a change in behaviour, subtle at first but more pronounced as time goes by.

If your loved one is addicted or is close to becoming so, he or she might start to become withdrawn and isolated. You may also notice mood swings where the person is extremely happy one minute but depressed the next. If you are concerned that Ritalin is to blame, it is important to act as soon as possible. The sooner you intervene, the sooner your loved one can get the help he or she needs to get better again.

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Detox and Withdrawal from Ritalin

If you suddenly stop taking Ritalin, you are likely to experience quite a few withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can begin within a few hours of taking the last dose, but while withdrawal can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, it is rarely life-threatening like it could potentially be withdrawing from some other medications or drugs.

That being said, it is probably best to detox in a supervised facility where you will be monitored at all times and your risk of returning to the drug to ease the symptoms will be reduced. Withdrawing at home could cause you to seek out some type of mood-altering substance in a bid to relieve the unpleasant symptoms you are experiencing.

Treatment and Next Steps

While the first step on the road to recovery is to quit the substance that is causing the addiction, the next step is to learn how to make the changes that will enable to you live a substance-free life going forward.

To do this, you will need to complete a programme of rehabilitation in either an inpatient or outpatient facility.

This will give you the opportunity to get to the heart of your problem and develop new positive coping skills that will help you to deal with any temptations and triggers in the future.

Questions about Treatment

Do I have to have a detox?

A. Detox is a naturally occurring process that begins when you stop taking a mood-altering substance. However, whether you detox at home or in a supervised facility is a matter of circumstance and preference.

If your addiction is severe, it might be safer for you to detox under the careful supervision of medical professionals who can make you more comfortable and provide appropriate medication to ease your symptoms. But in answer to the question, you need to detox initially if you want to get better.

What type of treatment programme is best for me?

A. You will have the opportunity to choose between an inpatient and outpatient programme to have your treatment. It can be difficult to decide which type of programme is right for you because you probably do not know what your treatment requirements are until you talk to professional about it.

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a treatment programme though. Apart from the severity of your illness, it will be important to also think about whether you have any family or work commitments that would affect your choice. Furthermore, if you are thinking about an inpatient programme, you will need to consider your budget too as most residential programmes are provided by private clinics and are therefore paid-for.

Your personal preferences will also play a role in your decision. If you are keen to get started right away, you will probably need to choose an inpatient programme as outpatient programmes provided by the NHS or charities tend to have long waiting lists for treatment.

Will I have my own room?

A. Whether you have your own room or not will depend on the clinic where you are having your treatment. Most private clinics have both private and semi-private bedrooms for patients.

Will I get the chance to exercise?

A. Exercise is actually a very important part of the recovery process and you will be encouraged to include it in your daily routine. We know that diet and exercise can play a key role in helping you to stay sober after treatment too, so you will be taught the value of good nutrition and exercise.

You will be provided with a treatment programme that includes both traditional therapies and holistic treatments, which might mean a gentle exercise such as yoga or Tai Chi. It is advisable not to do anything too energetic in the early days while your body is still recovering. However, many private clinics have a gym and access to swimming pools where you can exercise.

How long will I stay at the clinic?

A. The typical inpatient rehab programme runs for about 28 days but may be longer depending on the severity of your addiction and your response to treatment. If you have been abusing more than one substance, it is likely that your needs will be more complex and hence you may require a longer stay.

Most rehab programmes last between 4 and 12 weeks but not usually any longer than this because there is the risk of becoming institutionalised and finding it harder to transition back to normal everyday life after treatment.

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