Ritalin’s Addictive Potential
Ritalin – methylphenidate – is an effective medication for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, narcolepsy, and chronic fatigue. It produces its effects by acting directly on the central nervous system, thus increasing or maintaining alertness, combating fatigue, and improving attention in patients.
However, Ritalin is a stimulant drug, classified as Schedule II substance by the Controlled Substance Act. This means that ongoing Ritalin use outside of the prescribed parameters or without a medical reason is very likely to lead to addiction.
But, how can Ritalin addiction be treated? What are the signs of addiction? We cover more here, and invite you to send us your comments and questions via the section at the end of the page. We always strive to answer all our reader’s legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.
What Is Ritalin Addiction?
Ritalin addiction is a medical condition of the brain.
Speaking from a psychological point of view, Ritalin addiction is an uncontrollable urge for the drug even when you don’t want to keep using…and even when it is causing you harm. It’s characterized with a compulsive need for Ritalin, loss of control over usage amounts and frequency, and obsessive thinking about the next dose. Most notably, addiction is marked by strong cravings and inability to stay quit regardless of all the harms it brings to your health, as well as to the social, professional, financial, and legal aspects of your life.
In short, using a potent stimulant drug such as Ritalin can be a slippery slope.
How Ritalin Gets You ‘Hooked’
Ritalin gets you ‘hooked’ because of the way it acts on the brain.
1. Using makes you feel good. When you take the drug, it travels to your brain and blocks the dopamine transporter and norepinephrine transporter. This leads to an increase in the concentrations of the feel-good chemical dopamine, as well as norepinephrine (noradrenaline). This disrupts the normal communication between brain cells in the reward center of the brain, and produces euphoria and pleasure. Soon, taking Ritalin to feel good becomes as important as eating food and drinking water.
2. Quitting makes you feel sick. Another effect that contributes to the strong addictive potential of Ritalin is the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms. This cluster of harsh and uncomfortable effects occur after you’ve been taking the drug chronically for a period of time and have developed dependence on Ritalin. Withdrawal symptoms make quitting Ritalin feel painful. What’s more, they can be resolved by simply taking the drug again and continuing use.
This is how the extreme pleasure of using Ritalin in combination with the extreme discomfort of quitting can get a strong hold of a person…making Ritalin the focal point in their life.
Addiction to Ritalin: What’s it like?
Ritalin addiction can destroy a user’s life, as well as the lives of all who love and care about them. But, who can better tell you about what addiction to Ritalin feels like than someone who’s been on a rollercoaster ride with the drug. Here are two confessions that people suffering from Ritalin addiction shared:
STORY No.1 “So, I tried Ritalin and loved the euphoric feeling it gave me. From that minute on I was hooked. I began to snort up to 200mg a day. Sometimes I would go over this limit. I had to have it the second I woke up. Over the years my tolerance built up and I could not go without the drug for 15-30 minutes without getting irritable and uncomfortable. At this time I was seeing three doctors so I could keep a supply. I was averaging 90 x 20mg tabs in 4-5 days.”
STORY No.2 “I could not handle the depression that ensued. Once Ritalin cleared my system I became so weak and suicidally depressed. I would sit around and cry all of the time. It was total hell. The crazy thing is that I went through this scenario six times. After all these rehabs I could not kick the drug. Nothing seemed to help. I could not handle life without feeling “sped up”.
Addiction Risk and Symptoms
Below is a list of some negative side-effects associated with Ritalin addiction that can be pretty visible in the eyes of family and friends of a person abusing it. They may serve as early warning signs, so pay close attention to symptoms such as:
- Breathing problems
- Chest pain
- Changes in vision
- Irregular heartbeat
- Mood changes
In addition, some of the key signs of Ritalin addiction include:
- Continuing to take Ritalin in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
- Experiencing physical or psychological Ritalin withdrawal symptoms when you cut back or quit use.
- Failing to meet obligations and responsibilities because of Ritalin use.
- Feeling intense urges for Ritalin use.
- Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities due to Ritalin abuse.
- Increasing the dosage amount of Ritalin over a period of time.
- Spending a good deal of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of Ritalin.
- Taking Ritalin in situations that may be unsafe.
- Using Ritalin despite awareness of the problems it is causing in your life.
- Using Ritalin for longer than initially intended.
- Wanting to cut down or quit Ritalin, but not succeeding.
If you find 2 or more of these behaviors to be true for you or someone close to you, it’s best to seek professional help. You can start by discussing your Ritalin habit with your primary doctor, or ask for a referral to a specialist in drug addiction, a licensed drug counselor, or a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Reputable rehab programs offer the best and safest treatment options for addressing your substance use problem. Treatment generally involves two stages: detox, and therapy and counseling.
STAGE #1: Medical Detoxification. During withdrawal, the psychological and emotional pain can be overbearing and drive you to go back to using Ritalin. Detox facilities offer a medically controlled, safe, and drug-free environment where you can detox from Ritalin. As your body gets rid of all traces of the drug, skilled teams of doctors and nurses can motivate you, and administer medications to ease the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.
STAGE #2: Therapy and Counseling. Inpatient and outpatient programs offer a variety of therapeutic and counseling services to help you address the emotional and psychological aspects of drug use. Therapeutic, counseling, and educational sessions take place several hours per day during a typical program day, and include approaches such as:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Contingency Management
- Education on the science of addiction
- The Matrix Model
- Motivational interviewing (MI)
- Psychotherapy sessions (individual, group, couples, and/or family)
- Support group facilitation (12 step, SMART Recovery, etc.)
Ritalin addiction is a serious problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. In fact, the sooner a person receives the needed help, the better their chances of making a full recovery.
If you still have questions regarding stimulant addiction and its treatment, please do not hesitate to send them to us via the section below. We are eager to help you find your road to recovery and we do our best to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries..