Ritalin Addiction

Ritalin (generic name methylphenidate) is a central nervous system stimulant used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It is a fast-acting prescription pill typically used for long-term treatment of ADHD. Although prescription Ritalin is highly effective, it is also extremely addictive and habit-forming. Some teenagers who are exposed to this drug may go on to develop a Ritalin addiction, especially if they are not diagnosed with ADHD.

Ritalin helps to increase brain activity, concentration, and focus on tasks. It also helps to reduce impulsive behavior in individuals who need the drug. However, Ritalin is often misused and abused by individuals who feel the need to “speed up.”


What Is Ritalin?

Ritalin is widely known to increase cognition, but there is a downside to Ritalin use. The part of the brain region relating to attention, decision-making, and impulse control is the prefrontal cortex.

Ritalin completely changes how this part of the brain functions, enhancing a person’s ability to effectively use the natural functions of the brain.

However, higher doses of the drug can actually begin to cause damage and prevent signals from coming into the prefrontal cortex.

While important information signals increase, neurons, in turn, begin weakening the activity of signals that may be considered distracting.

This can be beneficial to you if you are taking the medication as prescribed.

However, if you are not, it can become an irreversible issue.

Not only is the risk of Ritalin addiction much higher, but the effects on the brain also become much worse.

Some of the cognitive effects of Ritalin in people without ADHD consist of:

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  • An increase in risk-taking behaviors
  • Disruptions in sleep cycles
  • Unhealthy weight loss
  • Increase in anxiety
  • Negative effects in the reward center of the brain

Ritalin is more commonly prescribed, but it is not exempt from illicit use. A large number of people, especially high school or college students, take this drug illegally. There are alternative or “street” names for Ritalin such as:

  • Skittles
  • Smart drugs
  • Smarties
  • Rids
  • Uppers
  • Poor man’s cocaine
  • Study buddies
  • Kibbles & Bits



What Are the Signs of Ritalin Addiction?

Ritalin addiction can occur even if you need to take the drug. The problem begins to occur when too much of the drug is taken. There is a reason why, if you have a prescription, you need to follow the directions. Ritalin alters brain chemistry to help restore functioning in someone with ADHD. It also alters brain chemistry when taken in larger doses,  leading to a series of emotional and physical side effects.

The Ritalin high is appealing to some, being as it is a stimulant. However, it is easy to become dependent on it, ultimately resulting in Ritalin addiction. Just because you have been prescribed something, doesn’t mean the drug you are taking is dangerous. If you are pre-exposed to addiction, there is an even greater chance of developing an addiction to Ritalin.

Signs and symptoms of Ritalin addiction consist of:

  • Reduced appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Pupil dilation
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired vision
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Stomach pains
  • Increase in alertness
  • Paranoia
  • Chest pain
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Talkativeness

Ritalin addiction also causes social changes such as:

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Financial difficulties
  • Obsession and compulsion to obtain Ritalin
  • Physical withdrawal
  • Isolation
  • Priorities become altered
  • Developing mania and depression
  • Suicidal thought process
  • Psychosis
  • Development of eating disorders

What Is Involved in Ritalin Addiction Treatment?


As with any addiction, Ritalin addiction will result in withdrawal symptoms when use of the drug stops or is reduced. Ritalin withdrawal is not fatal, but it is dangerous and can lead to seizures. If you are struggling with Ritalin addiction and are seeking help, then your recovery process likely will begin with medical detox.

Medical detoxification can help you smoothly transition from active addiction to sobriety. The importance of detox is to remain safe and taper off of the drugs in an effective environment. The symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal can be intense, and the process might be ineffective if you try to quit cold turkey. Also, the recovery process does not end with detox.


After detox, you may be placed in a residential program if addiction care specialists recommend that setting for your situation. Residential treatment consists of a 30-day to 90-stay in a facility where you will receive around-the-clock care and support on top of:

  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Addiction education
  • Relapse prevention education
  • A safe environment in which to become sober

The benefits of residential treatment are limitless, and the success rates are much higher than if you were to try to continue sobriety without professional help.


After residential, you can continue treatment with an outpatient program. Here, you can still take advantage of the same treatment therapies and modalities on a weekly basis while also having the freedom of living at home or in a sober living facility. You can also attend 12-step based meetings. Either form of continuation is effective and proven to help you stay sober from all mind and mood-altering substances if that’s what you desire to do.

How Dangerous Is Ritalin?

First, Ritalin is known to cause dependence, and it is highly associated with abuse. It also has the potential to cause overdose due to extreme physiological dependence. Ritalin overdose can cause a sudden heart attack as well as symptoms such as:

  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attacks
  • Overactive reflexes
  • Extreme personality shifts
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Numbing of the fingertips or swelling of the hands
  • Delusions
  • Kidney damage
  • Dehydration

If these symptoms occur after taking a large dose of Ritalin, you should seek immediate medical attention by calling 911 or visiting the emergency room of the nearest hospital.

Ritalin Abuse Statistics

  • In 2011, 6.4 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 were diagnosed with ADHD.
  • Ritalin is one of the top 10 stolen prescriptions in the U.S.
  • The United States makes and consumes 85% of the world’s Ritalin supply.

85 percent of the United States produces and consumes the world’s supply of Ritalin – which leads to the high number of children diagnosed with ADHD.

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End Ritalin Addiction Today

Ritalin addiction can be severe and life-threatening. Although Ritalin use is common, it should be used wisely and as prescribed. Ritalin is highly addictive, especially for those pre-exposed to addiction and it poses serious threats to the brain and body. If you or someone you know is struggling with Ritalin addiction, do not hesitate to ask for help.

Pathway to Hope can help you get started along the path to long-term sobriety. Our trained professional staff is available 24/7 at (844) 557-8575 and ready to assist you with any questions or concerns about getting help for addiction. The road to recovery is not easy, but recovery is possible with our help. Why wait to regain control of your life? Start now.