Is Ritalin Addictive?
Ritalin is another name for methylphenidate, a drug commonly prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is an effective treatment for ADHD, but it is also widely abused. One study by the University of Michigan found that close to six percent of students had abused the drug at some point.
Most users and some abusers take the drug orally; however, abusers may snort or inject it in order to get a faster high.
The Effects of Ritalin
Any drug that can produce feelings of euphoria can potentially cause addiction. In the case of Ritalin, the drug is not considered addictive when it is taken in controlled doses. When taken in high doses, it can produce effects that are similar to those of cocaine. Like cocaine, it is highly addictive.
Ways in Which Ritalin Causes Addiction
Ritalin stimulates production of the brain chemical dopamine just like opiates and cocaine; this effect is why lower doses are effective for treating ADHD. However, dopamine is also associated with feelings of pleasure and this is one of the reasons it is addictive.
Aside from the desire for euphoric feelings, Ritalin is also abused because it is a stimulant and because it suppresses appetite. Reduced appetite is an attractive benefit for individuals who want to lose weight.
The Nature of Ritalin Addiction
The abuse of Ritalin is very similar to the abuse of cocaine. Users can become psychologically dependent on the drug and their bodies can become tolerant of its effects. The result of tolerance is that they need higher doses in order to get the effects they desire. Ritalin addicts may also go through cycles of binging on the drug the way cocaine addicts binge on cocaine. They may stay awake using the drug for days before falling into a deep sleep. They may also have severe panic attacks if the drug is not available.
The Risks of Ritalin Abuse
The fact that Ritalin is prescribed gives some abusers a false sense of security; they see it as being safer than other drugs such as cocaine that are not prescribed. The truth is that Ritalin abuse is not safe. Along with the risk of overdose, abusers who inject the drug may suffer from blocked blood vessels; even when taken orally it can cause stroke and heart disease.
Detoxification and Withdrawal From Ritalin
Withdrawal from Ritalin comes with symptoms such psychosis, agitation and even seizures. Once a user has stopped using the drug, the symptoms of withdrawal typically show up within 12 hours. The symptoms may be present for up to several months after the last dose.
Ritalin Withdrawal Timeline
- First Week
Symptoms at this point may include fatigue and increased appetite.
- Second Week
The patient will experience craving for the drug, and the fatigue from the first week may continue.
- Third and Fourth Week
Depression and anxiety may persist, along with difficulties sleeping. The craving for the drug may diminish, but the reasons behind the addiction will still be present.
Ritalin Drug Therapy
Any long-term treatment for Ritalin addiction will have to deal with the issues that motivated the patient to start abusing the drug. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective for helping people overcome addiction to Ritalin. This type of therapy provides them with the skills to cope with their problems effectively and to avoid the situations that could cause them to start using the drug again. In the effort to ensure long-term abstinence from the drug, treatment may be administered in a residential setting. This kind of environment takes the individual away from the temptations that may be present in their regular lives and places them in a facility where their detoxification and withdrawal can be monitored.
Along with being addictive, Ritalin is widely available. The ease of getting the drug makes treatment more difficult if it is conducted outside of a residential setting. As difficult as it can be to overcome Ritalin addiction, the goal of being ddrug-freeis still attainable as long as the user is committed to getting help.