Ritalin addiction: what is it and how is it treated?
When we go to the doctor, we do so because we want to get better.
Whether it’s a cold, a sports injury, or even a psychological disorder, we don’t normally expect that a doctor’s prescription could end up doing more harm to us than good.
You see, most medications are intended to be used in a certain way, and if they are misused, the risk of addiction may be present. This is especially true with medications used to treat ADHD. In this article, we’ll highlight one of these medications: Ritalin.
What is Ritalin?
Ritalin is a medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Ritalin is a specific brand name for methylphenidate, a central nervous stimulant. Is it a Schedule II controlled substance. Other forms of methylphenidate besides Ritalin include Concerta, Methylin, and Metadate.
When Ritalin was first marketed in 1957, it was used to treat chronic fatigue, depression, psychosis, and to offset the sedating effects of other medications. In the 1960s, it was used to combat the effects of barbiturate overdose.
Additionally, it was sold in combination with hormones and vitamins as a drug called Ritonic used to improve mood and maintain vitality. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, the use of Ritalin and other stimulants to treat ADHD steadily increased in the 1970s, and by the 1990s, Ritalin sales in the U.S. increased 500 percent. The United Nations also reports that the U.S. makes and consumes as much as 85 percent of the world’s population of Ritalin.
Ritalin in the body
Ritalin can come in 5, 10, and 20 mg tablets intended for oral ingestion. People who misuse Ritalin often crush the tablets into a powder and snort it. They can also dissolve it in water and inject it. Just like other stimulants Ritalin increases the presence of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and important to reinforcing behavior. Drugs like Ritalin and cocaine block the transporters that reuptake dopamine into the neuron that released it. This allows more dopamine to reach receptors, which increases attention signaling. This means people with ADHD then focus because they may have more dopamine transporters than others. When taken by mouth, Ritalin slowly raises dopamine levels over the course of an hour or so.
Short-term side effects of Ritalin
The short-term effects of using Ritalin are similar to those of amphetamines. As a Schedule II drug, Ritalin has a high potential for abuse. When injected it can produce feelings of euphoria. The DEA has reported that adolescents who are prescribed Ritalin may give or sell it to their classmates. Low doses of Ritalin use include effects such as:
- Appetite suppression.
- Heightened alertness.
- Skin rash.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Impairment of voluntary movement.
Using high doses of Ritalin can cause:
- Exhilaration and excitation.
- Muscle twitching.
- Dry mouth.
- Anxiety and restlessness.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Excessive repetition of movements and meaningless tasks.
- Sensation of bugs or worms crawling under the skin.
Long-term side effects of Ritalin
If Ritalin is used as prescribed, users do not generally develop a tolerance to its therapeutic effects, but people who misuse Ritalin can develop a tolerance to the effects.
Chronic, frequent use can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can include exhaustion, severe depression, panic, and physical and psychological cravings for the drug. Symptoms of a Ritalin overdose include vomiting, agitation, confusion, sweating, flushing, muscle twitching, seizures, hallucinations, and loss of consciousness.
Ritalin addiction and treatment
If you’re taking Ritalin for a medical condition as the doctor has prescribed it, there is no evidence so far that taking Ritalin at a young age will put you at a higher risk for a substance use disorder later in life. However, liking the effects of the drug can keep you psychologically addicted. You may chase the “high” after it’s gone, whether it’s with more Ritalin or another drug.
Prescription drug addiction is real and can be treated. Your life doesn’t have to be ruled by Ritalin or any other substance. Addiction treatment can help you detox from harmful substances, interact and connect in group therapy and one-on-one therapy, and teach you the coping and life skills you need to move on with your life in a healthy manner. You do not have to do it alone; treatment can help. Freedom is within your reach. Sobriety can give it to you.