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Ritalin long term effects

Ritalin’s negative side effects

Ritalin (methylphenidate) is an amphetamine-like substance. It is a stimulant that can affect the body like speed. Those who use Ritalin recreationally or use it in larger doses, especially through injection or snorting, put a great strain on their body and brain. Conversely, when used as medically indicated, its effects are beneficial for individuals.

What are the long term consequences of chronic Ritalin abuse? Is addiction a possible outcome of prolonged and repetitive misuse? We discuss the possible negative long term effects of Ritalin and invite your questions at the end.

Long term effects of Ritalin use

The effectiveness of Ritalin for long-term use (more than 2 weeks of daily dosing) has not been systematically evaluated in controlled trials. Therefore, the physicians who decide to prescribe Ritalin for extended periods should periodically re-evaluate the long-term usefulness of the drug for individual patients.

Long term effects of Ritalin on the brain

All stimulants like Ritalin work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain; dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, movement, and attention. The therapeutic effect of stimulants is achieved by slow and steady increases of dopamine, which are similar to the way dopamine is naturally produced in the brain. This is why the doses prescribed by physicians start low and increase gradually until a therapeutic effect is reached.

When taken in doses and via routes other than those prescribed, Ritalin can increase dopamine in a rapid and highly amplified manner like other drugs of abuse such as methamphetamine. In this way, it disrupts normal communication between brain cells. So when taken other than prescribed, Ritalin can produce euphoria and, as a result, increase the risk of addiction.

Prolonged use of Ritalin can lead to a number of side effects, such as:

  • damage to the brain including strokes and possibly epilepsy
  • dizziness
  • excessive tiredness
  • headache
  • permanent damage to blood vessels in the brain
  • slurred or difficult speech

Long term effects of Ritalin on the body

Ritalin does not only affect the brain, but the whole body. Effects on the body from long term Ritalin use may include:

  • motor and/or verbal tics
  • muscle tightness
  • numbness, burning, or tingling in the hands or feet
  • numbness, pain, or sensitivity to temperature in the fingers or toes
  • seizures
  • uncontrollable movement of a part of the body
  • weakness or numbness of arms or legs

Long term effects of Ritalin abuse

Ritalin suppresses appetite, promotes wakefulness, and increases focus and attention. For this reason, prescription stimulants such as Ritalin can be abused for purposes of weight loss or performance enhancement. In fact, Ritalin is commonly abuse to help study or boost grades in school. But studies have found that the medication does not significantly enhance learning or thinking ability when taken by people who do not actually have ADHD. Also, research has shown that students who abuse prescription stimulants actually have lower GPAs in high school and college than those who don’t.

Another reason why people abuse Ritalin for recreational purposes to get high is due to its ability to produce euphoria. Euphoria from stimulants is generally produced when pills are crushed and then snorted or mixed with water and injected.

Long term effects of Ritalin addiction

The long term consequences of Ritalin addiction are not too different from the negative effects of other substance use problems. Obtaining Ritalin illegally and using it chronically and for a longer period of time can pose a risk to your:

  • health state
  • financial stability
  • studies and career path
  • social relationships (family, friends, loved ones…)
  • criminal record

Patients who use Ritalin for legitimate medical reasons experience lower addiction potential. While they may not be facing the risk of developing addiction as quickly as people who abuse it, addiction is still a possibility.

“Studies to date suggest that prescribed use of Ritalin (methylphenidate) in patients with ADHD does not increase their risk for subsequent addiction. However, non-medical use can lead to addiction as well as a variety of other health consequences,” says NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow.

Can Ritalin long term effects damage you permanently?

There is no body of evidence available from controlled trials to indicate how long an ADHD patient should be treated with Ritalin. It is generally agreed, however, that pharmacological treatment of ADHD may be needed for extended periods, and for as long as there is a legitimate need. One general rule is that Ritalin can be useful for as long as the benefits of the medication outweigh the potential risks.

Long term effects of Ritalin on a fetus

There is not enough data on the use of ADHD medications in pregnancy to make a clear statement about their safety and possible effects on the fetus. Available evidence for amphetamines suggest no increased risk of malformations with use of therapeutic doses, and inadvertent exposure during pregnancy is unlikely to be harmful. Exposed infants, however, might have slightly lower birth weights. The clinical relevance of this is still unclear.

Long term Ritalin questions

Do you still have questions about the long term effects of Ritalin treatment? Please post them in the designated section at the end. We try to answer all relevant inquiries personally and promptly. In case we don’t know the answer to your question we will gladly refer you to professionals who can help.

Reference Sources: MedlinePlus: Methylphenidate
NCBI: Long-term effects of methylphenidate on neural networks associated with executive attention in children with ADHD: results from a longitudinal functional MRI study
FDA: Ritalin
FDA: Ritalin facts
OASES NY: Addiction Medicine – Ritalin
Brookhaven National Laboratory: How Ritalin Works
Department of Justice: Ritalin fast facts
NIH: Stimulant ADHD Medications – Methylphenidate and Amphetamines
NIH: NIDA Study Shows That Methylphenidate (Ritalin) Causes Neuronal Changes in Brain Reward Areas
Leave a reply

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

My son is 8 years old, I had him on Retolin because of his attention deficiency. I have not given him for the last 2 months (he was on school holiday) and he seem to be moody and depressed now than when he was taking it. Could it be the long term effects of the drug, will he get better when he is back on it?
Lydia @ Addiction Blog
Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Hi Phambili. I suggest that you consult with a doctor about your concerns.
Saturday, October 28th, 2017

Phambili, speaking as a mother of a an 8 yr old with severe ADHD and borderline ODD I can say that it is very important to keep your child on a regular schedule with ADHD meds. Going on and off of them can really mess a kid up and have severe mood side effects. Don’t experiment with these on a young kid, just follow the Rx or talk to the dr if you think an adjustment is needed