Ritalin is a prescription drug used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, as it is commonly called. ADHD is a commonly diagnosed mental health disorder that is estimated to affect 6.4 million children from ages 4-17.

ADHD symptoms can include trouble concentrating, paying attention, staying organized, and remembering details. The condition is not easy to diagnose since young children can be excitable, have endless energy, and lack focus.

Ritalin can be a beneficial and effective drug for those struggling with mental health disorders that are related to attention issues. The medication is known to improve inattentiveness and hyperactivity in children. Although no drug is a “cure-all,” Ritalin can provide positive outcomes for those who may be struggling in school.

Children who are diagnosed with ADHD might not present the same symptoms as young adults. If this happens, there will be less need for Ritalin than before. If they have been taking the drug as prescribed, they might have an easier time when they need to stop taking it.

If the prescription keeps getting filled, there is a danger that it could be used as a performance-enhancing drug for them or sold to others. There is a strong demand for Ritalin for those without ADHD who may use it in this way.

People who take Ritalin but do not have ADHD could have a different reaction to it than those diagnosed with ADHD. However, the drug can still enhance one’s focus. It is often misused to help people concentrate better when studying for exams and obtain better grades so they can apply to better universities. University-age young adults may also take it to get better grades. The harm in this is the individual may become slowly addicted to Ritalin.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a chronic disease that is treatable. Those who have an addiction use substances that become “compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”

Let’s explore more about Ritalin, how it can cause addiction, and what is involved in addiction treatment.

What is Ritalin?

Blister packs of RitalinRitalin is a central nervous system prescription stimulant that contains the active ingredient of methylphenidate. The medication is often prescribed for people with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It is prescribed in different forms, such as a tablet, capsule, liquid, and a patch. The drug affects the nerves and chemicals in the brain that contribute to impulse control and hyperactivity. 

For those with ADHD, Ritalin affects the excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain, which are dopamine and norepinephrine. It increases the individual’s focus and enhances concentration. People diagnosed with narcolepsy will find that it combats fatigue and helps to keep them alert.

Ritalin also indirectly affects dopamine and serotonin by blocking the process of reuptake. As described by a medical expert at MedicineNet, reuptake is “the re-absorption of a secreted substance by the cell that originally produced and secreted it.”

This process permits neurotransmitters to be reabsorbed into the nerve cell that sent it to be recycled. When the process is blocked, dopamine and serotonin are left and bind to the receptors. This causes a more profound and intense effect. Individuals with disorders that affect low energy and attention might notice those symptoms are reversed due to Ritalin.

Ritalin Addiction Signs

When taken as prescribed, Ritalin usually has a lower risk of physical dependence and a lesser risk of psychological dependence. However, it can have a substantial risk of abuse when it is used for reasons other than for which it is prescribed.

Ritalin misuse appears to be more from social and psychological reasons, and it can be very harmful if used in this way. When misused, it can cause weight loss, sleeplessness, lethargy, dizziness, and weight loss. Some other signs of Ritalin addiction are:

  • Anxiety
  • Appetite loss
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Changes to one’s sleep schedule
  • Heart palpitations

Individuals who are misusing Ritalin with high doses could experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Change in eyesight
  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures

An overdose from Ritalin has its own signs and symptoms. These are progressive and start with restlessness, agitation, and irritability. Eventually, they can lead to heart palpitations and possible seizures if not addressed. It is vital to know and recognize these signs as doing so could help save someone’s life. Overdoses are serious and require immediate help.

Signs and symptoms of Ritalin overdose include:

  • Dry nose
  • Dry mouth
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Muscle twitching
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

If you or someone you care about exhibits any of the signs listed above, they may have Ritalin substance use disorder (addiction). When a person with a substance use disorder tries to stop using the substance abruptly, they may feel like they need Ritalin to function normally and continue to use it. Signs of an overdose indicate that professional help is needed to safely get off and stay off the drug.

Ritalin Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment is most effective when all of the individual’s problems are addressed. It involves treating the psychological and social problems, as well as medical problems.

The first step in substance use disorder treatment is medical detoxification. This is the withdrawal process where all toxins and abuse substances are removed from the body.

Ritalin withdrawal symptoms are usually mild when compared to other substances, such as opioids. Those in withdrawal from Ritalin may feel fatigue, insomnia, depression, and possibly heart complications. The individual who has excessively misused the drug could also be feeling the effects of malnutrition.

When someone begins addiction treatment, a team of medical staff and addiction specialists will determine if medical detox is needed. An assessment is conducted by a team of medical professionals and addiction specialists to learn about the client’s drug use history. The assessment will determine what needs to be addressed during treatment.

There are different levels in substance use disorder treatment. These include:

Residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, outpatient treat, and alumni services.

Residential treatment includes inpatient care for those who need a high level of care. Individuals who are placed in this level of treatment will stay at a treatment facility where all of their most pressing needs are heard and addressed.

Intensive outpatient treatment is an intensive level of care, which involves more than nine hours of clinical services. This treatment level is for people who need to stay at home or who have family, work, or school obligations but need more time in therapy to deal with the issues behind substance use.

Outpatient treatment includes fewer than nine hours per week of clinical services. Outpatient is a good option for those who can’t leave their job or school and do not have a high-level need for addiction treatment.

Alumni services are offered at some addiction centers once treatment has ended. There are gatherings and meetings, as well as being able to take advantage of community resources, such as 12-step programs.

Ritalin addiction is a substance use disorder that needs to be addressed. There are many facilities where one can begin the process of ending misuse of the drug and learn how to live life without substance use.

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