Side Effects of Ritalin Misuse


Updated July 18, 2023

Side Effects of Ritalin Misuse

Methylphenidate, more commonly known as Ritalin, is a stimulant used to increase concentration and productivity. Doctors prescribe Ritalin to help people with conditions like ADHD and narcolepsy stay more alert and focused. When taken as prescribed, Ritalin is safe and helpful for treating these conditions. However, Ritalin is a stimulant with a high potential for abuse.

Since the 1990s, the number of Ritalin prescriptions has increased significantly. In 2020 there were an estimated 15,449350 methylphenidate prescriptions dispensed in the United States. Due to its prevalence, Ritalin is easy to access for people with and without a prescription.

If you're struggling with a substance abuse problem, you're not alone. In the U.S., 9% of adults misuse prescription stimulants like Ritalin. Recovery is possible when you choose wellness with medical detoxification and rehabilitation. This guide will explain how Ritalin addiction starts and how it can end with Diamond House Detox.

What Is Ritalin and Its Uses?

Central nervous system stimulants boost specific brain chemicals, causing users to feel more energetic, attentive and alert. Ritalin is the brand name of methylphenidate, a CNS stimulant most commonly used to treat ADHD. It allows people with this condition to calm their bodies, focus their minds and lead more productive lives.

Doctors occasionally prescribe Ritalin to treat narcolepsy as well. People with narcolepsy struggle with extreme drowsiness and sudden sleep attacks. Taking Ritalin helps stimulate their brains, so they feel less tired and more alert throughout the day.

Methylphenidate starts working in about 20 to 30 minutes and typically wears off within three to five hours. The long-acting version lasts up to eight hours. When people take Ritalin as prescribed with medical supervision, it's generally safe. However, the risk of addiction significantly increases with Ritalin misuse.

How Does Ritalin Addiction Develop?

High doses of Ritalin rapidly increase the level of dopamine in the brain, which makes people feel happier and more motivated. For people with ADHD, Ritalin creates a sense of relaxation and focus. People without ADHD who take Ritalin often feel enthusiastic and highly energetic. Hardworking students, professionals and athletes with and without a prescription will misuse Ritalin to achieve this intense concentration.

In 2021, 3.7 million U.S. adults misused prescription stimulants. Ritalin use is especially prevalent on college campuses, with a reported 2.4% of students using the drug. Feeling tired and stressed by life's challenges, they take Ritalin as a "study drug" to help them achieve higher productivity. Unfortunately, what starts as an occasional boost during late-night study sessions can quickly transform into Ritalin addiction.

Over time, misuse of the medication leads to Ritalin dependence. People rely on the surge of dopamine to prevent withdrawal symptoms of restlessness, depression and fatigue. As their tolerance grows, they need increasingly higher doses to achieve the same desired effects. Some users also snort, inject and mix Ritalin with other drugs, leading to life-threatening substance abuse issues.

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Ritalin

Ritalin side effects will vary depending on how much you take, your existing health conditions and whether you take other medications. When taken correctly, methylphenidate causes minimal, easy-to-manage side effects. However, Ritalin misuse from people with and without a prescription can cause dangerous reactions. CNS stimulants affect your brain, sometimes causing worse symptoms for people with mood disorders. It's critical to speak with a medical professional before starting any medication, especially stimulants that can cause intense harmful side effects.

Misusing Ritalin can cause the following short-term side effects:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Increased heart rate
  • Unhealthy blood pressure

With prolonged use, Ritalin long-term side effects include:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Delusions
  • Seizures
  • Panic attacks
  • Manic episodes
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

Risk of Ritalin Overdose

Taking excess amounts of methylphenidate places significant strain on your body. Overdose is a constant risk of stimulant abuse. An overdose occurs when someone takes more drugs than their body can handle or flush out. This phenomenon is possible with one large dose or several small doses over a short time. How much Ritalin causes an overdose? The answer to this question will vary from one person to another.

Signs of a Ritalin overdose include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Strained breathing
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Restlessness
  • Aggression
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Tremors

Signs of Ritalin Addiction

People often think they can control their substance abuse problem until they have trouble stopping on their own. What started as a means to make life easier has started making everything seem harder. You might find yourself doing whatever it takes to get more Ritalin, sacrificing your relationships, personal values and limited resources.

Recognizing the signs of addiction is the first step toward recovery. Seek help if you or a loved one are engaging in these addictive behaviors:

  • Using Ritalin without a medical need or prescription
  • Taking more Ritalin than prescribed or intended
  • Having a higher tolerance to Ritalin's effects
  • Keeping an extra supply of Ritalin to avoid running out
  • Lying to others about using the drug, or denying the extent of your problem
  • Avoiding socializing with others
  • Losing a substantial amount of weight
  • Working more slowly or getting less done
  • Acting unusually irritable or depressed
  • Needing the medicine to feel "normal"
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you are not taking the drug
  • Trying to stop using Ritalin without success

Treatment for Ritalin Addiction

Recovering from Ritalin addiction is a multi-step process that removes the drug from your system and addresses the underlying problems that may have contributed to your substance use problem. Stimulant recovery can be challenging and even uncomfortable, but with a team of compassionate medical professionals, you can break free of Ritalin addiction.

The first step on the path to recovery is undergoing medical stimulant detoxification for seven to 10 days. At Diamond House Detox, you'll receive medically assisted treatment in the luxurious comfort of our private rooms. Our home-like facilities will help you feel at ease through the rehabilitation process.

You'll also receive a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation to identify any underlying issues that may contribute to your situation. Often, people who struggle with addiction experience another mental illness at the same time. Our comprehensive treatment plans will treat both disorders simultaneously to give clients the best opportunity for success.

Ritalin and Stimulant Detox in Northern California and Sacramento

The journey to recovery is challenging, but with Diamond Home Detox, you'll have the support you need to overcome Ritalin addiction. Our team of experienced medical providers can adjust your medications as necessary for a truly individualized treatment plan. We provide a comfortable environment with private rooms so you can focus on healing. You'll receive assistance from our compassionate staff and fellow residents with support group meetings during and after treatment.

Call Now

We're here to help you conquer addiction with lifesaving Ritalin addiction treatment. Call Diamond House Detox at (800) 205-6107 or contact us online to start your path toward a healthier and happier life.

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on November 19, 2021.

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Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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