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Ritalin, a popular brand for Methylphenidate, is a Psychoactive Stimulant commonly used to treat attention deficit disorders.

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Ritalin Addiction And Abuse

Ritalin, a popular brand name of Methylphenidate, is commonly used to treat children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by stimulating their central nervous system (CNS). The effects of Ritalin work by blocking overactive dopamine transporters, the same way Cocaine and other Stimulants will. These transporters are responsible for pulling away excess dopamine. In people with ADHD, it is believed that dopamine is transported away too quickly. This makes it harder for them to engage in what is happening.

Ritalin is a Schedule II Stimulant, as classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration. This means, while it can be used medicinally, it has a high risk of abuse and addiction. Other Schedule II Stimulants include Cocaine and Amphetamines.

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Effects Of Ritalin

Ritalin’s primary purpose is to block the function of overactive dopamine transporters. Its secondary function is to increase release of dopamine. It is this function that makes Ritalin so addictive. In people with ADHD, this gives their brain the amount of dopamine they need to be able to focus on the task at hand, even if they don’t find it particularly interesting. In people who don’t have ADHD (or another attention disorder), their brains become flooded with dopamine. This gives them a rush of euphoria, as dopamine is the body’s natural reward chemical.

While Ritalin has shown positive effects in those who are afflicted with ADHD, there are still some negative effects. When someone, typically a child, is first prescribed Ritalin, it can take time to find the proper dose and for their bodies to adjust to the chemical change. Short-term effects of adjusting can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Nausea
  • Bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior
  • Hallucinations
  • Hyper-excitability
  • Irritability
  • Panic and psychosis
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Death

The prescribing doctor should be contacted immediately if any of the more severe side effects occur. Using Ritalin in high doses for an extended period of time can also make serious effects surface. These may include:

  • Liver, kidney, and lung damage
  • Malnutrition and weight loss
  • Disorientation, apathy, and confused exhaustion
  • Strong psychological dependence
  • Depression
  • Damage to the brain
  • Strokes
  • Epilepsy

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Ritalin Abuse

Ritalin, and other ADHD medications, can help a lot of people. However, as a Schedule II Psychoactive Stimulant, Ritalin can be highly addictive. Some studies have shown that children who take the drug are more likely to go on to abuse drugs in the future. There is also a great concern for students who do not have ADHD but use the drug as a study aid.

Many students will begin using Ritalin, and other ADHD medications, when they need an extra boost for a class or exam. Many believe that since these drugs are meant to help someone focus, it can help them as well. However, the effects that Ritalin has in people with ADHD are different than those it produces in people without the disorder. When someone doesn’t have the disorder, they are more likely to become addicted. Over time, anyone using Ritalin will build a tolerance. Without a doctor monitoring doses, the user may take it into their own hands to increase their dose. Soon, they may find that they have trouble focusing without the Stimulant. This is the beginning of a dependency.


As of 2016, the National Survey of Children’s Health determined that 6.1 million children from 2 to 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD.


In 2014, doctors wrote 922,200 prescriptions for Ritalin and other Methylphenidate drugs, over double the number from 10 years ago.

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Ritalin Abuse Leading To Other Disorders

The effects of Ritalin abuse can be bad enough on their own, but it’s possible that abuse of Ritalin leads to the development of other disorders as well. A group of studies found that Ritalin abuse was correlated with abuse of alcohol and other drugs; this does not necessarily mean, however, that Ritalin abuse caused these co-occurring disorders to develop. It’s possible individuals more predisposed to Ritalin abuse are also more predisposed to abusing other substances.

Ritalin abuse may also co-occur alongside an eating disorder; the fact that Ritalin can work to suppress the appetite may have something to do with this. Failing to eat a nutritionally balanced diet while also abusing Ritalin can have disastrous effects on the user; anyone suffering from Ritalin abuse in tandem with an eating disorder should seek care at a center that provides dual diagnosis treatment.

Treatment For Ritalin Addiction

Ritalin is a powerful Psychoactive Stimulant. Using it can put anyone at risk for addiction. Even when used as prescribed, if someone has not adjusted their doses to what they require, they could be at a high risk of building a dependency and eventual addiction.

If you’re facing a Ritalin addiction, then reach out to a dedicated treatment provider. They are here for you when you don’t know where else to turn.

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