Ritalin is a prescription medication used to treat people diagnosed with ADHD or narcolepsy. While it can be highly effective in helping individuals manage the symptoms of these disorders, the drug also has a high potential for abuse. Ritalin, like its cousin Adderall, is a stimulant, and both of these drugs have been significantly misused over the past decade or so.
Ritalin abuse often impacts the college age demographic. The prescription stimulants have become popularized as “study drugs” for their capacity to keep students alert and productive well into the wee hours. Unfortunately, attempting to stop taking Ritalin after an extended period of abusing the drug will result in Ritalin withdrawal symptoms. Ritalin withdrawal is highly uncomfortable, as the rebound effects—the very symptoms the student was hoping to avoid—begin to emerge.
It is possible to safely manage Ritalin detox and withdrawal in a medically supervised environment. Detox experts will slowly taper the individual off of the drug, which allows for a safer detox process. After the detox and withdrawal phase is completed, the individual can transition, if needed, to an addiction recovery program. Rehabs for Ritalin addiction are available in either an outpatient or residential setting, and will equip individuals with the new coping skills needed to break free from the drug.
What is Ritalin?
Ritalin is the brand name of methylphenidate, a prescription central nervous system stimulant produced by Novartis. It works by affecting the areas of the brain and central nervous system that regulate impulsivity and hyperactivity. Other brand names for the drug include Concerta, Metadate, and Methylin.
Ritalin is a Schedule II controlled substance, as the drug has been identified as having a high potential for abuse. It is important to note that both cocaine and methamphetamine also hold a Schedule II classification. Ritalin can be diverted and sold through illicit channels for recreational use or for weight loss purposes. Ritalin comes in instant release, sustained release, and long-acting release formulations.
While Ritalin and Adderall are prescribed for the same medical conditions, Ritalin is more commonly issued to children ages 6-17. Approximately 6.1 million children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD according to the CDC.
Ritalin Addiction and Abuse
Even though it is a stimulant, for individuals diagnosed with ADHD Ritalin works to help slow down their hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors. However, in those with no such condition, Ritalin has a true stimulant effect that causes it to be a popular drug of abuse. Some of the reasons why Ritalin is misused include:
- Sharpens cognitive abilities
- Increases concentration
- Reduces the need for sleep
- Decreases appetite that results in weight loss
- Improves ability to take on heavy workload
- Has stimulant effects that produce a high
- Is used recreationally along with alcohol
Ritalin can be taken orally in tablet form, or it can be crushed and liquefied for injection. Slang terms for Ritalin include vitamin R, R-ball, rids, kiddie cocaine, diet coke, and skittles.
People who somehow gain access to the drug without a legitimate prescription and begin to abuse the Ritalin will quickly develop a drug tolerance. This means that it takes more of the drug to experience the desired effects. With extended Ritalin abuse the brain becomes dependent on the substance. Ritalin has the potential to cause both a physical and psychological addiction.
What are the Signs of Ritalin Addiction?
As with other stimulant use disorders, the signs of addiction to Ritalin involve behavioral, psychological, and physical symptoms:
Behavioral symptoms of Ritalin addiction include:
- Unable to curtail Ritalin use even when desired to cut back
- Doctor shopping to find new sources for the drug
- Purchasing the Ritalin online or on the street
- Continuing to use Ritalin even with increasing negative consequences
- No longer spending time with friends and family
- Decline in school or work performance
- Neglect responsibilities
Psychological symptoms of Ritalin addiction include:
- Aggressive behavior
- Irritability, agitation
- Incomplete thoughts
- Ritalin cravings
Physical symptoms of Ritalin addiction include:
- Weight loss
- Sleep deprivation
- Dilated pupils
- Experience withdrawal symptoms
Adverse Ritalin Effects Caused by Addiction
When someone continues to abuse Ritalin they will be more susceptible to more serious health effects from the drug. These are indicative of a significant drug addiction:
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain
- High blood pressure
- Cardiac arrest
- Irregular heartbeat
- Rapid pulse (tachycardia)
- Mental confusion
- Elevated blood pressure
What to Expect During Ritalin Withdrawal
Treatment for Ritalin addiction is likely to start with the detox and withdrawal process. Ritalin withdrawal symptoms will begin to surface when the individual stops taking the drug. The ideal method of detoxing from Ritalin is within a medically monitored environment where there is careful observation of withdrawal symptoms. A supervised detox can help prevent a possible relapse when the withdrawal symptoms peak, as the appropriate medical interventions will be provided to help minimize discomfort.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms and length of the detox will depend on the severity of the stimulant use disorder. The timeline ranges from a few days to several weeks, and withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe. In some cases, a gradual tapering schedule will be assigned to individuals with a more serious Ritalin dependency to help modulate the withdrawal symptoms.
Ritalin withdrawal symptoms usually emerge mildly within 12 hours of the last dose. The symptoms intensify on days 2-4, and then begin to wane over the next days and weeks.
Withdrawal symptoms might include:
- Intense drug cravings
- Panic attacks
- Increased appetite
- Angry outbursts
- Extreme fatigue or exhaustion
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Mental confusion
- Suicidal thoughts
During the medical detox the goal is to safely guide the individual through the withdrawal symptoms to completion of the detox process. Key to this success is providing the medical and psychological support that will help reduce physical and emotional discomfort. In some cases, antidepressants are prescribed to assist with some of the symptoms. Also, modafinil and benzodiazepines may offer some relief as well.
Because individuals who complete the detox may continue to experience cravings and psychological symptoms, such as depression or anxiety, it is always recommended that he or she follow up the detox with an outpatient or residential rehab program.
Getting Help for Ritalin Addiction
Following a successful Ritalin withdrawal, the individual will begin the process of recovery. This step involves a multifold approach to overcome the ingrained addictive behaviors. Therapy helps individuals learn to change the disordered thoughts and behavior patterns that lead to stimulant abuse, and an assortment of other treatment elements further support these new recovery strategies.
Treatment for Ritalin addiction or dependence includes:
- Individual therapy. These one-on-one psychotherapy sessions allow the individual to explore the underlying reasons for succumbing to Ritalin addiction with a licensed therapist. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a popular type of psychotherapy used for addiction recovery. Using CBT the therapist guides the person toward identifying thought distortions that had resulted in Ritalin misuse, such as “No way can I keep up with all this work without the Ritalin.” The therapist helps the individual foster more positive self-talk and constructive actions.
- Group sessions. These small group therapy sessions include participants and a therapist who will lead the group in discussion. Group therapy offers a safe space where people can connect with each other and offer support. The sessions allow participants to share their struggles with Ritalin while encouraging each other along in recovery.
- 12-step groups. A.A.’s 12-step programming is a staple at many rehabs. The recovery meetings provide a supportive setting where individuals in recovery can enjoy fellowship. A structured, incremental program of the 12 steps guides this program. Some rehabs offer alternative recovery programs to A.A., so it just comes down to personal preference as to which type of program resonates.
- Recovery tools. The main goal of a rehab program is to equip the person with the tools they will need to sustain their recovery. This can include learning how to better manage emotions, time management skills, and how to manage stress more effectively through the use of relaxation techniques. These techniques, such as practicing mindfulness, taking yoga classes, learning deep breathing techniques, or using guided meditation apps, can be extremely useful in recovery.
- Relapse prevention plan. The reality of addiction recovery is that certain triggers can lead to a relapse back into Ritalin misuse. Making a detailed list of the potential triggers, and then identifying proactive steps to take when encountering triggers, can improve recovery success.
- Follow up. Many rehabs offer alumni services where former clients can stay in touch with each other in recovery through alumni events and forums. Outpatient therapy is another helpful continuing care strategy for reinforcing sobriety from Ritalin, as these sessions with the therapist can help individuals maneuver obstacles that might threaten recovery.
While going through the discomfort of Ritalin withdrawal is certainly nothing to look forward to, it is the first important step toward reclaiming your freedom from the grip of addiction…and so worth it.
Ken Seeley Communities Can Help You with Ritalin Withdrawal
Ken Seeley Communities is a recovery complex located in Palm Springs, CA. Both Ritalin and Adderall addiction is widespread, and the team of addiction recovery experts at Ken Seeley Communities is trained to help individuals who have developed a problem with prescription stimulants. Ken Seeley Communities offers all levels of the treatment on the recovery continuum, including medical detox, outpatient and residential treatment, and sober living housing. Reach out to us today if you or a loved one is concerned about Ritalin withdrawal so the team can answer your questions. Call (877) 744-0502.