Methylphenidate is a central nervous system depressant that’s used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It’s sold in medications like Ritalin, and it’s often the first treatment option that doctors consider when they’re looking for pharmacological remedies for ADHD. It’s safe and well-tolerated for the most part, but it can be dangerous when abused. As a stimulant, it can cause a euphoric mood-lifting effect when it’s taken in a high enough dose. In regular prescribed doses, it can cause increased alertness, focus, and wakefulness without any significant intoxicating effects.
Methylphenidate can be abused as a recreational and a performance-enhancing drug. Recreational users are typically looking for a high similar to cocaine or amphetamines. Methylphenidate isn’t as potent as illicit stimulants like cocaine and meth, but in high doses, it can deliver a significant euphoric high. It may also be used as a cognitive enhancing supplement illegally. A 2014 paper said that low doses of stimulants, in general, could cause increased arousal and attention that could benefit cognition. However, high doses can cause serious side effects.
Do People Smoke or Snort Methylphenidate?
People don’t typically smoke methylphenidate in the form it comes in when dispensed as a prescription drug. Some drugs can effectively reach your brain when it’s burned, and the smoke is inhaled. However, smoking methylphenidate is an inefficient way to deliver the drug into your bloodstream and brain. Most of the dose will be lost as it’s burned away. Cocaine has a similar property and must be converted to its freebase form (crack) before it can be effectively smoked.
Snorting, also called insufflation, is a more effective means of administration and, it may cause more potent effects than taking the drug orally. This route of administration is more direct and may deliver the drug to the brain in larger amounts.
What About Intravenous Injection?
Intravenous (IV) injection is the most direct route by which you can introduce a drug to your brain.
Since all psychoactive substances have to make it into your bloodstream before they can start to affect your brain, IV injection is a shortcut.
Plus, only a portion of the total dose will make it into your bloodstream, even when you smoke or snort a drug.
When a drug is injected, 100 percent of it is delivered. Average doses of a drug taken by mouth may be more potent when it’s injected into the vein directly.
One review found that methylphenidate caused similar effects to cocaine when it’s taken intravenously, producing a comparable high.
Why Different Means of Administration are Dangerous
When you’re prescribed a dose of oral methylphenidate, it’s intended to be taken by mouth. The same dose may be too high in a different route of administration. Moreover, snorting the drug delivers it to the brain faster. Quick and potent rewarding effects like stimulating euphoria may increase your risk of experiencing chemical dependence and addiction. Snorting and IV injection may also lead to an overdose, which can be life-threatening.