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Ritalin Withdrawal

As a worldwide brand name drug, Ritalin is commonly used to treat ADHD symptoms in both children and adults, but it is used less frequently to treat a sleep disorder known as narcolepsy. Studies have shown that prescription stimulants like Ritalin do not correlate with later substance use disorders. 

However, Ritalin is a highly abused recreational drug that increases addiction and dependence especially among college students who rely on the drug to help stay focused and alert. As a psychostimulant, it stimulates certain neurotransmitters in the brain including norepinephrine and dopamine. Over time, one may become highly dependent on the drug which can trigger withdrawal symptoms after discontinuation of use. 

Not as severe as meth or cocaine, Ritalin poses serious health risks that cause psychological addiction on par with other psychoactive drugs. 

According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, “The basic molecule of amphetamine can be modified to emphasize specific actions for certain medications,” and this is how methylphenidate (also known as Ritalin) is formed. 

What Are the Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms?

The severity of symptoms and whether an individual tapers the dosage down will influence the length of symptoms. Ritalin withdrawal symptoms are also affected by the following factors:

  • Length of time the drug was abused
  • The dosage amount. Withdrawal symptoms are going to be shorter and less severe in someone who uses smaller doses, for the most part. Whether or not someone tapers their dosage down or stops “cold turkey” will influence how long symptoms last, as well as their severity.

Common Ritalin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anger or irritation
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Foggy thinking
  • Depression
  • Increased appetite
  • Cravings
  • Concentration problems
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of motivation
  • Agitation
  • Nightmares
  • Hypersomnia
  • An inability to feel pleasure
  • General discomfort
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Intense cravings
  • Stimulant-induced psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Hostile behavior
  • Violent outbursts
  • Suicidal and homicidal thoughts

What Are the Stages in the Ritalin Withdrawal Timeline?

Days 1-3: As soon as the drug starts wearing off within the first three days, users will start experiencing an immediate kind of crash. This is characterized by intense fatigue, cravings, agitation, heart palpitations, nausea and mood swings.

Ritalin withdrawal symptoms can vary from individual to individual and usually appear in as little as 12 to 24 hours after the last dose. 

Days 4-7: After the first three days, new symptoms appear including depression, nervousness, exhaustion, increased appetite, sleep disorder, and irritability. 

Week 2: During this time, some of the previous Ritalin withdrawal symptoms continue in addition to new ones including anxiety and fatigue.  

Weeks 3 and 4: Ritalin withdrawal symptoms will continue to range from nervousness, depression, and sleep disorders to cravings and stabilization. By the end of the fourth week, the majority of people start feeling better.

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS)

Keep in mind that with a strong stimulant like Ritalin, withdrawal symptoms can often occur later than the projected timeline. Additionally, it can appear that some symptoms have disappeared only to resurface at a later point. Mood changes and other symptoms can continue for months and even years, after withdrawing completely. 

Why Should I Detox?

After Medical detox

While there is no medically approved Ritalin detox medication to help with tapering off from the drug, Ritalin symptoms of withdrawal can be managed with various medications and drug treatments. Quitting Ritalin cold turkey is never a good idea without medical intervention.

Specifically, a Ritalin detox center can offer the ideal conditions for starting the recovery journey where withdrawal symptoms are monitored, and medications can be prescribed to treat any complications that may occur. Ultimately, this helps one with the process of addiction treatment and lowers the chances of relapse.

Medical detox can help with the process of identifying psychological and emotional triggers to help one learn how to cope with the addiction.  

What Is the Next Treatment Step?

A successful full recovery starting with medical detox to outpatient rehabilitation is crucial. This implies having in place the support of a professional team in addition to the emotional support of family and friends. The first, most intense and shortest of all stages – medical detox.  

Detox

During the period of medical detox, a team consisting of doctors, nurses and staff will conduct an intake to determine one’s level of Ritalin addiction and health needs thus jumpstarting the detox process. Detox at Arete Recovery also includes FDA-approved medications to limit withdrawals to prevent relapse. 

Drug Rehabilitation

The next step of treating substance abuse will be getting admitted to an inpatient or residential program. The specialists at Arete Recovery will recommend the right program based on the detoxification process and the severity of one’s case and symptoms.  Generally speaking, an inpatient recovery program extends for 45 days and is more suited for a short-term recovery period. When the addiction is more severe, one might be recommended for a residential recovery program, appropriate for a long-term recovery period lasting anywhere from 60-90+ days. 

Both of these programs help minimize the number of treatments which can be quite intense. On the other hand, a resident learns important coping mechanisms that can ultimately help with preventing relapse and better equipped for long-term recovery and the transitioning to an outpatient program. 

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Outpatient 

Beyond the walls of the inpatient clinic and residential recovery, is a new, clean world that can be intimidating for the user who is relearning how to navigate life without addiction and drugs for the first time. This is where an intensive outpatient program is designed to provide ongoing counseling as the user navigates life.

Sources

Drugabuse.gov. (2019). Does treatment of ADHD with stimulant medications like Ritalin® and Adderall® increase risk of substance abuse later in life? from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-adolescent-substance-use-disorder-treatment-research-based-guide/frequently-asked-questions/does-treatment-adhd-stimulant-medications-ritalinr-adderallr-increase-risk-substance-abuse-later-in

W. Alexander Morton, G. (2019). Methylphenidate Abuse and Psychiatric Side Effects. [online] PubMed Central (PMC) from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181133/

Cesar.umd.edu. (2019). Amphetamines | CESAR from http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/amphetamines.asp

American Psychiatric Association. (2017, January). What Is Addiction? from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction

Drugs.com. (2020, January 7) Ritalin. Sinha, S. MS. from https://www.drugs.com/ritalin.html

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