Methylphenidate, which also goes by Ritalin, is a drug that’s used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. The drug works by affecting dopamine levels in your system that help increase alertness, motivation, and focus. When the drug is overused, or in some cases, abused, methylphenidate can cause a substance use disorder through chemical dependency or addiction.

While some people abuse the drug because it allows them to focus better in school or work, others abuse it for its euphoric effects. College students abuse methylphenidate to increase alertness and focus through long study hours and improve their test scores. Unfortunately, using the medication without a prescription or in high doses will lead to chemical dependency, or in some cases, addiction.

What are the Signs of Methylphenidate Abuse?

Methylphenidate addiction is characterized as compulsive use of the substance despite it causing significant consequences. Some of these consequences can range from medical, legal, or social, but if methylphenidate causes problems in your life and you can’t stop, it may show that you’ve developed a severe substance use problem.

Since the drug is considered a stimulant, abusing methylphenidate may produce symptoms of an overactive nervous system – this may cause insomnia, anxiety, or panic. Stimulant drugs may also disrupt sleeping patterns, leading to sleeplessness and fatigue.

Other symptoms of methylphenidate abuse include:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Manic episodes
  • Panic attacks
  • Dehydration
  • Odd sleeping schedules
  • Headaches
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Fatigue

If you’re worried that a loved one is abusing methylphenidate and may be on track to develop a substance use disorder, they may need to get help immediately. Some signs to look out for include hiding drugs around the house, shopping around for different doctors to write prescriptions, and trying but failing to cut back or stop.

What Does Methylphenidate Treatment Consist of?

If you abuse methylphenidate and develop a substance use disorder, there is help available. Unfortunately, there is no magical cure that will make everything better, but a series of treatment options can help you achieve your goal of long-term abstinence.

There are four primary levels of care that address different needs in treatment. The first of these is medical detox, which is considered the most intense level of care.

It’s designed to assist clients in overcoming uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Those with medical conditions that are complicated by addiction may also benefit from this step.

In some cases, you may not need detox and will need treatment for psychological or medical needs.

You will be best suited in an inpatient or residential treatment program with access to 24-hour medical care. Those who can live independently will go through outpatient treatment.

Is Methylphenidate Abuse Dangerous?

Methylphenidate is a prescription for a reason, and when it’s abused, you will notice a strain on your heart if you overuse it. It may lead to complications if you have hypertension or heart disease. Long-term addiction can lead to sleep disorders that cause anxiety, depression, obesity, and heart disease. The sooner you get help, the less damage you will create in your body.

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