Ritalin is the brand name for Methylphenidate, which is similar to amphetamine. Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant and is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. In the United States it is classified as a Schedule 2 controlled substance. Ritalin comes in sustained or extended release formulas, and can have different brand names.
Effects of Ritalin on the Brain
Because Ritalin is a stimulant, it increases the activity of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, and is important for the reinforcement of behavior. Ritalin also blocks the transporters that re-uptake dopamine into the neuron that released it. This is possibly why Ritalin is used to help people who suffer from ADHD, because they may have more dopamine transporters than other people. When Ritalin blocks the transporters, it allows more dopamine to reach receptors, thus increasing attention span, which helps individuals with ADHD to focus. Orally taken, Ritalin raises dopamine levels slowly, over the course of an hour or so.
Short-Term Effects of Ritalin
Therapeutic doses of Ritalin start at 5 to 10 mg one to three times a day for children and upto 60 mg daily for adults. Individuals who are dependent on Ritalin and use it recreationally may be taking hundreds of mg per day, and even increasing the dosage if they develop a tolerance to the drug.
In low doses, the effects of Ritalin can include:
- Suppressing appetite
- Heightened alertness
- Impairment of voluntary movement
- Irregular heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Skin rash
- Possible drowsiness
High doses of Ritalin can lead to:
- Twitching of muscles
- Dilated pupils
- Hallucinations and paranoia
- Flushed skin
- Increased blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- Fever and sweating
- Seizures, followed by coma
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Formication- the sensation of bugs or worms crawling under the skin
Long-Term Effects of Ritalin
It is not known what the long term effect of the therapeutic doses of Ritalin are. According to some studies, long term use of the drug may suppress height growth and weight gain. Different studies contradict these findings.
Abuse of Ritalin long term produces effects that are similar to those experienced by individuals who use amphetamine, and can include anxiety and sleeplessness. Individuals who abuse Ritalin by injecting high doses daily could experience a state resembling acute paranoid schizophrenia.
Tolerance, Dependence, & Withdrawal
When Ritalin is used as prescribed, the individual using it does not develop a tolerance, however the individuals who abuse it do. Chronic use of the drug can result in physical dependence. Ritalin withdrawal symptoms usually include severe depression and exhaustion, and panic when the drug isn’t available immediately.
Ritalin dependency can have long lasting repercussions for an individual’s health. If you or a loved one struggle to quit using Ritalin, it may be time to seek help. The Villa provides support for the journey of recovery. Call us to get started.