Withdrawal from any drug can be one of the primary obstacles to treatment and recovery. Withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and can even lead to severe health complications. Withdrawal occurs because the brain and body have become dependent upon the presence of a drug after repeated exposure.
Dependence occurs relatively quickly with recreational methylphenidate abuse. People develop a tolerance quickly when they abuse the drug, meaning that they need increasingly higher doses to get the desired effects that they’re seeking. When someone is dependent upon methylphenidate and they stop using it, withdrawal symptoms can be mild or severe. Even when someone uses methylphenidate therapeutically, as prescribed, they’re likely to experience withdrawal when they stop using it. In this case, the prescribing doctor may recommend that they gradually reduce their dosage rather than stopping suddenly or “cold turkey.” Common methylphenidate withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Strange dreams
- Suicidal thoughts
- Panic attacks
- Anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure)
Most of the symptoms of methylphenidate withdrawal are psychological because of how the drug affects the brain. For example, methylphenidate affects dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. When someone is dependent upon methylphenidate, the brain starts to rely on it to produce these neurotransmitters. During withdrawal, the brain is not able to produce or manage these neurotransmitters, which is why symptoms like depression can occur.
The effects of methylphenidate in an immediate-release version can last for anywhere from four to eight hours. An extended-release version of methylphenidate can last for around 12 hours. Withdrawal symptoms can start as soon as a few hours after the effects of the drug wear off. Initially, what people experience is best described as a crash.
Then, following the crash and within the first one to two days after the last dose is taken, actual methylphenidate withdrawal symptoms usually begin. The methylphenidate withdrawal timeline can last for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. The longer someone abused methylphenidate, the longer symptoms are likely to last. The same is true for people who abused the drug in large amounts, regardless of the time period. Some people may experience certain lingering symptoms for several months after they stop using methylphenidate. These longer-lasting symptoms can include depression, changes in mood, as well as insomnia and sleep disturbances.
Symptoms of methylphenidate withdrawal can be managed by gradually lowering the dosage over a period of time. This isn’t something that should be done without medical supervision, however. There are also inpatient and outpatient programs for someone who is going through methylphenidate withdrawal. Choosing whether or not to participate in one of these programs can depend on individual factors, such as the severity of dependence, whether the person is dependent upon other substances, and whether or not there is a likelihood of medical complications stemming from methylphenidate dependence.
When people are dependent upon some drugs, like opioids, a medical professional may prescribe them certain treatments that are FDA-approved specifically for withdrawal. Currently, there aren’t any specific methylphenidate withdrawal medications. Instead, the objective of methylphenidate detox is to manage symptoms as they arise, on a case-by-case basis. Someone who participates in a methylphenidate medical detox receives around-the-clock professional monitoring and assessment for any physical or psychological symptoms that might require medication. It’s important to realize that a medical methylphenidate detox program isn’t the same as addiction treatment. Detox is the process in which a person’s body can eliminate any substances in a comfortable and safe way. Addiction treatment follows detox, after the body is free from the presence of any substances.
Methylphenidate Signs, Symptoms, & Side Effects
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