Last Updated: August 4, 2020

As diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have increased, so too have prescriptions intended to treat the condition. This has unfortunately contributed to Ritalin addiction among several populations. Also known by the generic name methylphenidate, Ritalin acts as a stimulant that provides increased focus and attention along with behavioral control.

In addition to treating ADHD, individuals with narcolepsy are also prescribed the drug. Just because Ritalin can be legally obtained, though, doesn’t mean it’s not addictive. As a psychoactive stimulant, it can create feelings of euphoria in those who use it. People also misuse Ritalin to increase their focus for work or school – earning it the nickname “smart drug.” 

Ritalin comes in pill form, but it can also be taken via snorting or injection. This misuse greatly increases the risk of Ritalin addiction. If you or a loved one suffers from this substance abuse disorder, it’s essential to reach out for help now. Continued use can have serious long-term side effects, and in the short-term, misuse can negatively impact every aspect of your life. 

Ritalin Addiction Symptoms

There are many symptoms exhibited when someone is addicted to Ritalin, but it’s important to distinguish between abuse and addiction. Abuse can occur through any improper use of the substance. If you’re taking the drug simply for the high provided, for instance, you’re engaged in abuse. When Ritalin addiction occurs, however, your body has become dependent on the substance. 

One of the most common symptoms of addiction is increased tolerance. This occurs when your body adapts to the level of Ritalin you’re taking and requires more for the same effect. This is why abuse is so dangerous – it’s a slippery slope to addiction. If you’re concerned that you may be addicted to Ritalin, these additional symptoms could also point towards a problem:

  • Taking more of the drug than prescribed. 
  • Using the substance longer than prescribed. 
  • Using for non-prescribed reasons (e.g. weight loss).
  • Previous attempts to cease use have been unsuccessful. 
  • Disruptions at work, home or school due to misuse. 
  • Continued use following these disruptions.
  • Spending large amounts of time obtaining, using or recovering from use.
  • “Doctor shopping” or trying to obtain multiple prescriptions. 
  • Lying to loved ones about the use of Ritalin. 
  • Engaging in risky or illegal acts to obtain the drug. 

These symptoms of Ritalin addiction can occur even with short-term abuse. Those who continue to misuse the drug over the long term, however, can experience even more serious symptoms. These include paranoia, auditory hallucinations, obsessive-compulsive behavior, feelings of grandiosity, and a tendency toward violence. 

Another red flag linked to Ritalin use is the experiencing of withdrawal symptoms when you cease use. This means your brain and body have become adapted to receiving a certain amount of the drug. This developed dependency results in your body expecting similar amounts of the substance. When it suddenly stops receiving the drug, you can go through withdrawal.

If you experience any of the following withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop use, it’s likely you have a Ritalin addiction:

  • Feelings of depression
  • Fatigue and persistent tiredness. 
  • Panic attacks. 
  • Nightmares. 
  • Disrupted sleep patterns. 
  • Grouchy or aggressive behavior. 
  • Exceptional hunger. 
  • Unusually heavy sleeping. 

Ritalin withdrawal is unlikely to result in fatal symptoms, but they are often unpleasant enough to result in relapse. Additionally, the sudden lack of dopamine in the brain can result in dangerous feelings of depression. Therapeutic amounts of the drug should not result in these withdrawal symptoms, so if you’re experiencing them, it’s important to get help. 

At Transformations Treatment Center, we develop treatment plans based on scientific research and best practices to help overcome Ritalin addiction. If you think you or a loved one has developed a substance abuse problem, contact us today for help. 

Ritalin Addiction Signs

One of the symptoms of addiction to Ritalin is lying to loved ones about the problem. If you’re concerned that a friend or family member is abusing the drug, this makes it particularly difficult to know for sure whether misuse is occurring. It’s also problematic that many who are addicted to the substance rationalize its use by saying it’s only to improve their academic or work performance. 

Many of the symptoms of Ritalin addiction aren’t noticeable by anyone except the person using the drug. Fortunately, there are signs of abuse that are more difficult to hide. Some of these red flags could also point towards mental health disorders, but regardless of the underlying problem, they’re evidence that your loved one needs help.

Keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • Weight loss and reduced appetite. 
  • Dilated pupils. 
  • Paranoid behavior. 
  • Aggressive or agitated behavior. 
  • Sudden financial problems. 
  • Withdrawal from family and friends. 
  • Personal, academic or relationship problems.
  • Finding Ritalin hidden around the house. 
  • Unexplained mood changes. 
  • Arrests related to Ritalin use. 
  • Unusual excitability (misuse can mimic cocaine effects).
  • Secretive behavior. 
  • Frequent doctor’s appointments.

 

It’s important to remember that Ritalin addiction can occur even with a valid prescription. These signs should not exist if the medication is being used as prescribed. Some side effects, however, can happen even when misuse isn’t occurring. Irritability, nervousness and trouble sleeping, for instance, are common temporary side effects of regular use. 

If you believe your loved one has moved from prescribed use to addiction, it may be time to have a serious talk with them. Knowing what to say and how to handle these situations can be difficult. This makes it important for you to learn as much as possible about the problem from the start. Use our Family Member Support Guide for direction moving forward. 

Ritalin Addiction Statistics

Compared to other abused drugs, research on the misuse of Ritalin is sparse. The first national survey on ADHD – the most common diagnosis the drug is prescribed for – didn’t even take place until 1997. Fortunately, research into the area has been increasing in recent years due to increased diagnoses and growing misuse of the drug. 

The following Ritalin addiction statistics showcase just how serious this issue has become:

  • Up to 38 percent of college students use Ritalin and other stimulant medications without a prescription. 
  • America has the highest rate of “smart drug” misuse (i.e. 30 percent) in the world. 
  • Between 2015 and 2017, misuse of Ritalin and other smart drugs increased 10 percent.
  • Between 1997 and 2017, the number of children diagnosed with ADHD nearly doubled. 
  • Children who adhered to their prescriptions more than 50 percent of the time were more likely to need antidepressants during adolescence. 
  • Between 2003 and 2015, prescriptions for Ritalin and other ADHD drugs increased over 700 percent for women in their late 20s. 
  • Women between 30 and 34 years old saw a 560 percent increase during that same time. 
  • American produces and consumes about 85 percent of all Ritalin and methylphenidate products in the world. 
  • 12 percent of teens have misused or abused Adderal or Ritalin within their lifetime. 
  • Emergency department visits related to Ritalin and other ADHD stimulants rose from 13,379 to 31,244 in just five years. 

While Ritalin addiction may not be as deadly as other drug problems in America, it still has detrimental effects on those taking it. Even as research consistently shows unnecessarily high prescription rates – especially considering the fact that non-stimulant ADHD treatments exist – the drug is still often seen as a “go-to” treatment. 

The Justice Department has placed Ritalin in the same category as methamphetamine and cocaine, and the United Nations once warned that the risks related to use were not properly conveyed to patients. While the substance certainly has legitimate therapeutic uses, it’s important that those who develop dependency seek help immediately.

Ritalin Addiction Treatment

Whether a person is prescribed Ritalin or takes it recreationally, treatment is often necessary once a dependence on the drug has developed. Attempting to quit “cold turkey” has a high incidence of relapse due to a lack of support and difficulty going through withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to remember that everyone is different, though, so treatment plans will vary. 

Even individuals who go through the process of detoxification will have different experiences. The detox process and all forms of treatment vary depending on several factors. It can even take differing amounts of time for a person’s body to fully expel the substance. The length of detox is often dictated by the following: 

  • How long a person has taken Ritalin. 
  • Average dosage taken by person. 
  • How frequently the drug was taken. 
  • Method of consumption (e.g. ingested, snorted). 
  • Size, gender, and other medical factors. 

It could take up to three weeks for a person’s physical dependency on the drug to subside. Ritalin addiction becomes an even more serious issue, though, since mental dependency can last much longer than its physical counterpart. Once you get through this process, though, you can begin treatment services aimed at preventing relapse and helping get your life back on track. 

Ritalin Addiction Recovery

Just like the detoxification process, treatment plans that deal with addiction to Ritalin need to be custom-tailored to the individual. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another. That’s why Transformations Treatment Center builds custom treatment plans that focus on a holistic approach to recovery. 

A “holistic” approach doesn’t mean a “religious” approach – although you have the option to include religion in recovery – but instead an approach that includes your mind, body, spirit and even family. Providing holistic treatment is far too often overlooked, and this could help explain why relapse rates are so high with certain drugs. 

At Transformations Treatment Center, your Ritalin addiction recovery could include the following:

  • Group or family therapy. 
  • Individual therapy. 
  • Outpatient (OP) or intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment. 
  • Serenity Lounge. 
  • Mental health services. 
  • Partial hospitalization (PHP). 
  • Experiential services.

During treatment and in recovery, focus will also be given to common co-occurring disorders. This is essential since, if an underlying cause of Ritalin addiction isn’t dealt with, the chance of relapse will be high. The professionals at Transformations Treatment Center also stay in contact with those going through recovery to help ensure continued success via aftercare. 

If you or a family member are dealing with substance abuse issues, Transformations Treatment Center is here to help. Our certified staff of professionals and first-rate facilities are all geared towards providing proven treatment and recovery options. When suffering from Ritalin addiction, no one has to deal with it on their own. Contact us today for help.

References

http://www.buffalo.edu/ubnow/stories/2017/05/thanos-ritalin.html

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/timeline.html

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0118-ADHD-prescriptions-increasing.html

https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/DAWN073/DAWN073/sr073-ADD-ADHD-medications.htm

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