10 Minutes

Edited & clinically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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As stated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drugs are only second to marijuana in terms of use and abuse. One of the most popular prescription drugs people across the United States commonly abuse is Ritalin. Between 1990 and 2000, the production of methylphenidate or Ritalin increased from 1,768 kilograms to 12,957 kilograms. This staggering increase depicts the possibility of a rise in the permissible and illicit use of the drug.

Fortunately, Ritalin addiction is manageable, and recovery is possible with proper treatment and long-term care planning.

Ritalin, also known as methylphenidate, is a stimulant drug commonly used to manage attention-related issues in children and adults. The medication predominantly works by increasing certain neurotransmitters, like dopamine and norepinephrine, in the brain to enhance attention and feelings of pleasure.

When taken in larger doses than prescribed, methylphenidate produces euphoria, increasing addiction potential in some individuals. Most stimulant drugs, including Ritalin, are also abused more commonly because they enhance performance by speeding up physical responses and mental processing. They may also appeal to people with food addiction or eating disorders, as Ritalin suppresses appetite. Teens reportedly use it to boost their academic performance, while others may rely on it because of their emotional vulnerabilities.

Regardless of the reason leading to Ritalin addiction, the phenomenon can lead to several unwanted side effects, such as:

  • Cardiovascular side effects
  • Abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Headache
  • Decreased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nervousness

People who develop a substance use disorder due to Ritalin abuse may display the following symptoms:

  • Obtaining and using Ritalin without a valid prescription on a regular or semi-regular basis
  • Using Ritalin to stay awake for longer periods
  • Attempting to get multiple prescriptions for Ritalin from different doctors
  • Frequently using Ritalin to manage everyday stressors
  • Using Ritalin without paying much heed to the physician’s instructions, for example, using it more than the prescribed amount or more frequently than prescribed
  • Using Ritalin differently than its meant to be, for example, crushing it and snorting the powder, mixing it with water, or injecting it in veins
  • Combining Ritalin with other drugs or alcohol to amplify its effects
  • Continuing to use Ritalin despite experiencing problems in life due to its abuse
  • Craving Ritalin all the time
  • Using progressively higher amounts of this drug to experience the same effects
  • Feeling low, irritable, unmotivated, sluggish, anxious, and jittery upon missing a dose.
  • Trying to stop using Ritalin but being unable to do so

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these signs, consult with a mental health clinician immediately.

Most Ritalin addiction treatment plans begin with detoxification, a process in which the body rids itself of the toxic substances accumulated due to chronic drug use. For a safe detox experience, experts advise joining a professional rehabilitation center where experts overlook the entire process while providing appropriate medical and therapeutic care at every step.

As soon as someone quits using this drug, they begin to experience the painful symptoms of Ritalin addiction withdrawal which may include:

  • Depression
  • Apathy
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiousness
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings for Ritalin

Fortunately, the helpful staff at rehab can provide support and medications to lower the intensity and severity of these symptoms successfully. Those who find the physical aspects of Ritalin cravings, like sleep problems, anxiety, and stress, challenging to cope with can rely on the following additional tips during detox.

Deep Breathing

One of its earliest responses is shallow breathing when the body undergoes stress. Shallow breathing further gives rise to panic and can make anxiety much worse. To regain control of breathing patterns, try deep breathing practices. Inhale in the fresh air in three seconds and hold your breath very briefly before exhaling it in three seconds. Keep repeating this exercise for a few minutes to relax the breathing pattern. Deep breathing exercises can reduce stress and promote calmer sleep, supporting Ritalin recovery.

Positive Affirmations and Self-Talk

High-stress levels can often lead to negative thoughts about self, others, and the world. In most cases, these thoughts are distorted and unrealistic as they are fueled by emotions instead of logic. To tackle these thoughts, make a list of positive self-statements and carry them with you throughout the process of Ritalin detoxification. Use it to practice gratitude during difficult times to refocus your mind away from cravings.

Exercise

Most detox experts regularly encourage their clients to exercise every day. Daily workouts can successfully reduce anxiety related to painful withdrawal symptoms. While these symptoms may make exercising impossible, start slow by taking baby steps. Aim for walking for 10 minutes every day and then gradually work your way up.

Healthy Diet

Poor nutrition only makes your withdrawal symptoms worse. On the other hand, eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, and protein can provide the proper minerals and vitamins needed to recover from Ritalin addiction. Avoid taking sugar and caffeine in the late hours of the evening to improve sleep.

For most individuals, detox alone is not enough to manage Ritalin cravings and prevent relapses in the future. To ensure that every aspect of this addiction is taken care of, it is critical to join a formal treatment program in a professional setting with the involvement of therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other experts.

A Ritalin addiction treatment plan may take place in any of the following levels of care:

Inpatient Treatment

This type of Ritalin dependence program includes individual, group, and family therapy for several hours a day. All participants reside at the treatment facility for the entire duration of treatment and receive round-the-clock care, a place to stay, three meals a day, and recreation opportunities.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment involves individual, group, and family therapy a few days a week. After attending the therapy sessions, participants are free to return to their homes. This flexibility in treatment makes outpatient services a good option for those who have other daily obligations to fulfill, such as a job or school.

Luxury Treatment

These treatment programs provide five-star resort-style amenities to make residents feel at home. These amenities typically include private accommodation, a personal chef and driver, a concierge, housekeeping, and access to spas, fitness centers, pools, massage parlors, and more.

Ritalin addiction can be quite distressing and may involve intense cravings that many people succumb to, especially when it’s their first time trying to quit. Working with a professional often helps people manage their cravings and prevent relapses in the future. Even after the completion of formal treatment, it is possible to maintain sobriety while fighting these cravings through the following techniques:

Self Monitoring

This technique involves creating a list of triggers that may lead to Ritalin use, such as specific things, places, and people. This list can increase your awareness about what causes your cravings and helps you develop a relapse prevention program accordingly.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming involves finding ways to avoid or cope with triggers when avoidance is impossible. Some coping skills you can adopt are asking someone to accompany you as a sober partner to situations that are likely to trigger cravings or engaging in healthy distractions like watching T.V. or reading a book.

Self Talk

 People with cravings also experience automatic thoughts such as “cravings are unbearable” or “the only way to feel better is to use.” While cravings can be distressing and uncomfortable, the belief that cravings are unbearable is irrational. Recognizing these distorted thoughts and rationally challenging them can promote positive self-talk and the belief that cravings are normal and can be overcome.

After completing formal treatment programs, people with Ritalin addiction require a comprehensive toolkit with valuable insights that can help them keep addiction at bay in the future. To ensure this, many formal treatments offer relapse prevention coaching as a part of the discharge process. Some of the techniques that you may consider availing yourself as you are about to conclude treatment include:

  • Learning about relapses and identifying the most common causes
  • Training in the identification of high-risk situations and warning signs
  • Managing pleasant memories of Ritalin use
  • Acquiring coping skills and developing stress-management skills to minimize the risk of relapse
  • Reminding yourself not to test the limits of your sobriety
  • Seeking coaching to address slips
  • Developing a lifestyle that protects sobriety

Remember that the elements of lasting sobriety mentioned above are comprehensive, and many people may not have enough time to pick all of them during a standard rehab program. Such people are encouraged to seek extra help in the form of aftercare plans that extend for weeks or months following formal treatment and guarantee long-lasting recovery.

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