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Ritalin Abuse: Addiction Signs & Treatment options

Ritalin, which is the brand name of methylphenidate, is a drug used in the treatment and management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that involves excessive dopamine in the brain reward system. The drug inhibits dopamine transporters in ADHD patients that keep the chemical at low levels, enhancing attention and impulse control. It produces a calming effect in ADHD patients, allowing them to focus on their work or studies without disruption or fidgeting.

However, the substance has an opposite effect when taken by persons who do not have ADHD. It causes chemical reactions in the brain cells that result in euphoric and energetic feelings due to increased dopamine. This pleasant sensation can be addictive, resulting in mild to severe withdrawal symptoms. Ritalin can also pose potential health risks to users with underlying conditions such as:

  • Hypertension
  • Heart conditions
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures

People suffering from the above conditions can significantly risk their well-being since some of Ritalin’s withdrawal symptoms can exacerbate their illnesses. For example, if you take the drug and have a heart condition, you may risk your life with prolonged use since Ritalin can cause changes in your heart rate. Getting proper medical and rehab care during addiction treatment is essential to achieving sobriety healthily without risking your life.

Who Abuses Ritalin?

Ritalin creates euphoria while increasing concentration and alertness among users without ADHD. It has a high effect, like amphetamines. Some people who deal with substance use disorder include professionals and athletes who want to increase their productivity. Students also take Ritalin to improve their studies while other learners, especially in college, consume it for its euphoric effects.

When a person with no ADHD history uses the drug, it operates like a traditional central nervous system stimulant and produces psychoactive effects, such as a cognitive boost. Gradually, continual Ritalin usage causes your brain to recall these euphoric and energetic signals, resulting in cravings for a repeat of the pleasure. Since you cannot satisfy the urge from other environmental stimulants, you slowly develop a substance use disorder to meet the pleasure demands.

Addiction Signs of Ritalin

Non-ADHD individuals who continually take Ritalin can quickly develop a dependency and addiction to the drug due to its seemingly pleasant effects. The substance addiction signs can range in severity from mild to severe, depending on various factors, including:

  • The length of time since the final dose
  • The amount of Ritalin consumed
  • The overall length of time the drug was taken
  • The presence of other medications or drugs in the system
  • Underlying medical conditions

The first indicator of addiction is continual use despite wanting to stop. Repeated Ritalin abuse forms a learned behavior due to the feel-good sensation it delivers by controlling dopamine in the brain. The drug works to maintain dopamine levels at a healthy amount in ADHD users. However, when other people who do not have ADHD use it, the substance produces more dopamine. This change causes the brain reward system to reinforce Ritalin intake by activating the neurotransmitter production, leaving you addicted.

Secondly, taking the drug for longer than prescribed or consuming more significant amounts indicates an addiction. Generally, Ritalin’s effects last for approximately three to four hours with a varying half-life among adults and children. For instance, it takes about 2.5 hours for half the drug to work its way through a child’s body, ranging around 1.5 to 5 hours. This average changes to approximately 3.5 hours in adults. The half-life can extend up to 7.7 hours depending on the person’s history with Ritalin intake.

The third sign is the neglect of your responsibilities at school, work or home. You need to seek immediate assistance when you find yourself giving up vital recreational, social or occupational activities to accommodate Ritalin use. Besides, you can discover that the substance causes strains in your relationships and overspending on the drug.

Lastly, you know you are experiencing addiction when you undergo withdrawal symptoms whenever you try to quit Ritalin. The psychological symptoms result directly from the dopamine changes in your brain since stopping the intake reduces the chemical from the excessive levels. Consequently, you will have energy and emotional issues, leaving you feeling anxious, tired, apathetic, irritable or depressed. Other withdrawal symptoms experienced by some patients include:

  • Mood swings
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Loss of concentration
  • Hyperactivity

If you have a long history of taking Ritalin in large amounts, you will experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, the symptoms worsen if you choose to stop using the drug suddenly without a gradual decrease. Thus, it is advisable to get professional aid whenever possible to treat your substance use disorder and manage your future sobriety.

It is essential to note that Ritalin is relatively accessible, enabling various individuals, from professionals to college students, to purchase it. This accessibility enhances ADHD patients’ convenience while simultaneously increasing the risk of falling into an addiction for people without a history of ADHD. Notably, this convenience can also facilitate relapses for recovering patients, making it more challenging to overcome the dependency on their own.

Treatment Options

You can look at various treatment options and centers depending on your necessities and location. It is vital to find an ideal facility that delivers quality services to meet your demands for an effective rehabilitation and recovery experience.

Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire uses a unique approach when integrating the 12-step program in the abuse treatment curriculum. Our center merges it into every area during your guided curriculum, creating a comprehensive and tightly woven clinical program informed by the steps. Unlike other traditional facilities that incorporate the 12-step curriculum at later stages, we introduce it from the beginning, resulting in a transformative and effective treatment plan.

Upon realization and acceptance of Ritalin use disorder, you can seek professional assistance to overcome the addiction and get your life in order. It is essential to participate in the right program that can help you recover while enabling you to manage future situations to prevent relapsing. With so many details to examine, you may wonder where to begin to obtain help.

First, you want to identify your preferences and requirements to identify and organize the curriculum that works the best for your particular situation. Some questions to consider include the following: Do you want a 30-, 60- or 90-day plan? Is there a co-occurring disorder? Do you prefer experiential or holistic programs? Here are some elements to consider, guide your decision-making and inform you about what to expect.

  1. Medical Detox

As with other drugs, Ritalin addiction causes mental and physical withdrawal symptoms that can make it challenging when users stop taking it. If you decide to confront your addiction, detoxification is generally the first step that you take. Proper decision-making and actions at this stage can significantly help you gain psychological and physical momentum to face the battle ahead.

Depending on how long a person has used Ritalin, the detox curriculum can include medically monitored services. For instance, you may arrive at Granite Recovery Centers high on the drug and, with time, experience some associated symptoms, like anxiety and depression. Our care providers will offer the utmost care and support to ensure you remain comfortable from the initial withdrawal symptoms to post-checkout monitoring. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

Other variables that can determine if you need to be placed in a detoxification curriculum that requires medical monitoring include:

  • The amount of Ritalin you used
  • Other medications you consumed
  • Not being a danger to others or yourself
  • The ability to self-evacuate in emergencies
  1. Inpatient Care

Inpatient treatment allows a person to stay at a facility for 24-hour care. He or she can stay at a residential center and enjoy an interactive community while working on recovery with other patients. Such treatment options include various activities to keep the patients busy, entertained and comfortable, including:

  • Life skills-building sessions
  • Individual and group therapy courses
  • Holistic or exercise therapy
  • Community-based physical workouts
  • Integrative 12-step curricula
  1. Outpatient Care

Outpatient rehab programs permit people to receive care while staying at an extended facility or their homes with supportive families. This option also includes sober living houses, where a person lives, attends therapy sessions and can receive other forms of services and care from a different outpatient facility. Usually, you can access this option after completing primary care at an inpatient center that provides continued support and structure for long-term guidance.

There may be a few features at the outpatient facilities that promote sustained self-care and management, such as:

  • Workshops and meetings with applicable 12-step curricula
  • Life skills education to build recovery
  • Group work
  • Goal setting

If you have a tricky family situation with unsupportive members or pressure from peers, you can opt to stay at the provided outpatient care center. Additionally, you can choose to stay away from home if your house or neighborhood features convenient access to Ritalin.

  1. Therapy

As with most cases, digging deep and finding the root cause can help you find a lasting solution to any problem. Therapy sessions help you look at how present, past and future factors play a role in your Ritalin use disorder. Most people who abuse the drug are students, athletes and professionals who seek to increase their concentration, alertness and productivity.

Ritalin’s accessibility and the euphoria it delivers to people who do not have ADHD give the drug a high potential for abuse, which increases the difficulties for those trying to overcome their addiction. Treatment facilities typically create tapering programs, combined with behavioral and cognitive therapies, to address substance use disorder.

Psychotherapy helps someone understand the causes of addiction while allowing him or her to stop the harmful habits developed during his or her addiction. For instance, you can understand the emotions, thoughts and situations that trigger Ritalin cravings via cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Learning the individual and social cues that cause discomfort, panic or anxiety can considerably help you learn how to respond healthily without turning to negative thoughts and behavior about the drug.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is principally used to treat opioid addictions with the prescribed medication gradually offered in reduced doses to correct brain chemistry and renormalize body functions. The tapering process also inhibits the euphoric effects of opioids, resulting in the relief of physiological cravings. Although Ritalin is not an opioid, substance use causes overreliance and habits that can seriously damage the brain cells.

Thus, some addiction cases require combining modern pharmaceuticals and behavioral therapy via the MAT program for effective results. In such cases, the facility aims to offer a thorough whole-patient approach with tapering programs that tailor the curriculum to address every patient’s needs. Although presently there are no approved medications for treating Ritalin addiction, the tapering programs help reduce the addictive impulses by healing the damaged brain cells.

Techniques for Relapse Prevention

Recovering addicts must always have an excellent support system within and outside the recovery center to avoid relapsing. People overcoming Ritalin addiction, in particular, must take extra care upon the completion of their treatment curriculum. They must diligently observe the facility and therapists’ guidelines, structure and strategies to maintain proper habits without falling again for the easily accessible Ritalin.

  • Aftercare Programs

Facilities like Granite Recovery Centers provide aftercare programs that present structured care after inpatient and outpatient treatments for proper management and guidance. You can create an individual preventative plan with your clinician after examining different possibilities and realities, including risky situations or venues.

  • Home Support

Surrounding yourself with supportive family members, colleagues and friends will allow you to rely on them to keep you away from the substance. Avoiding peer pressure can also lower the risk of compromising your resolution and journey to sobriety.

Other preventative measures for a stimulant addiction, like Ritalin, include:

  • Addressing pleasant memories of the drug use
  • Recognizing warning signs
  • Not testing the limits of sobriety
  • Developing stress management and coping skills

Addiction treatment services incorporate integrative and ongoing support activities, such as counseling, support groups and alumni meetings, which help patients stay within a sobriety environment. Actively following your therapist’s tailored toolkit ensures you can maintain sobriety and keep the dark allure of substance use at bay.