While Ritalin is legally prescribed to thousands of persons with ADHD everyday, the drug has become one of choice for struggling college students from the East Coast to Fresno, Calif. Students cramming for a big exam have been known to abuse the so-called “study drug”, with numerous unforeseen consequences.
While Ritalin is safe for appropriate use by persons with ADHD, their neurotypical peers are at risk for addiction, with hundreds of Ritalin-addicted students enrolled in drug rehab centers every year. Like cocaine, Ritalin is a stimulant that affects levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, inducing a euphoric high. However, withdrawal symptoms are not to be dismissed.
While Ritalin withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, they are not life-threatening, and can be overcome successfully.
Ritalin, the brand name of the generic drug Methylphenidate, is designed to stimulate the central nervous system to improve a person’s focus and diminish hyperactivity related to Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is a rather common condition that drives individuals to find sources of dopamine by way of environmental stimulation since ADHD causes people to have less dopamine released into their central nervous systems.
Ritalin is sometimes abused, however, by those looking for a euphoric high or simply a temporary boost in their cognitive abilities, including students needing help to improve their studying and test-taking abilities.
In fact, more than 5 million Americans 12 years and older abused stimulants like Ritalin in the past year according to a 2018 survey on drug use. This amounts to roughly 2% of the U.S. population.
Is Ritalin Addictive?
When taken as prescribed, Ritalin is an effective means of treating ADHD and narcolepsy. However, it can be highly addictive when it is misused and produce side effects much like methamphetamine or cocaine. Because of its potential for abuse, the U.S. lists Ritalin as a Schedule II controlled substance.
Withdrawal Symptoms from Ritalin
Many different psychological symptoms can manifest during Ritalin withdrawal as with any other type of stimulant. As Ritalin works by promoting the production of dopamine in the brain, withdrawal symptoms usually are connected to emotions and energy levels.
Ritalin withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Mood swings
- Loss of focus
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in heart rate
- Changes in blood pressure
Depression is one of the more common symptoms of withdrawal from Ritalin because Ritalin affects your brain’s production of dopamine. If the brain is suddenly deprived of high doses of Ritalin, dopamine levels can bottom out, leading to feelings of depression.
The severity of these symptoms is tied to how long you were dependent on Ritalin and the normal amount you were using. Stopping Ritalin use all at once can result in stronger symptoms.
Stages of Ritalin Withdrawal
72 hours after last dose: 3 days following the most recent Ritalin use is when symptoms tend to manifest. These early symptoms may include trouble sleeping, anxiety, and irritability.
1 week: symptoms may become more intense and may reach their peak during this time. Newer symptoms can include depression, nausea, and fatigue.
2 weeks: symptoms should begin to wane after two weeks; however, the psychological symptoms may last longer than physical ones. Anxiety and depression may continue to manifest.
1 month: some symptoms may persist for a month. Treatment may be able to help you learn to deal with any ongoing symptoms and issues without relapsing.
Because withdrawal symptoms of Ritalin are usually not deadly, this process can be completed either in an inpatient rehab center or on an outpatient basis. Monitoring is only necessary if the person is experiencing extreme depression and is having thoughts of suicide.
After the Ritalin detox process is complete, long-term facets of recovery can be addressed wherein the person learns to live without Ritalin. Other alternative medications may be sought if Ritalin was originally prescribed to treat a condition such as ADHD or narcolepsy.
Group and/or individual counseling may be included in the rehabilitation and recovery process in which the patient can investigate the cause of the addiction. Follow-up sessions and treatments are usually included to prevent a relapse.
If you or a loved one need help breaking free from a prescription drug like Ritalin, call Miramar Recovery today to get started: (949) 674-3813.