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Ritalin withdrawal treatment: How to treat Ritalin withdrawal

Ritalin (methylphenidate) withdrawal is usually NOT  life threatening. If you’ve been taking a regular Ritalin prescription dosage, most symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal are mild and resolve within a week. But the FDA has not approved medications (yet) for the treatment of Ritalin withdrawal. So how can you find Ritalin withdrawal help? We explore here, and invite your questions about Ritalin withdrawal at the end.

Effects of withdrawal from Ritalin

Stimulants such methylphenidate act in the brain similarly the brain neurotransmitters called monoamines, which include norepinephrine and dopamine. Specifically, stimulants enhance the effects of these chemicals in the brain. But when you stop taking Ritalin, the brain and central nervous system need time to adapt to the lack of regular methylphenidate. Consequently, when you withdraw from Ritalin a few key symptoms manifest. What are these symptoms? When do Ritalin withdrawal symptoms begin?

Withdrawal from Ritalin symptoms

The effects of Ritalin withdrawal vary by person, but can generally be expected to begin 12 to 24 hours after use stops.  How long do Ritalin withdrawal symptoms last?  Symptoms of methylphenidate withdrawal may persist for 1 to 2 weeks, or more.

Withdrawal from Ritalin symptoms seem to be most severe in the initial days following cessation of use, although people using Ritalin as prescribed can expect less intense symptoms than Ritalin addicts or abusers.  Initial depression and feeling anxious are common in the first days of Ritalin withdrawal, with an intense craving for Ritalin sometimes present. When stimulants like methylphenidate are used chronically, withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • aggression
  • depression
  • disturbed sleep patterns
  • dysphoria (a dissatsifaction with life)
  • extreme fatigue
  • paranoia
  • prolonged periods of sleep
  • insomnia
  • sleepiness

How to treat Ritalin withdrawal symptoms

Treatment for withdrawal from prescription stimulants, such as methylphenidate, is not medically life threatening and does not require pharmaceutical intervention. Still, some medications may be used during Ritalin withdrawal to treat symptoms and provide support. These include:

Antidepressants – Used to minimize risk of doing harm to self or others.

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Benadryl – Used for sedation and for effects on possible dermatologic problems (itching and hypersensitivity of the skin).

Drug craving medications – Medicines such as bromocriptine, amantadine may address cravings for Ritalin, but without clear results.

Neuroleptics – This class of drugs can be used if needed to treat psychotic episodes provoked by high doses of methylphenidate.

Additionally, alternative treatments such as acupuncture to the ear may help ease symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal. But in any case, plenty of bed rest and drinking plenty of fluids is indicated as the body adapts to the absence of methylphenidate.

Best way to withdraw from Ritalin

The detoxification process for Ritalin can take a while to complete, with acute detox from Ritalin resolving 3-5 days, while some major symptoms can persist for 1-2 weeks. The first steps in stimulant withdrawal may be to taper the drug dosage and attempt to ease withdrawal symptoms. You MUST ask for your prescribing doctor’s input on this. Gradually reducing methylphenidate dosage over the course of a few weeks can help minimize the severity and intesity of withdrawal symptoms during detox, but requires medical supervision.

Secondly, the best way to withdraw from Ritalin is to be prepared. Educate yourself on pharmaceutical options, as well as home treatments for Ritalin withdrawal. Prepare a list of questions to ask your doctor about withdrawal, and ask if s/he is open to prescribing medications which can help ease symptoms. Seeking referrals for alternative teratments for withdrawal from Ritalin can also help. As much as you can prepare in advance, the better the experience can be.

Finally, line up support during Ritalin withdrawal. Inform family and friends around you of what you’re going through. Schedule regular check-ins with your supervising doctor. Or seek inpatient detox help. Whatever you choose, having support can help you withdraw from Ritalin with confidence.

Ritalin withdrawal treatment questions

Do you still have questions about how to withdraw from Ritalin? Please ask them below. Or if you’ve been through Ritalin withdrawal and have some tips or suggestions to add…we welcome your experiences. We try to respond to all comments personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: Wisconsin Department of Health: Substance Abuse Protacted Withdrawal
NIDA: Prescription drugs: What are the possible consequences of stimulant use and abuse?
NIDA: Prescription drugs: How do stimulants affect the brain and body?
SAMHSA Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 33: Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders, Chapter 5—Medical Aspects of Stimulant Use Disorders

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24 Responses to “Ritalin withdrawal treatment: How to treat Ritalin withdrawal
koen
9:22 pm October 30th, 2013

the strange thing is, that i take methylphenidate by prescription, but that i seem to get these symptoms only while the stuff is still active, or up to a few hours thereafter
furthermore, if i stop taking it, like in a holiday, when i don’t need it, then the first few days after the stop, i get symptoms like positive anxiety, extreme appetite and an improved sleep pattern
methylphenidate only seems to improve my concentration, and not even in all area’s. apart from that, it just has a lot of side-effects, which wear off almost directly when i stop taking it.
this has never really bothered me or my doctor very much, but this article does serve to worry
any ideas?

1:46 pm October 31st, 2013

Hello Koen. Thanks for your question. Like any medication, you’ll need to weight the therapeutic effects against the adverse side effects to decide whether or not it’s the best option for you. Are you being treated for attention difficulties?

koen
2:13 pm October 31st, 2013

yes, i am diagnosed with severe ADD and i cannot have any kind of education without my daily 54 mg, so the therapeutic effects are indeed more important, at least until i have finished said education.
this article merely made me wonder why i have never had any of these negative withdrawal symptoms.
out of said symptoms, i do suffer from disturbed sleep patterns and sometimes mild depression, but only when the methylphenidate is still active, rather than when i stop taking it

1:47 pm November 1st, 2013

Hi Koen. It sounds like methylphenidate is working for you to help manage focus. I’d encourage you to keep a log/journal/calendar report of the symptoms that you experience so that you can track them over time with dosing. This kind of report can be very helpful to a prescribing physician or pharmacist to establish some baseline information, as well as figure out what might be causing problems…and can help you make decisions about use in the future. Best of luck to you!

Dee
11:27 pm February 23rd, 2014

I just detoxed from venlafaxine 2/6 and am still having a few withdrawal side-effects. It was a very bad experience, took 5 months and had to go down to 3mg (from 300mg) before going off to lessen the side-effects. Next I will detox from 20mg x2 day methylphenidate. Any tappering directions/recommendations? And what should I expect during this detox?

vitaliy
8:25 pm April 4th, 2014

Hi i’ve been taking Ritalin 20 mg a day for like 3 and a half month’s and i’ve been experiencing palpitations and laitly started having chest pain on my left side. So i stopped completely cold turkey and i started having headaches sever tiredness {fatigue}. The worst part is the fact i can not think i’m all ways confused like i feel brain dead like never before is that kind of normal for some people. It’s been few day’s that i have been off Ritalin 20 mg now so please help thank you…

11:56 am April 7th, 2014

Hello Vitality. Have you consulted with your prescribing doctor yet? Record your symptoms: timing, severity, duration, type….and schedule a follow up appointment.

Brad h
3:58 am April 30th, 2014

I was prescribed ritalin a few years ago. It was a night and day difference. My productivity increased, I was happier, and my life was worth living again. My prescription is 20mg 3x a day. While I’ve been on ritalin I have gained weight, had several instances of depression and anxiety as well as paranoia. To fight off those feelings, I would just take more ritalin. I can say for sure that I have always ran out of medicine at least a week and a half before I should. There’s been days where I have taken over 180 mg. I’ve known I’ve had a problem for quite a while but I have mentally become dependent on ritalin. It’s my wonder pill. I get stressed out if I have to sit down some where for an hour and I can’t take a pill. My wife and I had a baby three months ago and it put a lot of things into perspective for me. I’m tired of not being able to see well, I’m tired of being so stressed out that I can’t sit down, I’m tired of my muscles cramping up all day long, and I’m tired of being a fat zombie. I’m calling my doctor tomorrow to see what we can do. I’ve been afraid to get off them because I’m convinced I will lose my job if can’t concentrate. But now I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I can find a job that I will be able to do without nonstop stimulants. It’s exciting to think about having a normal life again, but then again that may be the ritalin kicking in. Do y’all know what the scary part is? I’ve been able to sustain this horrible addiction the whole time without a single person noticing it. I prefer to keep it that way too. I will tell my wife of course so she can prepare for the side effects. Life’s too short to be living it the way I have and I’m ready to get better. Has anybody else had this problem? Or is anybody else currently going through this problem? I’d love to hear from anybody that’s got some advice or even words of encouragement. I’ve never been to this site and I don’t know if I will ever be back. Here’s to living life the way God intended!

12:50 pm April 30th, 2014

Hello Brad. You are not alone! In fact, prescription drug use has been known to turn slowly into abuse over the course of years…as in your case. Continue being honest…and it will work out! Take that step of faith and things will get better. You are in my thoughts.

Kat
5:45 am September 23rd, 2014

I recently decided to quit my Ritalin after doing something really really stupid in order to get my fix sooner when I ran out of my prescription (40 mg/day) four days early. That was about a week and a half ago and it’s been HELL. I’m a graduate student and have been taking Ritalin for ADHD for almost a decade. Now I can never sit still, I’m always exhausted, always hungry, and have no filter at all it seems for what comes out of my mouth in and out of classes. When I wake up in the morning I just want to stay in bed because I’m terrified to face the day. When will the horror end????!!!?!?!?!?

10:01 am September 26th, 2014

Hi Kat. Congardulations on making the decision to quit. Maybe, you can find the answer to your question in this related article:
http://prescription-drug.addictionblog.org/how-long-does-ritalin-withdrawal-last/

sniff
8:06 am December 21st, 2014

I started using ritalin a few months ago. I would quit not even think about it for weeks. But this last run has been the worst I have been doing avg 120 mg/day and drinking so itvwould convert to ethylphenidate in my system. I started tapering three days ago I wanna be sober for Christmas I only did 40 mg today. I already feel slower in conversation I woke up and was agitated but I knew why, this isnt the first time I have kickef something, benadryl helps especially in getting sleep. I dont have a question per se but today was my last taper I flushed the rest wish me luck.

Laila
2:13 pm September 1st, 2015

My husband has been abusing Ritalin for the past 8 months. He’s been snorting it. His dose going up to 300mg a day. He’s extremely paranoid. And has crazy out of control episodes. He has been taking Prozac along with and some other antipsychotics. But nothing seems to help. They don’t have proper rehabs and the doctors here are unable to fix the issue. Can you tell me what exactly the doctors need to look at in such patients and what course of treatment should he go about. I’m scared that rate he is going he might damage his brain or have cardiac arrest. Husband otherwise is a very intelligent man. And he’s ruining his work and everything because of this issue. Any information would be very helpful. Thanks!
Also if I plan to bring him to the states what place would be best for Ritalin rehabilitation.

11:50 am September 9th, 2015

Hello Laila. I suggest you call the helpline number displayed on our site to get in touch with our trusted addiction treatment professionals who will gladly help you find the proper treatment center and program for your husband’s best recovery.

Eli
6:10 am October 31st, 2015

Hello,I have a problem,my roommate use Ritalin,just something 40mg pre week,so I wanna try it,and because I dumpshit, just by two days,I was taken 240 mg and I couldn’t go sleep.Just tonight I called to ambulance,because my pressure was to high and heartbeat too fast.They give me a pills to normalize it,so I’m ok.But I have a guestion,based on the amount that I take barely in one day cuz I didn’t sleep,how long it’s gonna take get my eyes back to normal and could because of 240mg the danger affect be more aggressive?

4:42 pm November 11th, 2015

Hello Eli. Since Ritalin leaves the body within few days, and you only take it once, than you should be fine very quickly. But, have in mind that every drug affects each person differently, so in future consult your doctor before taking any psychoactive drug.

Virginia
5:13 am November 19th, 2015

My insurance won’t pay for my Ritalin to treat chronic fatigue secondary to MS. So even the generic costs $85 per month. This month I could not afford it. So I have gone without for about 9 days.
I have experienced depression, aggression, anxiety, disturbed sleep, and today I screamed and yelled at a stranger for no good reason. I literally lost complete control of myself and the shame of that moment will haunt me for a while.
It did not occur to me that the lack or Ritalin could have influenced by behavior…but given how out of character it was for me, it only makes sense.
At this point I wonder if i should continue to go without?

11:55 am November 20th, 2015

Hi Virginia. Yes, what you experienced during those 9 days without Ritalin was definitely the process of withdrawal. Unfortunately, I cannot answer whether you should continue your treatment or not. Do you still need the Ritalin to help you manage your health condition? If not, and you feel fine without them, you can tell that to your doctor, so s/he will stop prescribing.

Sarah
1:04 am December 17th, 2015

I’m 64 yrs old and a psychiatrist prescribed Ritalin for me over 16 years ago to help me with ADD. He has since been stripped of his license due to insurance fraud. My internist continued to write prescriptions for me without fully understanding its long term effects. I should’ve stopped taking it about 14 years ago. When I went through menopause, a very ugly time for many women, I became hostile, angry and my behavior became very erratic. I lost my very good job due to hostility towards a co-worker and then a year ago was diagnosed as an adult child of an alcoholic.
My marriage is over because of my erratic behavior, though not helped by my husband having secret girl “friends”. Last week I finally threw the stuff out and have been itching, sleeping a lot and experiencing moments of confusion and anger/hostility. I took one 20 mg. pill on Sunday and created a very difficult situation between myself and a tenant in an apartment that my husband and I own (she was a former girl “friend” who I found him with last December when he lied about his whereabouts). Additionally, I am studying to become a medical coder to support myself after my divorce and the Metadate helped me stay awake, but the side effects overpowered the ability to concentrate on my studies and I spent study time on the internet searching for revenge strategies to get even with my philandering husband and his girl “friends”. I now know more than the average wife about spyware and clone phones, though thanks to a good therapist, chose to spend the money on myself rather than punish myself with knowledge of his infidelity.
My doctor, an internist, joined a mega hospital and is now all about the money. He was once available within a week but is now booked out 3 to 4 months in advance. Welcome to 2015 Healthcare! An internist shouldn’t be prescribing psychiatric medicines. His practice performs a six month prescription review to generate revenue, performed by a physicians assistant who clearly doesn’t understand the side effects of Metadate (generic Ritalin).
My strategy is to exercise daily (my dogs help with that) establish a regular sleeping schedule and continue therapy to work through my numerous issues. I drink coffee and iced tea at night to stay alert and am developing disciplines in lieu of the Metadate. Gotta go study – God bless all of you who have the courage to quit this stuff!

Jayden
12:32 am January 8th, 2016

Please help I snorted Ritalin with my friend and overdosed on it now like 2 weeks later I have really bad anxiety and panic attacks. I’m so scared I think I’m going to die any second please help. My heart is beating rapidly all the time over nothing and I get extreme sensations of fear all the time for no reason. Please help me someone I don’t know how to stop it and I’m scared I’m going to die soon I’m only 17

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
4:01 pm January 8th, 2016

Hi, Jayden. Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 for an assessment of overdose risk, or call 911 ASAP.

Francois
12:02 pm March 12th, 2016

Hi
Due to severe depression I was prescribed methylphenidate 10mgs instant release. The 10mg dosage had no effect, so I increased dosage till I could feel relief from depression. Now I’m in a sticky situation as my tolerance has built up and a dependancy has taken place.
I cannot face life or get out of my bedroom till the methylphenidate has kicked in, as it removes a scary fear that I have for the world it lifts my depression temporarily and relieves my anxiety.
Before it goes to far I need to get off this drug, I’m not adhd and have reached a tolerance that 30 ten mg methylphenidate lasts me 2 days. Fortunately this has not been going on for years, but at most say 3-4 months. Secondly my reason for the use of methylphenidate removed my cocaine cravings and reduced my cocaine use by at least 90 percent. I also use subutex 8mgs as prescribed or when needed as I was addicted to codeine that I obtained from cough syrups. I have been diagnosed with GAD – general anxiety disorder. Lastly my benzodiazepine usage is very high, for example 40mgs alprazolam ( alzam ) would just have a mild calming effect.
I believe that I’m getting caught in a upper and downer combination of substances. I use 50mg Exira a snri for almost over 6 months.
In conclusion I need feed back with my plan of action.
Want to go cold turkey with the methylphenidate as it is just a temporary fix, no long term healing properties as a ssri or snri.
Then I will loose all motivation and depression will probably be sever and anxiety.
I could manage the anxiety with benzo use, but would probably not be any good for the depression and probably increase the severity of the depression, but strangely taking larger benzo amounts give me a type of stimulating effect and gets me motivated, unfortunately high benzo use will cause rebound effects and worsen the anxiety and depression as benzodiazepine usage should on most cases only used for short term use on average for about 2 weeks till the re uptake class of ssri and snri, sari, nassa-mirtazipine. I have tried mood stabalizers and anti epileptic and ant psychotic meds prescribed to me like seroquel and epilem, pregabalin and olanzapine and others I cannot remember, without any positive outcome.
I believe it’s genetic as my mother sufferers with severe depression and ECT therapy did not aid or improve our conditions, as I have also received 6 ECT treatments. ECT- electroconvulsive therapy i.e. Shock treatment.
My treatment resistance depression has caused me to loose my wife and 15month old daughter and financially bruised.
Any feedback would be appreciated, I have been to psychiatrists,psychologists and rehabs.
All I would like is to be normal.
Regards Francois

12:11 pm March 23rd, 2016

Hi Francois. I believe your depression can be a result from the cocaine. You see, our brain always tries to maintain homeostasis, so when you take a dopamine-release-enhancing drugs, it responds by releasing less amounts of dopamine or lowering the number of dopamine receptor molecules. Now that your brain is dopamine-depleted it will need a long time to return back to normal. Speak with your doctor about switching to another medication that may work for you, but also try to boost your dopamine levels naturally.

I don’t recommend quitting cold turkey, but instead you should taper doses down. The other medications you are taking can take care of some of the withdrawal symptoms, but it’s still not safe.

Lola
3:31 pm June 8th, 2016

Hi. Last month, my brother was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin for his condition. His mood and concentration have significantly improved, and he seemed to be doing well in school. Yesterday, he suddenly started becoming irritable and verbally aggressive while on our family trip. Only when we confronted him did he say that he ran out of Ritalin 2 days ago. It sounds consistent with Ritalin withdrawal. We’re all dead-tired while having to deal with him while on vacation, and we can’t get him any meds while we’re here. Any non-pharmacologic ways of dealing with withdrawal? Thank you

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