Methylphenidate, more widely known as Ritalin, is a prescription psychostimulant medication. It is used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults and children and narcolepsy. It works by stimulating the central nervous system and increasing dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter linked to movement, pleasure, and attention.
The medication, patented in 1954, was initially created to treat severe depression in adults. Later, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for treating cognitive disorders in children. Methylphenidate is beneficial to people with ADHD when it is used in therapeutic doses and as directed by a physician. When it’s used as prescribed, the drug isn’t considered addictive.
The drug, however, is often used recreationally, particularly among college students who use it as a “study drug” to enhance their academic performance. The drug can sharpen one’s focus, making them more alert and improving their attention span. Others have used it as an “upper” to help them get through all-night partying. Some people have used it as a substitute for the illicit drug cocaine.
What’s Considered Methylphenidate Abuse?
Methylphenidate abuse includes smoking or snorting the drug, and even injecting it intravenously. All of these methods involve crushing up either a 5, 10, and 20 mg water-soluble tablet until it becomes a fine powder so that it can be inhaled, smoked, or entered into the body via intravenous injection. Changing the medication’s form ensures that intense highs will be felt faster because it hits the bloodstream faster, but doing so also ensures users are taking more of the drug than what’s considered safe or normal.
Ingesting this medication in higher-than-prescribed doses produces euphoria in users and other effects experienced with other stimulants, such as amphetamine or cocaine. Uncomfortable side effects can follow after one uses too much methylphenidate. Smoking it will create faster dependence, but the chemicals in it combust once it is smoked. This may be one reason why people snort Ritalin, which also produces intense highs and side effects such as:
- Rapid heart rate
Regularly snorting methylphenidate can lead to severe side effects. Among them are:
- Aggressive behavior
- Toxicity (toxic shock)
It is dangerous to use methylphenidate in large amounts. One could overdose, and taking more methylphenidate than recommended can lead to a psychological addiction that may be hard to end without professional treatment.
, which changes how the body processes the medication. When both substances come together, increased side effects could result. It also might be harder for users to gauge how much they have been drinking, which could lead to alcohol poisoning.
Avoid Recreational Methylphenidate Use
Users who engage in recreational use are at risk of harming their mental and physical health. Regular misuse and abuse of this drug can change brain chemistry that affects behaviors involving risk-taking, sleep disruption, and other unwanted side effects. Using too much of the drug can lead to not only extreme physiological and psychological dependence but an overdose, which can turn fatal.
Overdosing on methylphenidate can bring on a sudden heart attack and other symptoms, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Panic attacks
- Overactive reflexes
- Extreme personality shifts
- Swelling of the hands, numb fingertips
- Kidney damage
All of these require immediate medical attention. Call 911 for emergency care or visit a hospital.
If regular use is stopped suddenly without medical assistance, withdrawal usually follows. This process can create instability for chronic users, who may experience the following as a result:
- Psychotic behavior
- Sleeping difficulties
If you (or someone you know) want to end abuse and dependence on methylphenidate safely, the next step is to reach out to a licensed addiction treatment facility. It can guide you through a supervised medical detox and a recovery program tailored to your needs that offers therapy, counseling, and ongoing aftercare. Professional addiction treatment is an effective way to recover from methylphenidate abuse and addiction.