Ritalin is a prescription medication that’s used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Typically, it’s orally ingested to cause stimulating effects that increase focus and alertness. It’s among the first options for people diagnosed with ADHD, but it can be used recreationally, due to its stimulating and euphoric effects. However, it’s more frequently used to increase focus and get an edge in academics.
Ritalin and other ADHD medications are commonly abused on college campuses. The pressures of college life can cause students to make desperate choices. While most students supplement their studies with coffee, many have used “study drugs” to increase their study sessions and retain more information. Students report that amphetamine analogs (such as Adderall and Ritalin) help them concentrate longer and feel more motivated to study and complete tasks. The drugs are relatively easy to get on a university campus, and most current students encountered the drug at some point during their college years.
However, Ritalin can cause negative side effects, such as anxiety, insomnia, and loss of appetite. If you use the drug to pull too many all-nighters, you might experience negative effects due to exhaustion and malnutrition. If you take Ritalin by mouth, you could start feeling the effects within twenty minutes. A standard dose will cause some stimulation, increased focus, and enhanced wakefulness. With higher doses, you may experience euphoria, anxiety, a slightly elevated heart rate, nausea, dizziness, and insomnia.
Nevertheless, recreational users have found that snorting the drug can cause a more intense impact. But is it safe to intranasally administer the drug? What could happen to your brain and body if you do?
In this article, you’ll learn more about the effects of snorting Ritalin.
Ritalin is a brand name for a drug called methylphenidate, which acts as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant in the brain. It’s an amphetamine analog, which means its effects are similar to the ones produced by Adderall.
When the drug is taken orally, between 11 and 52 percent of it goes into your bloodstream. You’ll start feeling the stimulating effects within the hour.
These effects usually peak after two hours, but there are also extended-release versions of the drug that peak after longer time periods.
After the drug makes its way into your bloodstream, it flows into the brain and generates psychoactive effects. Like other stimulants, it will interact with some of the brain’s “feel-good chemicals,” which cause excitement, mood enhancement, and motivation.
People with ADD or ADHD may have a chemical imbalance that hinders their focus or motivation, and Ritalin can help correct this imbalance. This drug is considered a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI). It produces dopamine and norepinephrine, which are tied to reward and motivation. But it still produces these chemicals in people without ADHD, so it causes more stimulating effects in them.
Dopamine and norepinephrine are part of your normal neural chemistry. They are released in response to everyday activities. When there’s enough of it in your system, the reuptake process removes the excess and recycles the chemicals. Ritalin blocks this process and allows more of those natural chemicals to bind to their receptors, which activates their stimulating effects. Ritalin is also thought to increase the amount of the chemicals released into your brain, so more dopamine floods your receptors.
The “means of administration” refers to the way a drug enters your bloodstream. First, it has to pass through the liver and the blood-brain barrier. Many chemicals are filtered out at these roadblocks, but some make it through.
You can take a drug in a variety of ways, including orally, sublingually (under the tongue), intranasally, intravenously, and transdermally (as a patch). However, most drugs are better at making into the bloodstream through certain means, which is called bioavailability. In other words, the drug’s effects might be more intense and fast-acting through certain entry points. For instance, intravenous injection is the most efficient way to absorb most drugs, because it directly enters your bloodstream.
Ritalin is typically prescribed as pills to be taken orally. Ritalin has an oral bioavailability that ranges from 11 to 52 percent, but an average of 30 percent of the drug actually makes it into your bloodstream after you swallow it.
However, like other stimulants (such as amphetamines), more Ritalin can make its way into your blood when it’s snorted. The effects also act more quickly when the drug is snorted. Ritalin doses are determined based on oral administration. If a pill is crushed and snorted, it may be a comparatively large dose.
Generally, the effects of snorting Ritalin are more potent than taking it orally. The cognitive effects will start occurring within a few minutes, if not immediately. You may feel alert, focused, euphoric, irritable, restless, or anxious, and you may have trouble sleeping.
Stimulants can affect your heart in several ways, such as increasing your heart rate or blood pressure. While taking a prescribed dose should only cause a subtle increase in your heart rate, snorting it can cause heart palpitations and high blood pressure. When it’s snorted in high doses, it can cause a stroke or a fatal overdose.
While Ritalin is a relatively safe drug to use with medical consultation, it’s not safe to use beyond its intended purpose.
ScienceDirect. (n.d.). Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors. from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/dopamine-reuptake-inhibitors
Trudeau, M. (2009, February 05). More Students Turning Illegally To 'Smart' Drugs. from https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100254163
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2007, April). Ritalin – Food and Drug Administration. from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/010187s069,018029s040,021284s011lbl.pdf