Ritalin Addiction: Adverse Effects & Treatment

Ritalin is a prescription medication commonly used for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).1 While it is intended to be taken as prescribed, stimulants like Ritalin are commonly misused. In 2021, 3.7 million people aged 12 or older reported misusing prescription stimulants in the previous year.2

This page will cover what Ritalin is, Ritalin side effects, adverse health effects of Ritalin misuse, and provide treatment options for those experiencing Ritalin addiction.

What Is Ritalin (Methylphenidate)?

Ritalin is a brand name for the drug methylphenidate. It is prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.3 It has similar uses as the drug Adderall.1 These drugs are both central nervous system (CNS) stimulants.

Ritalin is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) because although it has medical uses, it also has a high potential for misuse that may result in dependence.4

Side Effects of Ritalin

Like other prescription drugs, Ritalin can be associated with several adverse effects in addition to its intended effects. Common Ritalin side effects include:3

  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Palpitations (abnormal heartbeat).
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Headache.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Nausea.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Nervousness.

Health Risks of Ritalin Misuse

The potential for certain health risks increases when Ritalin is misused. Ritalin misuse may include:1

  • Taking a higher dose or more often than prescribed.
  • Taking someone else’s prescribed Ritalin.
  • Taking Ritalin for its effect only—to get high.
  • Crushing tablets to dissolve and inject into a vein.
  • Snorting or smoking crushed tablet powder.

Some health risks associated with Ritalin misuse include:3

  • Increased blood pressure, heart rate, or respiratory rate.
  • Increased sweating.
  • Restlessness.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Vomiting and/or abdominal pain.
  • Tremors.
  • Flushed skin.

Can You Overdose On Ritalin?

Yes, you can overdose on Ritalin. When a person misuses prescription stimulants, an overdose can occur, and it may lead to a life-threatening bodily response or death.1

Additionally, when Ritalin misuse involves taking the stimulant in non-oral ways, such as intranasally (snorting), smoking, or injecting, there is an increased risk of overdose.5

Ritalin overdose symptoms may include:3

  • Restlessness.
  • Agitation.
  • Anxiety.
  • Tremors.
  • Confusion.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Muscle twitching.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.

Ritalin overdose may also result in convulsions, coma, and fatality.3

Is Ritalin Addictive?

Yes, Ritalin misuse can lead to a substance use disorder, also known as addiction. Addiction develops when a person continues to compulsively use a substance despite the negative consequences it results in.1

Prescription stimulants like Ritalin increase the activity of certain brain chemicals linked to reward, which can have reinforcing effects and drive the development of a substance use disorder.1

When a person misuses Ritalin for a long period, they may develop a physiological dependence on the substance. When they stop or drastically reduce the amount of the stimulant, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms.1

Symptoms of Ritalin Withdrawal

Ritalin withdrawal symptoms can include:6

  • Feelings of unhappiness or unease.
  • Fatigue.
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Restlessness.

Although there are no specific FDA-approved medications for managing Ritalin withdrawal, it can be beneficial to seek professional help during and after the Ritalin withdrawal process.7

In rare cases, where stimulant withdrawal symptoms are severe, a supervised medical drug detox can provide comfort and safety. In more typical cases, a less intensive level of addiction treatment can adequately support a person’s recovery.7,8

Ritalin Addiction Treatment at Laguna

If you or a loved one are struggling with Ritalin addiction, effective treatment is available. Research shows therapies such as contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy are effective in treating stimulant use disorders.1,7

Laguna Treatment Center—an Orange County rehab—offers multiple addiction treatment levels and personalized evidence-based treatment.

Whether you are paying for rehab out of pocket or using insurance to pay for rehab, our admissions navigators can help you find a way to enter treatment without worrying about the financial burden.

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