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). Ritalin works 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. It’s 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 that can come through. 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
- Bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior
- Panic and psychosis
- Convulsions and seizures
These are typical side-effects that may go away in time. If they are severe, like psychosis or convulsions, or continue to persist then the prescribing doctor should be contacted immediately. Using Ritalin in too high of doses for an extended period of time can make more severe effects surface. Such as:
- High blood pressure
- Liver, kidney, and lung damage
- Malnutrition and weight loss
- Disorientation, apathy, and confused exhaustion
- Strong psychological dependence
- Damage to the brain including strokes and possibly epilepsy
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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 from people without the disorder. When someone doesn’t have the disorder, they are more likely to become addicted. Overtime, anyone using Ritalin will build a tolerance. Without a doctor monitoring doses, the user would 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.
Treatment for Ritalin Addiction
When it comes down to it, Ritalin is a psychoactive stimulant and 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, or someone you love, are addicted to Ritalin, then reach out to a dedicated treatment specialist. They are there for you when you don’t know where else to turn.
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