Ritalin – Highly Addictive Dopamine and Norepinephrine Stimulant

Last Updated: December 19, 2019

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

What is Ritalin?

Ritalin (Methylphenidate) is a central nervous system stimulant most commonly prescribed for narcolepsy treatment. Ritalin as well as Adderall is also used to treat attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Being one of the highly addictive drugs, it is classified as a class 2 substance which means it has a high abuse potential.

So, how does Ritalin actually affect the brain?

It alters the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine and increases their activity. This is very effective in children with ADHD because it helps them establish relationships with their classmates, and perform better at school.

Ritalin Effects

Ritalin increases dopamine and norepinephrine levels in one’s synaptic cleft. When it comes to narcolepsy treatment, Methylphenidate increases alertness and prevents the sudden need for sleep and constant daytime drowsiness.

Ritalin Side Effects

Ritalin is a very potent central nervous system stimulant that can cause minor or severe side effects. Some of the adverse reactions are:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • High heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Unexplainable bruises
  • Libido problems
  • Arrhythmia
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Stroke
  • Tolerance
  • Addiction

Important Things to Note

Ritalin is a prescribed medication. Before taking it, inform a doctor if one is suffering from any chronic disease, or is allergic to any medication, has mental health issues, or has a history of drug abuse.
Also, if a patient is pregnant or breastfeeding, they shouldn’t be using Ritalin. Also, mixing Ritalin with alcohol is strictly forbidden because it makes the medicine absorb even faster. Furthermore, tell a doctor if one is using other medication because Ritalin has the ability to interact with various other drugs.

Ritalin Addiction

ritalin addiction rehabSelf-medication with Ritalin can lead to tolerance, which eventually causes addiction. A larger dose of this stimulant drug triggers the reward system in one’s brain, which causes a sensation of euphoria. As one continues to take this drug on a regular basis, they will need more and more of the drug to experience the same euphoric state on Ritalin. People who abuse Ritalin also do it to lose weight, stay awake, or to improve work and school performance.
Ritalin overdose symptoms may vary depending on the amount of the drug taken. In most cases they include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Inability to control movements
  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • High heart rate

How to Tell if Someone is Addicted to Ritalin?

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of Ritalin addiction are:

  • Insomnia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • High heart rate
  • Digestive problems
  • Obsessive- compulsive disorder
  • Hallucinations

If any of these symptoms were noticed, do not hesitate to seek professional help.

Treatment Options

Every drug addiction treatment is tailored according to an individual’s needs. Although all the active ingredients of Ritalin excrete in less than 24 hours, a cold turkey withdrawal might be very harmful. A 12-step program is one of the many treatment options for Ritalin an addict. This program provides peer support which is very important for relapse prevention.
Inpatient facilities are another great treatment solution. They provide a safe environment for the patients without distractions. Also, at inpatient clinics, users can get constant medical supervision, counseling sessions, occupational therapy, and much more.
Outpatient clinics and rehabs are also an option for Ritalin users. In this case, a person does not stay overnight at the clinic, but he/she can get any type of therapy they need.

Page Sources

  1. Wenthur CJ. Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Methylphenidate. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2016 Aug 17;7(8):1030-40. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acschemneuro.6b00199
  2. Dockree PM, Barnes JJ, Matthews N, Dean AJ, Abe R, Nandam LS, Kelly SP, Bellgrove MA, O'Connell RG. The Effects of Methylphenidate on the Neural Signatures of Sustained Attention. Biol Psychiatry. 2017 Nov 1;82(9):687-694. https://www.clinicalkey.com/#!/content/playContent/1-s2.0-S0006322317315597?returnurl=null&referrer=null

Published on: April 12th, 2017

Updated on: December 19th, 2019

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.


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