Ritalin Addiction, Symptoms and Treatment Information

Ritalin is a central nervous stimulant, similar in its effects to amphetamines like speed. It comes in pill form and is medicinally used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. It is available in both sustained release and extended release forms. Ritalin has been demonstrated to be effective in treating ADHD in children and teens, unfortunately, it also has a high potential for abuse.

A person suffering from ADHD cannot function the way other people do. Their brains are not wired properly and they become inundated with an abundance of information they can not process. This makes communication with others difficult and sometimes impossible. Because they can not communicate normally, holding down a job and focusing on a task is not achievable. Ritalin, although a stimulant, helps those with ADHD focus and ignore extraneous signals in the brain. People who have ADHD do not feel the effects of Ritalin in the same way as most people.

Ritalin increases concentration and alertness. It is known as an upper because it produces a feeling of high energy which allows users to be more productive. It is commonly abused by professionals who work long hours, students, and athletes. The effects of Ritalin are typically felt quickly and last for up to four hours. In higher doses, this length of time is increased and its effects are felt more strongly. When Ritalin is abused in these high doses, negative side effects are more prominent. These side effects include loss of appetite, anxiety, chest pain, hypertension, confusion, nausea and vomiting, seizures, hallucinations, and headache. Because Ritalin is a stimulant, like cocaine, it affects the heart prominently. In high doses, a person’s heart rate goes up dramatically, increasing the risk of irregular heartbeat. If a person has an undiagnosed heart issue, just one instance of using a high dose of Ritalin can cause significant issues and even death. Ritalin users who suffer from mood disorders, like bipolar disease, may experience worse symptoms of their disorder because Ritalin can heighten these effects.

Like most stimulants, Ritalin increase levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, like dopamine. Dopamine is part of the pleasure center of the brain and in higher amounts than normal, it produces a feeling of euphoria. For users who do not have ADHD and take Ritalin for other reasons, this effect is felt stronger than when it is used correctly. Over time, more and more of the drug is needed in order to feel the same effects and tolerance occurs. With chronic use, the brain stops producing dopamine on its own and the user needs Ritalin in order to function normally.

Long-term users of Ritalin may experience additional side effects like grandiosity, OCD-like behavior, paranoia, auditory hallucinations, and violent tendencies. When Ritalin is stopped suddenly among chronic users, withdrawal symptoms occur. These symptoms include severe depression and fatigue.

Addiction to Ritalin is apparent when users continue to abuse the drug even though they want to stop. Ritalin abuse can put a strain on social relationships due to erratic behavior. When obtained without a prescription, Ritalin can be expensive. Users who become addicted find themselves spending more and more money on the drug but may not be able to quit on their own despite financial hardships.

Treatment for Ritalin addiction can vary from person to person depending on different factors. How long a person has been using the drug, how often they have been taking it, when they began taking it, and why they felt the need for it all affect how the addiction is treated. Ritalin is typically started during the teen and young adult years. Unfortunately, the younger a person is when they begin abusing Ritalin, the more complicated it can be to quit. This is because the user has only learned how to do things like study or play sports while under the influence of Ritalin. During treatment, the user will need to relearn how to accomplish tasks while sober.

Ritalin users typically develop an addiction because they felt they needed the drug in order to excel at a task. During recovery, the underlying issues that led the individual to seek out the drug must be addressed in order to avoid relapse.

Safely detoxing from Ritalin should occur in an inpatient drug rehab facility. The withdrawal symptoms can range from discomfort to severe depression. Trained drug addiction professionals can monitor and supervise patients during detox to ensure their safety. Medications may be prescribed to alleviate withdrawal symptoms like sleep aids, anti-anxiety medications or Clonidine. Because Ritalin users tend to skip out on most meals, nutritional support may be necessary during detox to return the user to optimal health.

Newer research suggests that instead of halting the use of Ritalin abruptly and going through detox, a tapering schedule may be more effective. With a tapering method, a physician’s determines how much Ritalin has been used on a daily basis and drops the dose a small amount at a time. The tapering schedule not only depends on how much a person has been taking every day, but also for how long they have been using Ritalin. These factors will determine how long the tapering schedule should be. Some individuals will be able to taper completely within a few days, while others may need weeks to fully complete the schedule.

Therapy is very important to treat Ritalin addiction. Any underlying mental health issues must be treated during the recovery process to prevent relapse. Learning new coping strategies and helping patients form attainable goals in their lives are also important. Individual counseling sessions are often used to help patients understand the reasons why they began abusing Ritalin and how they can avoid relapsing in the future. Group therapy is particularly useful in treating Ritalin addiction due to the young age at which it typically occurs. Group therapy sessions with their peers can help patients talk through their experiences with others who have similar stories.

12 step groups like narcotics anonymous can also be helpful in preventing relapse. Groups with specific age groups in mind should be sought out so that the recovering addict feels as though they are among similar people.

Addiction to Ritalin can be overcome with proper support and compassion from family members and friends. Learning how to achieve important goals without the influence of the drug is an important step in recovery.

Further Reading:

Ritalin Side Effects
Is Ritalin Addictive?