Ritalin Addiction

Ritalin is a highly abused medication with the capacity to form severe side effects and addiction if not used as prescribed.

Methylphenidate addiction | Table of Contents

Ritalin Defined

Ritalin is a methylphenidate stimulant of the central nervous system. Methylphenidates exhibit similar effects and pharmacological uses to that of amphetamines and cocaine. Ritalin is produced in the form of tablets and capsules and is used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy in children and adults. The drug comes in both extended-release and sustained-release formulations. When used appropriately and as prescribed, Ritalin is a relatively safe medication that induces a calming effect that helps patients concentrate on tasks.

Although Ritalin has shown considerable efficacy in treating ADHD, this medication also possesses a high potential for abuse. In the 1990s, the rise in demand for Ritalin resulted in a subsequent increase in abuse.


What does Ritalin do?

Ritalin helps to enhance attention and reduce impulsivity and hyperactivity in ADHD patients.

How fast does Ritalin work ?

It takes approximately twenty to thirty minutes for Ritalin to work right after it is swallowed.

How strong is Ritalin?

Ritalin comes in a tablet form in dosages of 5, 10, and 20 mg. It also has an extended-release tablet, which is 20 mg.

Is Ritalin like caffeine?

Ritalin is a stimulant similar to caffeine. They all affect the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine.

How many Ritalin can you take in a day?

Adults can take up to 20-30 mg (two to three tablets) a day. Depending on the individual, it can be more or less. It is always best to follow a doctor’s advice on the amount of Ritalin to take per day.

Ritalin Abuse and Effects

Ritalin improves alertness and concentration similar to that of amphetamines. Professional athletes and students often exploit this medication in the hopes of increasing their performance. According to drug classifications in the US, Ritalin is classified as a Schedule II substance due to its potential for abuse.

The use of Ritalin is considerably high in the US than in other countries due to its easy accessibility. Many of the students who are prescribed Ritalin tend to share or sell their medication to others to help them study or get high. Recreational users generally crush and either snort or inject their medication to achieve instant effects. The effects of Ritalin generally last between 3 to 4 hours. The half-life of Ritalin varies greatly depending on many factors such as the duration of use and method of consumption. However, Its half-life is approximately 2.5 hours for children and 3.5 hours for adults. Depending on factors such as the duration of Ritalin consumption, the half-life can reach up to 7.7 hours in some individuals.

Many abuse Ritalin to intensify the drug’s effects, such as euphoria since it is not achievable at therapeutic doses. Patients diagnosed with ADHD do not usually experience substantially higher energy levels while taking Ritalin. However, non-ADHD individuals often do so as they are affected differently by the medication. Individuals who abuse Ritalin by excessive amounts, without a prescription, or through snorting or injecting the drug, are at risk of generating adverse side effects, such as:

  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Overdose
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Suppressed appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Fatigue
  • Altered heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • Agitation
  • Respiratory depression
  • Nervousness
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Panic Attacks

The side effects may vary based on whether or not the person is diagnosed with ADHD. Patients with mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, who abuse Ritalin may encounter worse side effects. This is caused by Ritalin’s function as a central nervous system stimulant that can generate manic episodes in some individuals.


What happens if you take Ritalin without ADHD?

As a CNS stimulant, the use of Ritalin can change brain chemistry. Therefore with or without ADHD, there are some adverse side effects associated with the medication, such as sleep disruption and impulsive behavior.

Is Ritalin stronger than Adderall?

Ritalin has shown to work faster and reach its optimum performance level faster than Adderall. However, it does not stay active in the body for as long as Adderall does. Ritalin is active for 2-3 hours, whereas Adderall stays active for 4-6 hours.

Does Ritalin damage the brain?

Ritalin has proved to cause long-lasting variations in brain chemistry, cell structure, and function. It has the potential to cause depression and frontal lobe brain injury, which can affect impulse control.

Is it OK to drink coffee while taking Ritalin?

It is best to avoid the intake of caffeine and caffeine-containing food and beverages while consuming Ritalin. Consuming Caffeine while taking Ritalin could lead to side effects such as irritability, tremors, nausea, insomnia, nervousness.

When should you take Ritalin?

Ritalin is best taken about two or three times daily and best taken 30-45 minutes before a meal. However, if you are suffering from an upset stomach, it is recommended the medication is taken with or after a meal or snack.

Does Ritalin have permanent effects?

Chronic Ritalin intake may result in a permanent change in brain chemistry.

What other medications can you not take with Ritalin?

Ritalin can have drug interactions with over the counter medication, such as decongestants, cold and cough medication, seizure medication, blood thinners, Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and antidepressants.

Should you take Ritalin on an empty stomach?

It doesn’t matter whether you take Ritalin on an empty stomach or with food. However, it is best to be consistent with the way you take it.

Is it safe to consume alcohol with Ritalin?

It is not safe to use alcohol while taking Ritalin as alcohol can change the way the drug works.

Signs of a Ritalin Addiction

Like many stimulants, Ritalin raises the level of dopamine that reaches the neuron receptors in the brain. The brain reward system reinforces the behavior that stimulates the release of dopamine. However, patients with ADHD have high levels of dopamine transporters, which leads to low dopamine production in the brain. Ritalin inhibits these transporters and maintains dopamine at a healthy level, which results in increased attention, focus, and impulse control. Ritalin stimulates much higher levels of dopamine for those who do not have ADHD and cause the user to experience a sense of euphoria.

There are many signs that indicate a problematic use of Ritalin. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders outlines certain criteria to help diagnose an addiction to Ritalin and to measure its severity.

Signs of a Ritalin addiction are:

  • Isolating oneself from family or friends.
  • Encountering withdrawal symptoms during rapid dose reduction or abrupt cessation of the drug use.
  • Spending way too much time in obtaining, using, and recovering from Ritalin.
  • Experiencing urges to use Ritalin and constantly craving for the drug.
  • Neglecting career, home, and school-related responsibilities.
  • Continue using Ritalin, even when it causes problems at work, school, and home.
  • Abandoning significant social, occupational, or recreational activities in favor of drug use.
  • Using Ritalin over and over again, even when it endangers you.
  • Keep using Ritalin even at the cost of physical or psychological wellbeing.
  • Requiring higher doses of the drug to feel the desired effects.
  • Experiencing sudden mood swings.
  • Repeated failed attempts at controlling drug use.


Does Ritalin give you energy?

Ritalin is used to enhance alertness, wakefulness, and increased focus in ADHD patients. At high doses, it may cause feelings of euphoria and energy.

Does Ritalin make you happy?

Ritalin effects by improving the mood almost to a level of euphoria.

Does Ritalin help depression?

Ritalin has been used in combination therapy along with antidepressant medications to treat depression. They may also be used in monotherapy.

Does Ritalin keep you awake at night?

According to a study, children who are given stimulants such as Ritalin develop sleeping problems and difficulty in staying asleep. Ritalin does list sleep problems as a potential side effect.

Can Ritalin worsen depression?

One of the side effects of Ritalin includes depression.

Does Ritalin affect memory?

Ritalin can have a positive effect on memory performance.

What are the negative side effects of Ritalin?

Ritalin could lead to side effects such as irritability, agitation, loss of appetite, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, nervousness.

How much Ritalin is too much?

The daily dosage recommended should not exceed 60 mg. Patients who require higher doses must consult their physician first.

Can Ritalin make you sleepy?

Ritalin can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and changes in vision.

The Prevalence of Ritalin Addiction

Diagnoses of ADHD and ADD are increasingly common each year, and the prevalence of Ritalin increases with the number of diagnoses. The following statistics help show the magnitude of the problem:

  • In 2011, 11 percent of children in the US were diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
  • More than 16 percent of college students take methylphenidates, such as Ritalin, for recreational purposes.
  • The US produces and consumes about 85 percent of Ritalin’s supply worldwide.
  • Around 5.9 million children were diagnosed with ADHD, for which the leading treatment is a prescription for Ritalin.
  • The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) reported that 1.3 million teens have confessed to the misuse of Ritalin or Adderall.
  • According to the DAWN Report from SAMHSA, the number of emergency room visits attributed to ADHD stimulant usage rose from 13,379 in 2005 to 31,244 in 2010.

Treatment for Ritalin Addiction

The course of treatment may vary depending on when the person began using Ritalin. Those who have been prescribed Ritalin at a young age often find it harder to overcome physical and mental dependence as they have spent most of their young lives on it. Addiction treatment programs for Ritalin generally focus on addressing underlying behaviors and thought processes that initially caused Ritalin use and abuse.

Ritalin drug treatment programs also include behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, to help patients manage ADHD symptoms without the use of drugs. During addiction treatment, patients may also be prescribed non-addictive ADHD medications such as Strattera as it provides a safer and healthier alternative to using Ritalin and other stimulants. The mixture of psychotherapy and non-abusable drugs can help the patient develop safe coping strategies to manage the symptoms of ADHD.


What happens when Ritalin wears off?

When Ritalin effects wear off, it can cause a rebound effect that can flare up your ADHD symptoms.

How long does it take Ritalin to leave the body?

Ritalin can appear in a urine test up to 2 days, hair test up to 90 days, blood work up to 12 hours, and saliva test up to 2 days.

Benefits of Ritalin Addiction Treatment

There are many benefits of Ritalin addiction treatment, including:

  • Helping you get your life back on track.
  • Receiving appropriate support and guidance to battle addiction.
  • Ability to communicate and process therapy experiences effectively while discovering the root causes of addiction.
  • Ability to participate in family therapy and rebuild relationships.
  • Education on the disease of addiction.
  • Knowledge of healthy coping skills, including relapse prevention strategies.
  • The ability to take the time you need to truly invest in yourself and improve your physical and mental health.

No two abusers of Ritalin are similar. Family circumstances, the nature of addiction, and psychiatric conditions factor in when determining the best treatment option for each patient. Depending on individual requirements, patients may benefit from choosing intensive outpatient programs or more flexible options like partial hospital programs. After the completion of detox and rehabilitation programs, patients must continue with treatment through aftercare programs to help avoid relapses.

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