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Ritalin Withdrawal and Treatment

What Is Ritalin?

Ritalin is the brand name for methylphenidate, a prescription stimulant prescribed widely to treat symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in both children and adults.

Ritalin’s effects on the body and the mind are comparable to other stimulants. For many with ADHD, this substance aids their ability to focus, and may help them in settings such as school and work. However, this drug is often misused for various reasons — to stay awake, to lose weight, or to get a euphoric “high”. Others may combine it with alcohol or other depressants to alter the usual intoxicating experience felt when these drugs are used alone.

An additional brand name for the stimulant medication methylphenidate is Concerta.

Am I Addicted to Ritalin?

Signs that you may be dependent on Ritalin include:

  • Feeling odd or strange without Ritalin.
  • A desire for the substance to feel normal.
  • Anxiety or panic when the drug is not available.

One major indicator of addiction to Ritalin is continued, compulsive use despite the mounting negative consequences associated with using the substance. Other symptoms of Ritalin abuse and addiction include:

  • Changes in social relationships and increased isolation.
  • Decreased performance at work or school.
  • Changes in interests and activities.
  • Financial strain due to spending more on Ritalin.
  • Engaging in illegal activity like buying, selling, and trading Ritalin.
  • Worsening physical and mental health.

Short-term Effects of Ritalin Misuse

People typically begin misusing Ritalin for its feelings of increased focus and wakefulness, euphoria, elevated energy levels, and loss of appetite. While these effects can be desirable, there are many adverse effects that occur as a result of even short-term Ritalin use.6

Possible adverse effects of use include the following:3,4,6,8

  • Increased blood pressure and pulse.
  • Chest pain.
  • Cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Stroke.
  • Increased body temperature and increased sweating.
  • Fever.
  • Anxiety or restlessness.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Confusion.
  • Delirium or hallucinations.
  • Excessive repetition of meaningless tasks or movements.
  • Muscular weakness.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.
  • Paranoia or psychosis.
  • Hostility.
  • Depression.
  • Emotional blunting.
  • Impaired judgment.

Long-Term Effects of Ritalin Misuse

Long-term use of Ritalin is associated with many physical and psychological complications. Prolonged use leads to the development of tolerance, which means that the user must take higher doses to experience the desired effects, thus increasing the risk of serious side effects.8

Other potential long-term consequences of Ritalin abuse include:3,4,6,8

  • Physiological dependence and acute withdrawal when use is dramatically reduced or stopped.
  • Addiction, which is characterized by compulsive Ritalin use regardless of adverse effects.
  • Weight loss.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Perforated nasal septum and nose bleeds in those who crush and snort the medication.
  • Vascular inflammation, skin infections, track lines, increased risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis viruses if injected.
  • Increased risk of tuberculosis.
  • Increased risk of cardiac issues, such as heart attack, palpitations, arrhythmias, and cardiac arrest.
  • Serious injuries due to violent behavior.
  • Legal issues due to theft or drug dealing.
  • Interpersonal problems, such as divorce or loss of friends.
  • Expulsion from school or termination from work.

Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal will rarely present an immediate threat to the user’s life; however, they can produce intensely uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms. In most cases, the psychological symptoms are the more severe issues that need to be addressed during the detoxification process.

Ritalin withdrawal symptoms include:1,3,5

  • Feeling jittery.
  • Weight loss/anorexia.
  • Adipsia (lack of thirst) and resultant dehydration.
  • Chills.
  • Changing sleep patterns (insomnia/hypersomnia).
  • Fatigue with lack of energy.
  • Depression with potential for suicidal ideation; suicide attempts.
  • High anxiety.
  • Poor memory.
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
  • Vivid dreams about drugs.
  • Changed social interactions with isolation.
  • Paranoia and violent gestures.

There are several factors that affect the intensity of these withdrawal symptoms. They include:1, 5

  • The method of use.
  • The duration of use.
  • The average dose having been regularly used.
  • The presence of other drugs and alcohol in the body.
  • The existence of mental or physical health disorders.

Ritalin withdrawal can also lead to a resurgence of symptoms that were previously being managed by the drug (for example, symptoms of ADHD, narcolepsy), and may further complicate the course of any co-occurring mental health conditions.

In most cases, someone that has been using the substance for longer periods, at higher frequencies, and larger doses will experience more intense withdrawal symptoms. A period of supervised detoxification can ensure that these symptoms are carefully monitored and, if necessary, pay therapeutic attention to any co-occurring disorders to avoid potential dangers and complications.

How Long Does Ritalin Withdrawal Last?

The timeline of Ritalin detox will depend on the method, the dose, frequency, and duration of use. Taking high doses of the substance for several days – in other words, a binge pattern of use – will typically produce relatively prolonged and intense withdrawal symptoms.1,5

Taking other stimulants in combination with Ritalin will likely increase and extend the withdrawal symptoms of Ritalin.

Ritalin Detox Programs

Detox programs offer a variety of styles and intensities, but there are two general categories of treatment: medically assisted detox and “social” detox. Medical detox offers observation and assistance from a treatment team comprised of medical professionals. This team will know how to detox from Ritalin safey and can:

  • Assess current needs and symptoms.
  • Monitor vital signs.
  • Administer medication as needed.
  • Refer the client to follow-up treatment.

Finding Ritalin Addiction Treatment

For many people, detox is only the first step in a longer course of addiction treatment. While detox addresses the client’s physical dependency by eliminating the drug from the body, other methods of treatment will address the psychological aspects that promote substance use through therapy and other activities (which will depend on the program). Many options for further treatment include:

  • Inpatient drug rehab: Provides therapy, support group participation, and relapse prevention training in a live-in environment that generally lasts between 30 and 90 days.
  • Outpatient treatment: Provides a predetermined number of hours of therapy on a weekly basis to specifically target relapse prevention and healthy coping skills.
  • Behavioral therapy: Helps address the psychological concerns leading to and resulting from Ritalin use.
  • Alternative housing: Offers a safe sober living environment focused on recovery.
  • Support group meetings: Encourages fellowship with others in recovery while building a strong support group.

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