One of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in the United States is attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and an estimated 51 million people across the country are affected. In the 1970s, the subject was highly controversial, but continued studies started to give doctors and scientists a better understanding of the disorder. It allowed physicians to push harder and develop medications to treat the disorder. Typically, when we think of ADHD, Adderall is the first drug that comes to mind for its treatment, but Ritalin was one of the original medications prescribed to counteract ADHD’s effects.
Ritalin, also known by its name as methylphenidate, is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Those with ADHD don’t produce enough dopamine in their brain; it’s a result of a lack of availability by dopamine neurotransmitters. It can impede essential brain functions, and Ritalin works to adjust the accessibility of the neurotransmitters.
Dopamine is what controls our brain’s pleasure centers, and it is tied up in circuits that control rewards and motivation. The function of Ritalin is to help dopamine increase the attention span to tasks and help increase interest in the person using the medicine.
When Ritalin is used as prescribed, it can be a useful tool in improving cognitive performance in those struggling with ADHD’s effects. Unfortunately, it is still a stimulant and carries the potential for abuse that leads to addiction. Those who are prescribed Ritalin need to take it as it calms them down and gives them a chance to focus. Individuals who do not have ADHD and consume Ritalin will experience increased energy, alertness, and euphoria due to an excess of dopamine in the brain that did not need it.
Ritalin is often overlooked for its dangers because it is not a drug like cocaine, and it can seem like a viable option to use recreationally. Those who use it as prescribed are still prone to becoming dependent on the drug, but recreational users who abuse it place themselves at a higher risk of addiction.
What are the Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms?
Ritalin withdrawal is a complicated topic because it varies based on the unique factors each person possesses, and many doctors have suggested that there aren’t any withdrawal symptoms associated with Ritalin, and many people will not experience any when they stop using the medication.
Despite what has been said, there are still adverse effects as a result of Ritalin withdrawal, which is something known as a crash. A crash is when the brain acclimates to certain levels of dopamine that Ritalin produces, and it eventually stops producing dopamine on its own. When an individual ceases use of the medication, their body will not produce enough dopamine on its own; in fact, it will produce less than before using the drug, which leads to the crash. Symptoms of a crash include:
- Lack of focus
The anecdotes of those who lack withdrawal symptoms were not regular users who developed a dependence or abuse Ritalin in large doses. In the cases where abuse is prevalent, there is documented proof of Ritalin withdrawal, and the most common of which is the reverse effects of the drug, which include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Severe depression
- Mood swings
- Increase in appetite
- Increased heart rate
Physical symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal are considered mild, but psychological ones are much more intense. A lack of dopamine can lead to severe depression, leaving the user with suicidal ideation. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal after stopping Ritalin, call 911 immediately.
What are the Stages of The Ritalin Withdrawal Timeline?
One positive about Ritalin is its short half-life, which is only three to four hours and will stay in your system for less than 24 hours after the last dose. If you’ve become dependent on Ritalin, you will experience withdrawal symptoms quickly. The timeline of Ritalin withdrawal is going to vary from one person to another, and but an estimated timeframe goes as follows:
Once Ritalin begins to leave your system, physical symptoms of withdrawal will be experienced, which include cravings, fatigue, nausea, and increased heart rate.
Four to Seven Days
At this stage, physical symptoms will emerge at their peak and will be accompanied by mental symptoms such as depression, insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.
Once you’ve reached this point, the physical symptoms should disappear; however, depression, anxiety, and insomnia may persist.
Cravings at this point should be gone, and most symptoms will have diminished, but depression may still linger on.
As we discussed above, the length and intensity of Ritalin withdrawal will depend on several factors. These include:
- The extent of Ritalin abuse
- How often they were using Ritalin
- Whether they taper off usage or quit cold turkey
- What dosage of Ritalin they were ingesting
The dose will play a significant role in the intensity of the symptoms, and most people take between 10 and 60 milligrams, but the average is 30 milligrams. Those who abuse Ritalin to the point where tolerance has been built will likely take in excess of 60 milligrams to experience any feeling.
Lower doses of Ritalin, even those who abuse it, will likely experience mild withdrawal symptoms. Those taking more than 60 milligrams for an extended period will need to taper their Ritalin use to avoid severe symptoms gradually.
Why Should I Detox?
Ritalin withdrawal is not inherently dangerous when compared to benzodiazepines or even other stimulants, but it can be a long uncomfortable process. You should never detox from drugs or alcohol without professional guidance, whether it is through an outpatient detox program or more intensive inpatient detox. Going through this process at a medical detox center will ensure that you withdraw safely and with the least amount of discomfort, which can potentially avoid a relapse in the future.
Experienced addiction experts will allow you to gradually taper the Ritalin dosage until the body has adjusted to its new state. Depending on the severity of the addiction, the tapering process can range from a few days to weeks.
What is the Next Treatment Step?
Detoxing from Ritalin is imperative to start your journey toward recovery, but it’s just the first step in a long process. To fully recover from addiction, going through the entire continuum of care is crucial. Those who overlook this portion of the process will not understand the behaviors that drove them to addiction, and will unlikely be able to maintain long-term sobriety.
Treatment programs will vary based on individual need, and the most beneficial treatment will be tailored around your specific needs. During detox, addiction specialists will assess your current needs and determine what is right for you. Are you struggling with a Ritalin addiction? Are you ready to get help? California Highlands Vistas wants to hear your story.