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The Short And Long Term Effects Of Ritalin Use

Ritalin is a popular brand name for Methylphenidate, which is most commonly used to treat attention deficit disorders. The effects of Ritalin use are similar to other stimulants such as cocaine and can be just as addictive.

Understanding The Effects Of Ritalin Use

Ritalin, a popular brand name for Methylphenidate, is a drug typically used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This medication works by stimulating the central nervous system. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has Ritalin classified as a Schedule II stimulant. While it can be used medicinally, it still has a high risk of abuse and addiction. The effects of Ritalin can help a person with their ability to pay attention, stay focused on a task, and control behavior problems. The drug works by blocking overactive dopamine transporters responsible for pulling away excess dopamine. In people with ADHD, dopamine is transported away too quickly. Another function of the drug is to increase how much dopamine is released, helping the person focus on the task at hand. In people who don’t have ADHD (or another attention disorder), their brains become flooded with dopamine, leading to a rush of euphoria, making Ritalin so addictive.

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Short-Term Effects

The effects of Ritalin use can be helpful to those who live with ADHD but, even then, some negative side effects may occur. If you have recently been prescribed Ritalin, it may take some time for the doctor to find the proper dose and your body to adjust to the chemical change. Short-term effects of Ritalin use 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

Long-term Effects

Ritalin is an amphetamine-like substance, and its effects may cause large amounts of stress on the heart and body. This drug may also cause severe emotional conditions, hallucinations, and even psychotic behavior.

Long-term effects of Ritalin use include:

  • Permanent damage to blood vessels
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart attacks and strokes
  • Liver, kidney, and lung damage
  • Problems breathing
  • Malnutrition and weight loss
  • Disorientation or apathy
  • Psychological dependence
  • Psychosis
  • Depression

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The Effects Of Ritalin Use On The Body

Central Nervous System

Ritalin increases both dopamine and norepinephrine activity in the brain. Dopamine affects pleasure, movement, and attention span. Norepinephrine is a stimulant. The effects of Ritalin can help you concentrate. Still, if you are prone to an existing psychotic disorder, it may worsen symptoms. Those with a history of seizures should be careful when taking Ritalin, as it can cause more seizures.

Although Ritalin can typically decrease feelings of restlessness, this drug can also increase anxiety symptoms, even when taken as prescribed. Some users may experience blurred vision or changes to their eyesight.

Other side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness

Like other central nervous system stimulants, Ritalin in high doses or taken for a long time can be habit-forming. Taking a large quantity can produce a temporary feeling of euphoria. If you stop taking it abruptly, you can experience withdrawals.

Withdrawal symptoms may include fatigue, problems with sleep, and depression. Additionally, the misuse of Ritalin can cause feelings of paranoia and hostility. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Shakiness
  • Twitching
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Seizures

Circulatory System

The effects of Ritalin use can cause circulation problems, and extremities such as toes and fingers may feel cold and painful. Ritalin use has also been linked to peripheral vascular disease, including Raynaud’s disease. Tell your doctor if you experience any circulatory problems while taking Ritalin.

The effects of stimulants such as Ritalin can also raise your body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. This can cause you to feel jittery and irritable. Ritalin may increase your risk of a heart attack and stroke. In rare cases, sudden death can occur in people with heart abnormalities.

Digestive System

The effects of Ritalin can decrease your appetite and lead to unintentional weight loss. These symptoms may go away with continued use. Over time, misuse can lead to malnutrition, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Respiratory System

As the body adjusts to a new prescription or dosage of Ritalin, airways may open up, resulting in a slight increase in breathing. When taken as prescribed, such effects are temporary and will go away after a few days. Very high doses or long-term misuse can cause irregular breathing that may need emergency attention.

Muscular and Skeletal Systems

Everyday physical activities may become easier to accomplish after starting a prescription of Ritalin. Some effects include a sense of euphoria and improved mood. Unfortunately, this drug can cause musculoskeletal complications in the long term when misused or taken in too large of doses. In some cases, this can lead to muscle pain and weakness, as well as joint pain.

Reproductive System

Some men who take this drug may experience painful and prolonged erections. This can occur after prolonged Ritalin use or after an increase in dosage. This may require medical intervention in some rare cases.

The Effects Of Ritalin Overdose

It is possible to overdose on Ritalin, and emergency services should be called if a person has passed out or has trouble breathing. Symptoms of Ritalin overdose include:

  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Sweating
  • Flushing
  • Muscle twitching
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Find Treatment For Ritalin Addiction

Ritalin can have many severe short-term and long-term effects on the body. Suddenly stopping the use of this medication can cause withdrawal symptoms that range from nausea to depression. If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, it is best to overcome it with professional help. Contact a treatment provider who can help you transition into a drug-free life.

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Ginni Correa

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  • Ginni Correa is a Latinx writer and activist living in Orlando, FL. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and double majored in Psychology and Spanish with a minor in Latin American Studies. After graduation, Ginni worked as an educator in public schools and an art therapist in a behavioral health hospital where she found a passion working with at-risk populations and advocating for social justice and equality. She is also experienced in translating and interpreting with an emphasis in language justice and creating multilingual spaces. Ginni’s mission is to build awareness and promote resources that can help people transform their lives. She believes in the importance of ending stigma surrounding mental health and substance abuse while creating more accessible treatment in communities. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, crafting, and attending music festivals.

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David Hampton

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  • All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by David Hampton, a certified addiction professional.

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