Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant with similar pharmacological uses to amphetamines and cocaine. Ritalin is mostly available in tablets and capsules to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. However, when people misuse this substance, they can fall on a path that leads to Ritalin addiction.
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What is Ritalin?
Ritalin is the brand name for methylphenidate, a central nervous system stimulant that helps treat ADHD. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has classified it as a Schedule II drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse. It comes in both sustained-release and extended-release compounds. While it’s available in capsule or tablet form, abusers will often crush it to snort or inject.
Ritalin Abuse by the Numbers
There’s no doubt that Ritalin abuse can be life-threatening. Over 16 percent of college students confess to using Ritalin at least once in their lifetime for recreational use. Around 85 percent of the world’s supply of Ritalin is consumed in the United States. Approximately 5.9 million children have an ADHD diagnosis, for which Ritalin is the leading treatment prescription.
Shockingly, Ritalin prescriptions are relatively easy to find. Ritalin is often taken by students who believe it will make them smarter. In fact, 20% percent of teens at Ivy League schools reported misusing prescription stimulants in an attempt to boost their competitive edge.
In addition, a 2016 survey revealed that a surprising 63% of young individuals between 18 and 28 years old acquire their prescription stimulants used to treat ADHD via companions. More than 20% get ahold of them through a family member, almost 20% get them from other students, and less than 15% obtain them through a dealer.
Signs of Ritalin Addiction
If you are unsure if you or a loved one is abusing Ritalin or a similar stimulant, there are certain behavioral signs you can look for to find out. When trying to find out if an adult is abusing Ritalin, look out for the following signs:
- Taking more significant amounts of Ritalin or extending their prescription
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from Ritalin use
- Experiencing cravings or withdrawal symptoms to use Ritalin
- Neglecting home, work, and school responsibilities
- Continuing Ritalin use despite negative consequences
- Developing a tolerance for their initial Ritalin prescription
- Experiencing sudden changes in mood
It is not as easy to identify a teenager who is abusing Ritalin as they do not usually present the same behaviors. However, there are a few things you can look for to find out if a teen is abusing Ritalin or another drug. They may have different paraphernalia such as a hammer or grinder in their room used to crush the pills. So if they are injecting the substance, they may have drug paraphernalia hidden somewhere in their bedroom or car.
In addition to the signs listed above, someone who is abusing Ritalin will likely present several different behavioral and personality changes. Also, they may start to spend time with a new group of friends or have lots of sudden mood swings, increased hunger outside of typical meals, and decreased hygiene.
You may hear them use slang words to describe Ritalin such as rids, vitamin R, smarties, diet coke, and skittles. Additionally, they may avoid making eye contact and start acting in a manipulative way, including making lies and coming up with excuses. Thus, issues in school, work, or other personal responsibilities may arise, as well as unexplained financial changes.
Side Effects of Ritalin Abuse
The effects of Ritalin usually last for between 3-4 hours. However, the half-life of Ritalin varies tremendously. For children, it is approximately 2.5 hours. For adults, it is about 3.5 hours. Depending on how long the user has taken Ritalin, among other factors, the half-life can reach 7.7 hours.
Once people start to misuse their Ritalin prescription, either by increasing their doses, snorting or injecting the drug, they’re likely to suffer adverse side effects, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Chest pain
- Spikes in blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Altered heart rate
- Respiratory depression
- Panic attacks
Side effects will vary depending on the amount of drug someone uses and whether or not they have a diagnosis of ADHD. When someone takes medication without a prescription, side effects are likely to be more significant. Those with mood disorders are likely to experience worse symptoms, often triggering behavioral episodes.
Besides, long-term Ritalin users might experience feelings of grandiosity, OCD-like behavior, violent bursts, and auditory hallucinations.
Ritalin Abuse and Overdose
Someone who is using Ritalin to chase a high is likely going to use higher and higher doses as time goes on. As a result, this type of risky behavior can lead to an overdose. As a stimulant, this drug causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. When overdosing, a heart attack and related symptoms are possible. Additional signs of overdose include severe:
- Muscle pain
Treatment for Ritalin Addiction
Treatment for Ritalin Addiction will vary according to various factors, such as age, the severity of the addiction, and other conditions. Those who started Ritalin use at a young age will have a harder time overcoming their addiction because most of their life has been spent on it.
Beyond a detox program, treatment for Ritalin addiction must look at the underlying behaviors that trigger the addiction in the first place. To help with this, it’s paramount to seek an addiction center that offers a dual diagnosis program that also focuses on a patient’s mental health.
Treatment programs often incorporate behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, to help individuals learn how to manage their ADHD without medication. Often, individuals might need to enroll in a medical detox program to assist with any withdrawal symptoms they might experience.
Depending on the severity of the addiction and each case, individuals might start their recovery at an inpatient program or an intensive outpatient program to get started. These types of addiction programs incorporate individualized therapy sessions, as well as group therapy, to help them find the right path toward recovery.
Seek Substance Abuse Treatment
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug abuse, don’t wait any longer. Countless treatment options can help them conquer their addiction and manage any withdrawal symptoms. Remember, quitting potent drugs like Ritalin alone can be life-threatening. It’s essential to have the support and supervision of drug addiction specialists by your side.
At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we believe in offering customized drug addiction treatment plans. We look at each program on a case-by-case basis to cater to whatever your needs are to get better and walk towards recovery. From detoxification programs to group meetings and more, everyone in our team is committed to helping you win the battle of addiction.