What Is Methylphenidate?

Methylphenidate is a generic, prescription drug. It’s available under brand names as well, including Ritalin and Concerta. Methylphenidate is a central nervous system stimulant that is used primarily to treat ADHD in adults and children. It’s also occasionally used to treat narcolepsy. When someone with ADHD takes methylphenidate, they typically have improved impulse control and more control of physical movement, overall. It can help people focus for longer periods of time as well. Despite the therapeutic benefits of methylphenidate, it’s also a common drug of abuse. People abuse methylphenidate for different reasons. Since it affects dopamine, it can create euphoria. People may also abuse it to lose weight or to increase their physical or academic performance.

Symptoms of Methylphenidate Abuse

Symptoms of methylphenidate abuse can include increased talkativeness and sociability, a sense of euphoria, suppressed appetite, and changes in mood or behavior. Symptoms of methylphenidate abuse can also include insomnia, paranoia, nausea, headache or agitation. Methylphenidate abuse is defined as any situation in which the drug is being used outside of prescription guidelines. For example, using someone else’s prescription methylphenidate is considered to be abuse, as well as taking higher doses than prescribed, taking it more often than prescribed, or using it in other ways than prescribed. This can include crushing the tablets in order to snort or inject the drug.

Side Effects of Methylphenidate Abuse

Some of the side effects of methylphenidate abuse can include malnutrition, raised blood pressure, diarrhea, stomach pain, shortness of breath and hallucinations. Methylphenidate can cause cardiac problems even in individuals who are using it as prescribed. The risk of cardiac problems is even higher in people who abuse the drug. Someone who is abusing methylphenidate may have psychological symptoms and side effects such as panic or anxiety, depression or psychotic episodes. Addiction and dependence are side effects of methylphenidate abuse as well. Methylphenidate abuse can give rise to serious or even deadly physical and psychological side effects. The effects of the drug when it’s recreationally abused can be similar to those of cocaine.

Methylphenidate Addiction

Someone who uses methylphenidate as prescribed generally won’t become psychologically addicted to the drug. Someone who abuses the drug in large doses, on the other hand, is at high risk of becoming addicted to this controlled substance. When someone is addicted to methylphenidate, they usually compulsively use it even when there are negative side effects or consequences. Signs of methylphenidate addiction can include trying to stop using the drug unsuccessfully or having the feeling of being unable to function without it. When someone is addicted to methylphenidate, the drug becomes the top priority over other responsibilities, including school, work and relationships. Someone who is addicted to methylphenidate may put themselves in risky situations in order to obtain more of the drug. People may withdraw from other aspects of their lives in order to use the drug. It’s not uncommon for people to be addicted to methylphenidate and other substances simultaneously. Someone addicted to methylphenidate might “doctor shop” in order to obtain multiple prescriptions.

Methylphenidate Long-Term Effects

Even when children with ADHD take methylphenidate, long-term effects are possible. For example, research shows that methylphenidate use during childhood can cause permanent changes and damage to the brain in adulthood. When someone abuses methylphenidate, the long-term risks are even greater. Many of the methylphenidate long-term effects are psychological and can include:

  • Apathy
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations or other symptoms of a psychotic disorder
  • Seizures
  • Anorexia or dangerous weight loss
  • Mania
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Cardiac damage
  • Organ damage

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.