Is Ritalin addictive?

YES. Ritalin is addictive, especially when used without a prescription. We review what Ritalin is made of and how you get addicted to Ritalin here.

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YES. Ritalin is addictive.

While most Ritalin prescription dosage strengths begin with lower, cautious amounts, Ritalin can provoke dependence in the body and brain.  Ritalin lasts how long?  Ritalin lasts for 3-4 hours in its immediate release form and up to 7-8 hours in its extended release form.  So what makes Ritalin so addictive, and how can you tell if you have a Ritalin addiction or just a physical dependence? We’ll review these questions here. We even invite your questions about Ritalin at the end.

What is Ritalin used for?

Ritalin is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) in both children and adults. However, Ritalin is also abused recreationally for its stimulant effects. In fact, Ritalin can cause feelings of euphoria and getting high on Ritalin is increasingly popular among youth. Plus, Ritalin is used illegally for its performance enhancement qualities. Many college students will use Ritalin and similar medications as a “study aid” to help them avoid sleep or focus on the subject at hand.

What is Ritalin made of?

Ritalin contains methylphenidate, a strong stimulant which is similar to, but not as strong as, methamphetamine. Ritalin comes in several dosages and formulas. There is an immediate release version of Ritalin, a sustained release, and an extended release. Each version of Ritalin releases methylphenidate into the body at different rates and has a different duration of action.

How addictive is Ritalin?

Ritalin is very easy to get addicted to if you’re not taking methylphenidate to treat ADHD. There’s no evidence to suggest that people using Ritalin to treat ADHD normally develop an addiction to their medication. This is true even for people who take Ritalin for many years. Many people with ADHD find it impossible to function without Ritalin, but this isn’t necessarily a sign of addiction so much as a symptom of severe ADHD. Factors which make it easy for some people to develop a Ritalin addiction are:

  • ease of acquiring Ritalin
  • prevalence of Ritalin in schools and on college campuses
  • Ritalin’s illegal diversion history
  • Ritalin dependence vs. addiction

There’s little difference between Ritalin dependence and a high tolerance for Ritalin in the clinical sense. People using Ritalin to treat ADHD don’t develop a tolerance to the therapeutic effects of the drug, and don’t tend to manifest physical dependence in the medical sense of the word. Rather than suffering from withdrawals when they can’t have their medication, people with ADHD merely suffer from the symptoms of the disorder without Ritalin.

However, people who abuse Ritalin to get high, stay focused, or stay awake can easily develop a tolerance and physical dependence on methylphenidate. They may even develop a psychological dependence for methylphenidate and need Ritalin to cope with everyday life, even though they have no medical condition which would cause them to need Ritalin on a daily basis. This psychological factor is what characterizes the difference between physical depedence and addiction to Ritalin.

How do you get addicted to Ritalin?

Ritalin addiction is usually a result of illegal Ritalin abuse. Ritalin addiction is more likely to occur if you take it without a legitimate medical reason, take it in very high doses, or have a previous history of drug and alcohol abuse.

The medication has very different effects on people with ADHD than the rest of the population, serving to help sufferers focus more easily and stay calm and relaxed. They don’t really experience the euphoric or stimulant qualities of Ritalin that makes it so attractive to other people.

Signs of Ritalin addiction

Ritalin addiction involves a strong psychological component of obsessive thinking, or compulsive cravings. If you’re wondering if you have an addiction to Ritalin, ask yourself:

  1. Am I continuing to use Ritalin even though I suffer negative consequences for doing so?
  2. Do I crave Ritalin?
  3. Do I feel the compulsive need to take Ritalin on a regular basis?

Ritalin addiction potential questions

Do you still have questions about Ritalin addiction potential? Please leave them here. We are happy to help answer your questions personally and promptly. If we do not know the answer to your particular question, we will refer you to someone who does.

Reference Sources: Recreational Use of Ritalin on College Campuses
HNHBDAS Fact Sheet: The Misuse of Ritalin
FDA Medication Guide: Ritalin 
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. It looks like you failed to include narcolepsy under “what is ritalin used for”. For someone with a lifelong neurological brain disorder that has been on ritalin for 15+ years I have to say this article doesn’t begin to touch on what it feels like to take 8 pills a day and run out. Or how hard it is to get it, or what life looks like without it. I slept through highschool and most of college. My face and occasionally hands and or knees get paralyzed when I laugh or feel extremely happy. I hallucinate when falling asleep. Ritalin changed my life 15 years ago. Now it dictates my day in 3 hour increments. During a sleep attack I can take 3 10mg pills and still sleep walk and have to pull over and nap driving home. Addicted? I never asked to have narcolepsy and I never asked for a ritalin prescription. What about us? I run out early every month and life stops. I experience withdrawals ontop of narcolpsy without ritalin… And I still have to get up and go to my job because narcolepsy is not a “disability”. I can’t get up, water and clothes on my skin feel disgusting, I cant create lesson plans, can’t control my appetite, fall asleep while teaching and wake up having talked nonesense. Ritalin for me clears my head and allows me to plan, get up, create, drive. Stay awake. Live. But I live like an addict.

  2. I’m hoping that artificial marijuana and it’s not like pot I like heroin I get sick when I drink it up and I’m also suffering from mother issues bipolar and PTSD Haven
    I’m addicted to marijuana I can’t get off of it I get sick when I didn’t thank you David

  3. Hi
    I like of your blog It’s well written and I like too of the typesetting.confortable to the reading….one of the best ones on internet.
    Hey I would like to know what exactly are the similarities between the Ritalin and cocaine.
    Thank you for your attention in answer everybody.

    1. Hello Andreas. Thanks a lot for your kind words. We’re doing our best to keep you informed. 🙂 Both, Ritalin and cocaine, are stimulants that target the dopamine system, and they block the ability of neurons to reabsorb dopamine. According to some studies, Ritalin and cocaine act so much alike that they even compete for the same binding sites on neurons. The main difference is that Ritalin when taken as prescribed, acts much more slowly than cocaine.

  4. Just wondering if Ritalin is not working for some, why don’t you switch and try Adderall. Yes, Adderall can have side effects or addictive potential. However, if you really have ADD or ADHD you need to find what prescription works best for you, to get your life back. Work with your doctors, just like some of the other people have suggested here. If you are just messing around with drugs, then get help and get cleaned up. There is tons of info. on the internet for that as well. For instance, facts about abuse medication is there to help, but you the patient needs to make educated decisions.

  5. It would be good information to explain which neurotransmitters are effected by Ritalin, which is why it causes euphoria, and can be addictive for those not taking it for ADHD.

  6. I think the daytrana patch is maybe a call it off med…I contacted my psychiatrist and like trying to contract edward snowden……heh…..I asked the desk to leave him a message…quote,”I want to quit the adhd meds”. (Signed Melvin. Then what was amusing but maybe a clue…I asked her to write “is that ok?”.
    She thought I asked her the question. ….she sounded comforting and said well yes…it made me smile.
    I am on lisinipril, (can I say this here?) And seroquil, nortriptyline, clonazepam, omeprazole (natually), 2cymbaltas 60 & 30 (for diabetic nerve pain)and 2 statons for high blood cholesterol. …I think ill be ok consulting rearranging these to handle the nervous times attributed to the adhd what i call fitthat pop up in mornings.All other meds hit me too hard in pill form…and now knowing how to abuse this patch…i give up.And i feel ok about it.thanks for feedback and please reply with any tips anyone might have that I might be clueless about. (sorry for the rant)-melvin

  7. Taking as ordered is pretty kosher,so to say. The drug is a beast though, when I ran short I had some mild side effects taking it as told, so some withdrawl symptoms surface, but are common my doctor told me. Then he cocked his head and said…mel? Stop putting that shit in your mouth! ok? I have and the daytrana patch is very beneficial…..the doc should have called me a dipsh**t
    Hell…I do now.

  8. I’ve taken ritalin 30 mg 2 x a day for 10 years for narcolepsy. I dont feel a need to take it, and when i get sick i dont take it, with seemingly no affects, other than that of narcolepsy. Am i addicted?

  9. Thank you Ivana….no confusing your straight simple suggestion….I contacted my doc and told him the positives of daytrana I have gained…then just told him…,”I want MORE”,…not to get more…but to reveal my craving…and weakness..hes a very good man and I have been honest with him since i met him in2003..

  10. Hello Melvin. Why don’t you talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your problem. And, you just can’t trust everything that’s on the internet.

  11. How large of dosage…, how much and how soon will the body become physically addicted…to the daytrana patch taken orally….the first three patches got mangled pretty bad …but some moron online said taking it orally if its not sticking….or mangled from trying to peel the plastic from the patch…..(said it was “just fine) my desire is to take it as it was designed….I’m just scared…it throws quite a rush.
    Scrip-daytrana transdermal patch…10mg. For 9 hours

  12. Hello Rami. Have you tried working with your prescribing doctor to identify possible abuse vs. therapeutic effect? You may need a medical assessment in order to make the distinction. And once identified, you can form a plan together.

  13. I was diagnosed with add in grade 10 but refused to take ritalin because of the side effects it had on me. i started drinking grade 10-11 and smoked weed grade 12 till i was 20-21 . So i skipped school a lot so i would take ritalin to study before the test only, but after quitting weed ( after having panic attacks from heavy use and combing paxil) i started college where i forced myself to take it after i started succeeding i started taking on a daily basis and even abusing it i finished my first year and went to study another subject during this time i was using ritalin daily for work school everything but still had tons of side effects even though i took paxil & elatrolet. when i started automotive engineering i loved it trulley which is important for someone with add and i changed from sr and mg (IS) to LA 40 mg which made it a little easier but still had side effects i’m at my last year know this year i’m taking concerta 54 mg still having side effects i’m out of work but still taking daily my big Q is could have i become addicted to it after taking it daily for such a long time and if yes what do i need to do taper slowly stop?(also the year i switched subjects i went to Canada as a trip and to work and i asked for ritalin there but the walk in clinic gave vyvanse which was wonderful i had 0 side effects and focused way better but when i came back to israel there was no such thing as vyvanse or adderall and i can only get it on an online pharmacy for 500 $ for each month) i have had a hard time with the side effects mostly anxiety, paranoia and depression i’ve cut myself off socially with my g-f and went to an extreme where i started doing oxycontin about 7 months ago to function socially i quit last month got caught my parents who are psychologists) and im back to square one i’ve tried wellbutrin every thing please i really need help i’m afraid to do something stupid like the oxy because i focus and do so well in school and work which i’ve never been able to do in my life before but at the same time after school or work its like my life is over i just want to run home and avoid everything working out help a little but its not the solution any ideas ?

  14. Hello Sharon. It’s possible that 10 mg is the appropriate therapeutic dose for you, but you’ll need your prescribing doctor to authorize the increase before starting to normalize this dose. I’d suggest that you schedule an appointment ASAP and discuss the differences with her/him immediately, so that you can get the medical advice that you need on this issue.

  15. I have taken 5mg of Ritalin per day for several years to help with the fatigue of MS. I’ve been careful not to take more, but in certain situations take an additional 5 mg later in thd day. I function so much better on 10 mg and am tempted to do this daily. Will it continue to take more and more to attain the level of productivity I would like to have?

  16. Hi again, Jeffrey. Yes.

    A brief search on the following database for the terms “methylphenidate abuse” yields 800+ biomedical literature citations and abstracts, 2000+ free, full text journal articles, and 300+ site search results for the NCBI web and FTP websites :

    I also find this particular article helpful:

    But if you need more references, perhaps a Google scholar search for methylphenidate addiction/abuse would serve to convince.

  17. Unfortunately, the references listed wouldn’t be classified as “research”.

    Have you been able to locate any studies supporting the statement that Ritalin is addictive?

  18. Hi Jeffrey. Thanks for your comment. Please refer to the “Reference Sources” section at the end of the article for information which supports the content of this article. And while I agree with your last statement, “It is unnecessary to shoot down every single drug or medication”, I do think it is important to inform people of the risk of possible addiction in psychoactive drugs.

  19. You might really want to cite some studies to support your statements.

    Statements like causing “euphoria” or becomes “addictive” in normal use need support.

    The more specific and accurate your blog is the greater your voice will be respected.

    It is unnecessary to shoot down every single drug or medication. Strike at the ones that deserve it (and there are many).

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