Ritalin is the retail name for the chemical, _methylphenidate_, a legally approved stimulant which is used to enhance a patient’s alertness, help deal with fatigue and enhance the attention span. It is also sold under the brands Concerta and Methylin. With structural similarities to amphetamine (speed), methylphenidate works by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels within the brain. This causes pharmaceutical effects which are similar to cocaine. However, these are much less potent and last for a shorter period of time.
One of the most common uses for Ritalin is as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is a developmental disorder involving a combination of attention problems and hyperactivity. Studies have shown that up to 16 percent of school aged children and about 4.7 percent of adults have ADHD. In these populations, stimulant medication such as Ritalin is used to balance out the symptoms of the disorder. Data is limited as to the usefulness of the drug when combating this disease. Further studies will have to be completed on the long-term effects and benefits of methylphenidate.
As well as ADHD, Ritalin can also be used in the treatment of the following disorders:
* Substance dependence
Because the drug is a stimulant similar to cocaine or speed, methylphenidate is used recreationally around the world. When abused in quantities above the recommended dosages, Ritalin can become addictive as well, especially when taken over long periods of time. Basically, substances like this can be abused for several reasons. The first is that methylphenidate is a stimulant which can result in a high. Typical symptoms include:
* Increased alertness
* Higher energy levels
* Improved attention span
* Higher blood pressure
* Increased heart rate
* Faster breathing
Second, drugs such as Ritalin can also be abused for their weight loss effects since they are appetite suppressants. These medications are used by those who feel that they are obese or overweight and wish to lose the pounds quickly. While Ritalin can be prescribed by doctors for the treatment of obesity, many people simply choose to purchase the drug illegally to achieve a better figure.
Finally, methylphenidate can be abused by students who feel that it helps them to gain better grades in school. This is because the resultant increase in attentiveness, energy and alertness can be seen as boosting overall study performance levels. In this case, however, there is a danger of addiction and complications, especially without the appropriate medical or clinical supervision.
Regardless of why it is abused, Ritalin can be taken in many ways. The most common is through oral ingestion as the drug is sold as a tablet anyway. It can also be injected, smoked or snorted depending on the preferences of the user. The reason for these latter consumption methods is that Ritalin is typically sold in small doses which are safe for children with ADHD. In order to achieve the desired non-medical effects, an individual will have to then combine several pills by grinding them together and taking them all at once.
Anyone abusing Ritalin may be at risk of a myriad of side effects, some of which are common to stimulants in general and others to the drug itself. These include but are not limited to the following:
* Nervousness or anxiety
* Drowsiness or dizziness
* Abdominal pain
* Loss of appetite
* Changes in blood pressure
* Changes in libido
Some studies also suggest that long-term Ritalin usage may cause stunted growth, although findings are conflicting here depending on the research paper. Likewise, studies looking at whether the drug causes other mental disorders, such as schizophrenia or paranoia, give mixed results as to whether there is any positive correlation. There certainly needs to be more research conducted into these areas before any concrete conclusions can be made.
Finally, as methylphenidate is similar to speed, anyone abusing it will also experience a number of withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit. For this reason, it is important for those abusing Ritalin to visit a professional drug rehabilitation center so that they can get the right amount of clinical and psychological assistance required to properly get rid of their addiction.
There are essentially two methods of combating Ritalin dependence and returning an individual to a normal drug-free lifestyle. Because methylphenidate is a stimulant, those abusing it can slowly decrease their dosage making it easier for them to quit without experiencing any harsh withdrawal symptoms. This process is known as weaning and is an effective way of controlling a patient’s addiction.
Secondly, the manner in which the Ritalin is taken can be changed. For example, ingesting the drug in its liquid form allows the individual to avoid withdrawal symptoms or the high usually associated with other methods such as snorting. In this way, addiction can also be controlled and the patient can commence on the path to recovery.
In either case, a reliable healthcare provider will be necessary for the successful recovery of a Ritalin abuser. With the support of a team of qualified medical and psychiatric professionals, friends and family, an individual will be able to battle their substance dependence and return to a life free from the consequences of drug abuse. In addition to this, behavior modification or cognitive therapies are available to help an individual recognize and avoid situations which may offer a higher risk of relapse. They also teach an addict a number of tricks and techniques so that they can then lead a drug-free lifestyle in the easiest possible manner.
All of this will be necessary to divert an overdose in the future. Taking too much Ritalin can result in a number of symptoms ranging from agitation and confusion to tremors and vomiting. In extremely rare cases, too much of the drug can also lead to death. To avoid these disastrous results, those who are known to be dependent on methylphenidate should consult with their local physician about the best way to treat their addiction and return to a normal lifestyle as soon as they can.