Ritalin is the brand name of the psychostimulant methylphenidate. It is most often prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adults. According to the European Journal of Neuroscience, Ritalin changes how genes are expressed in the brain in a similar manner to cocaine. It helps to increase alertness and overcome feelings of fatigue. For this reason, people who are not prescribed Ritalin take the drug for a wide range of reasons, such as to improve performance to remain alert.
According to BMC Psychiatry, Ritalin is available in continuous-release and immediate-release formulas. The continuous-release version allows patients to take the medication less often, so they can focus on school and work without interruption. The effects of the continuous-release formula occur slowly over time, where the immediate-release formula affects the body quickly. For young students prescribed Ritalin, the continuous-release version eliminates the need for them to take the medication throughout the day.
Intended Use of Ritalin
Ritalin is a highly effective pharmaceutical medication that has been widely used in the United States for the past several decades. According to Primary Care Companion, Ritalin is prescribed to treat a wide range of conditions, including:
- Cognitive disorders
- Brain injury
According to ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, children diagnosed with ADHD who grow up without treatment experience adverse symptoms of ADHD into adulthood. For this reason, it is important that those suffering from ADHD maintain access to medications that have proven effective in managing symptoms, such as Ritalin.
Ritalin works by stimulating the central nervous system, and it can minimize the side effects of depression. For this reason, Ritalin may be used in addition to SSRIs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in individuals also suffering from depression and/or anxiety. Its ability to effectively treat a wide range of disorders and limited adverse drug interactions are part of the reason that Ritalin remains a highly prescribed pharmaceutical medication.
Who Is Susceptive to Ritalin Abuse?
Those taking Ritalin in the correct doses to treat ADHD do not often become addicted. Rather, individuals taking Ritalin outside of a prescription are more likely to become addicted. This is largely due to the positive side effects of recreational Ritalin use, including increased alertness and energy.
As the body becomes used to the drug, a person may want heightened effects that cannot be achieved by taking the medication in regular doses. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, individuals can increase the effects of the drug by crushing it and snorting it, or by dissolving it in water to inject it. Altering the drug in any way increases the risks of negative health effects and overdose.
According to Progress in Neurobiology, the DEA recognizes how addictive Ritalin is and classifies it as a Schedule II drug, along with other amphetamines. Part of the addiction risk and classification as a Schedule II drug stems from how easy it is to get Ritalin. Because of how frequently it is prescribed, it is generally not difficult to illegally obtain Ritalin.
There is a wide range of individuals who may be at an increased risk for Ritalin abuse, whether from social pressure and prevalence or a strong desire for performance enhancement. One heavily studied group of individuals who misuse Ritalin includes college students looking to improve academic performance. Students pay a lot of money for school and are under a tremendous amount of pressure to manage a lot of responsibilities, both socially and academically. For these individuals, earning top grades and staying up late to study are just parts of the college experience. They may be willing to misuse Ritalin to accomplish these goals, especially if their friends or peers do.
Another heavily studied group susceptible to misusing Ritalin includes mothers trying to juggle many responsibilities. They may be employed away from the home during the day, but still need to take care of their children and homes. To manage all of these conflicting needs, some mothers may take Ritalin to stay more alert and have the energy to make it through long days.
Signs of Ritalin Abuse
According to the Global Journal of Health Science, misusing Ritalin causes serious health risks, especially for those who use it over the long-term. Some of the signs of Ritalin abuse that can be observed include:
- Skin rash
- Muscle twitching
- Dry mouth
- Permanent brain alteration or damage
- Impaired cognitive functions
Symptoms of Ritalin Abuse
Ritalin abuse can manifest in a variety of ways. If someone you know suffers from long-term Ritalin abuse, they may experience:
- Tactile hallucinations
- Extreme anger or frustration
- Aggression toward others
- Suicidal ideation or thoughts
Fortunately, there are many options available for treating Ritalin addiction. Most of the treatment options start with a detoxification process, where the individual stops using Ritalin, and the drugs that are in the body are processed out of it. Generally, medical detox is recommended so clients can be supervised and kept comfortable throughout the withdrawal process. While detox is necessary, it is not addiction treatment on its own; it must be followed by a comprehensive addiction treatment program.
Programs can take place on an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on the client’s specific situation and scheduling needs. Psychotherapy and behavior modification therapy have shown to be highly effective in treating Ritalin addiction. In therapy, people will uncover and address the issues that led to the initial Ritalin abuse, as well as any polysubstance abuse. Triggers to use will be discussed, and plans to healthfully deal with these triggers going forward will be established.
For instance, if a college student started to misuse Ritalin to improve academic performance, it may be helpful for them to develop better strategies to manage academic obligations without the use of stimulants. The student may want to work with a counselor to better manage their obligations outside of school, so they can focus on their schoolwork without feeling overwhelmed. These types of strategies prove effective in changing the individual’s perceived need for Ritalin.
While substance abuse and addiction can feel overwhelming, recovery can be achieved with the right help. Reach out for that help today.