You may have heard of Ritalin before, as it is a commonly used drug for the treatment of narcolepsy. Ritalin is only a trade name for a substance known as Methylphenidate which is a prescribed medication.
Methylphenidate is a stimulant of the central nervous system (CNS). It comes from the phenethylamine and piperidine classes of stimulants. Medically, it can treat narcolepsy, but it is also frequently prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.
It works by blocking the dopamine and norepinephrine transporters in the brain. This leads to greater concentrations of dopamine and norepinephrine, enhancing the transmission of these two functions. ADHD, as well as other similar conditions, are said to be linked to the sub-performance of these two functions in the patient’s brain.
Methylphenidate addresses that problem directly. Therefore, it works perfectly in the process of treating these conditions. It has benefits for the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for executive functions such as reasoning, problem solving, and planning.
This substance may also be prescribed for use in some cases of bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. This off-label use is often for patients that did not respond to other treatments.
Despite its benefits, methylphenidate is not approved for use of children under six years of age.
It is a controlled substance in the United States. It is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. This means it requires a prescription before you can acquire it legally. It has a high abuse potential, but the health industry recognizes this drug’s medical value.
This substance was first synthesized in 1944. It took a few years before it became identified as a stimulant, only getting classified as such in 1954. It was chemist Leandro Pannizon of the pharmaceutical company Ciba (now Novartis) who synthesized the drug. He named it after his wife, nicknamed Rita, who used Ritalin for her low blood pressure.
It was first licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1955. By the 1960s, Ritalin was already widely used to treat children with ADHD or ADD. That time, this condition was known as simply “hyperactivity” or minimal brain dysfunction (MBD). Back then, most knowledge of ADHD was limited to the studies of American psychiatrist Charles Bradley. Kids with ADHD were simply referred to as “maladjusted children”.
During the 1990s, knowledge of ADHD became more widely accepted within the medical industry as well as the general public. Consequently, the drug saw even more popularity during that time.
Prescriptions of methylphenidate in the United Kingdom increased by 50% between 2007 and 2012. In 2013, global consumption of the drug had increased to around 2.4 billion doses. This is a 66% increase from the previous year.
This substance is available nowadays in numerous forms. It comes in a variety of tablets and capsules, and even oral suspension.
Why is it Abused?
Methylphenidate is produced in many countries all over the world. It is manufactured in the US, as well as Mexico, Sweden, India, Spain, Canada, Australia, and Pakistan, among many others. Unfortunately, because of its accessibility, many people abuse this drug by using it recreationally.
Methylphenidate has been generally considered safe for more than 50 years—when taken as prescribed. But just like any other substance, it can be dangerous when abused. It has a high risk for developing dependence in users, and it may even turn into addiction.
There are significant adverse effects to watch out for, most of which we will describe later on. But the reason many people abuse this drug is because of its status as a stimulant. Just like many other drugs of its kind, it produces euphoric effects for its users. It gives them more energy. It awakens their mind. It even increases their alertness and self-confidence.
It is very popular among young adults, as they find it easier to focus on their studies under the influence of the drug. They use Ritalin for study purposes. This gave the drug a reputation for being “study drugs” or “smart drugs”. Of course, this is still an illegal activity.
Addiction can occur for anybody who uses it beyond their prescription. Therefore, if your doctor prescribes it, you have to make sure you are taking it properly. Do not take higher doses than is recommended, and do not take the drug for longer than is needed.
Lastly, do not share this drug with anybody else, especially people with a history of substance abuse or drug addiction.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
This drug is sold under many brand names including Ritalin, Concerta, Aptensio, Daytrana, Equasym, Medikinet, Metadate, Methylin, and Quillivant, among others. If you think someone you love is abusing the drug, you have to watch out for a few signs.
The effects of methylphenidate, when misused, are similar to the effects of cocaine. Do not take this drug intravenously, meaning you shouldn’t inject it directly into your bloodstream.
Users of methylphenidate may feel more agitated or anxious. They may experience breathing difficulties, dizziness, chest pain, headaches, nervousness, and gastrointestinal distress. Some users even suffer from hallucinations.
If you recognize these symptoms on someone else, try learning more about recovery options and treatment methods.
Methylphenidate increases the activity of dopamine. This causes the user to feel pleasure during the high. But in higher doses, the drug can cause the opposite, through its adverse effects.
Users report feeling a sensation of bugs crawling under their skin. They experience delusions, paranoia, and develop suicidal thoughts. They may even get aggressive to the point of violence, becoming dangerous for the people around them.
Addiction to this drug may require treatment. This will involve supervised medical detox and rehabilitation. The exact methods used will depend on the person’s condition. Their drug history, health condition, age, and drug intake will be considered when forming a plan of action.
The detox process involves gradually lowering their dosage while taking care of the withdrawal symptoms that occur during it. Abusing the drug leads to dependence, and dependence means the person cannot quit the drug abruptly without going through withdrawal.
Cognitive behavioral therapy will also help them learn how to readjust to life without the drug. This should help keep them from relapsing once they are off the drug.
Quitting any drug can be a painfully difficult process. It is made harder by the withdrawal symptoms that persist during recovery. Anxiety, depression, hypersomnia, paranoia, and frequent mood swings are some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal.
With your support and love, the patient should be able to conquer all these obstacles and begin a new, sober life.