What Is Ritalin?
Ritalin is a brand-name drug. The generic name of Ritalin is methylphenidate. Ritalin is prescribed primarily to treat ADHD symptoms. It can also be used less commonly for the treatment of narcolepsy. Ritalin is a psychostimulant, meaning that it stimulates the activity of the central nervous system. Ritalin affects certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including norepinephrine and dopamine. When someone uses this medication for a period of time, they may become dependent upon the drug, which can then trigger Ritalin withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop using it.
What is ADHD?
ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors. In addition, ADHD is a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. The symptoms differ from person to person and may require ADHD treatment for intense cases.
According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects people’s behavior. People with ADHD can seem restless, may have trouble concentrating, and may act on impulse. Symptoms of ADHD tend to be noticed at an early age and may become more noticeable when a child’s circumstances change, such as when they start school.
Most cases are diagnosed when children are 6 to 12 years old. The symptoms of ADHD usually improve with age, but many adults who were diagnosed with the condition at a young age continue to experience problems. People with ADHD may also have additional problems, such as sleep and anxiety disorders.
Common Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms
Ritalin, like other stimulants, often causes psychological symptoms during withdrawal. Since Ritalin primarily works by influencing dopamine in the brain, Ritalin withdrawal symptoms will be related to reward, emotion, and energy levels. You may feel apathetic, depressed, anxious, irritable, and tired.
You may also feel rebounding symptoms if you took the drug as a prescription to treat narcolepsy or ADHD. In that case, you might experience hypersomnia or difficulty concentrating. The severity of your Ritalin withdrawal symptoms will depend on the length of time you were dependent on the drug and the size of your normal dose. Symptoms are generally worse if you quit suddenly or go ‘cold turkey.’
Other Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms Include:
- Loss of focus
- Mood swings
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in heart rate
- Changes in blood pressure
In some cases, depression can be severe and lead to a condition called anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure. This is usually temporary, but it can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. If you start to experience extreme depression symptoms or suicidal thoughts, it’s important to recognize that a severe chemical imbalance could cause it. Seeking professional help for addiction treatment can help.
Ritalin Withdrawal Timeline and Symptom Duration
Certain factors can affect how long Ritalin withdrawal symptoms last. How long someone has abused the drug is one factor. The dosage someone regularly uses is another. For example, Ritalin withdrawal symptoms are going to be shorter and less severe in someone who uses smaller doses, for the most part. Whether or not someone tapers down their dosage or stops “cold turkey” will influence how long symptoms last, as well as their severity.
Ritalin withdrawal may begin with an immediate crash as the drug starts to wear off. Within the first one to three days, most people will then start to experience fatigue, cravings, nausea, agitation, and mood changes. Following the first three days, and usually within the first full week, symptoms start to include depression, extreme fatigue, sleep disturbances, and increased appetite.
Week two of Ritalin withdrawal may include a continuation of these symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and fatigue. The symptoms can start to get better by week three and, for most people, by week four they will feel better. Some people may have symptoms that last for several months -particularly if they have used large amounts of the drug over a long period of time.
Managing Symptoms of Ritalin Withdrawal
There are different options for managing symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal. People who have used Ritalin therapeutically should follow the instructions and guidelines of their physician when it comes to gradually taper down their use of the drug.
For some people who have abused the drug over a long period of time, medical detox may be necessary. It’s best not to try and detox from Ritalin without the supervision of a medical professional because symptoms can become severe. If someone follows a tapering-down schedule for Ritalin, rather than stopping “cold turkey,” they may not experience withdrawal symptoms at all.
Ritalin Withdrawal Medications and Detox
There are no specifically approved Ritalin detox medications like there are for other drugs. However, the symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal can be managed as they appear with certain medications and treatments. A medical detox center is an optimal place for many people to begin their addiction treatment journey. At a detox center, there is the monitoring of Ritalin withdrawal symptoms, medications can be prescribed as needed, and complications can also be treated. When someone participates in a professional Ritalin detox program, they’re less likely to relapse and more likely to then be able to begin addiction treatment.
Why Should I Detox?
Ritalin isn’t usually life-threatening during withdrawal-like other drugs can be. Instead, it’s more likely to cause uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms.
Detox is a high level of care in addiction treatment that’s used to treat people that could go through severe withdrawal symptoms. However, it may also be used to treat people who have other health conditions that need to be addressed or monitored alongside withdrawal.
For instance, stimulants like Ritalin can cause changes in heart rate and blood pressure that can be risky for people with heart conditions. Detox involves 24-hour medically managed services that usually last for about a week to 10 days, depending on your needs.
Ritalin Abuse And Effects
Like Amphetamines, which are also known as “Speed” or “Uppers,” Ritalin increases alertness and concentration. It is often abused by professionals, students, and athletes to increase productivity. It is listed as a Schedule II federally controlled substance because of its high potential for abuse.
Consumption of Methylphenidates like Ritalin is markedly higher in the United States than in other countries. This is likely due to how accessible they are. Many students who are prescribed Ritalin have given or sold their medication to other students to help them study. Students may also take the drug simply to feel high.
The effects of Ritalin usually last between 3 and 4 hours. The half-life of the drug (how long it takes for half of the drug to work its way through the body) is highly variable and dependent on numerous factors. For children, it is approximately 2.5 hours. For adults, it is approximately 3.5 hours. Depending on how long the user has taken Ritalin, among other factors, the half-life can reach 7.7 hours.
Those who abuse Ritalin typically do so because they are trying to exacerbate the side effects of the drug, including a euphoria that is not generally found at therapeutic doses. Individuals with an ADHD diagnosis do not typically experience significantly increased energy levels when taking Ritalin, but non-ADHD individuals often do because the drug affects them differently. People abusing the drug through inappropriate doses, use without a prescription or snorting or injecting it, run the risk of negative side effects. These may include:
- Suppressed appetite
- Chest pain
- Changes in blood pressure
- Altered heart rate
- Respiratory depression
- Panic attacks
Side effects can vary depending on whether the individual has a diagnosis of ADHD or not. When someone takes a medication that they are not prescribed, the negative side effects can be different and/or more intense.
Those with mood disorders, like bipolar disorder, who abuse Ritalin may exhibit even worse symptoms and behavior. This is because Ritalin is a CNS Stimulant that can trigger manic episodes in some individuals. Therefore, it is important to talk with a physician before beginning to take any Stimulant medications.
What Is The Next Treatment Step?
Whether you complete detox, or if it’s determined that you don’t need it, you may still need additional levels of care in addiction treatment. If you have significant medical or psychological needs that make living independently potentially dangerous, you may go through an inpatient or residential program. If you can live at home, you may go through an outpatient program. Through treatment, your plan will be personalized, and you’ll meet regularly with a therapist. You may go through individual, family, and group therapy sessions depending on your plan.
Why Seek Treatment?
Ritalin withdrawal may not be as life-threatening as other drugs like central nervous system dependence. However, substance use disorders are chronic and progressive diseases. That means they may last a long time, and they will likely get worse over time, especially without the right treatment.
Addiction is pervasive, and it can start to take over different aspects of your life as it progresses, including your health, relationships, and finances. Addiction treatment can help to address substance abuse problems and any underlying issues like mental health problems. To take a step toward recovery today, learn more about addiction and how it can be effectively treated.
Reclaim Your Life From Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms
Ritalin addiction is a condition that can cause major health, social and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up California can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from addiction with professional and safe detox, that will help you ease symptoms from Ritalin withdrawal. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
 Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2006. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45.) 1 Overview, Essential Concepts, and Definitions in Detoxification.