Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a prescription CNS (central nervous system) stimulant. It is most often prescribed for ADD/ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and sometimes for narcolepsy. It can produce effects similar to cocaine or meth when abused and is considered to have a high potential for dependence. Stopping the use of Ritalin after extended use can lead to highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which, if left unaddressed, may lead to relapse.
Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms
Common Ritalin withdrawal effects include the following:
- Increased appetite
- Excessive sleeping
- Mood swings
- Vivid dreams and nightmares
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to feel pleasure
Ritalin withdrawal symptoms will vary in severity depending on several factors, such as biology and how long and at what intensity the drug was being used or misused.
Ritalin Withdrawal Timeline
Ritalin withdrawal symptoms can persist from anywhere between a few days to several weeks. The duration largely depends on the level of dependence or addiction. However, the Ritalin withdrawal period typically unfolds as follows:
In the one to two days, withdrawal symptoms manifest and may include fatigue, nausea, mood changes, and drug cravings. Over the next few weeks, anxiety or depression may develop. The formerly active user may also encounter sleep disturbances and increased appetite.
By week four, withdrawal symptoms should have nearly subsided or stopped altogether. However, the individual in recovery may still struggle with drug cravings after this time and still be at risk of relapse.
Ritalin Withdrawal Risks
Ritalin withdrawal is not considered to be life-threatening. That said, withdrawal effects can be physically and mentally unpleasant, and users may be driven to relapse to alleviate these symptoms. People may experience depression and even suicidal ideations when undergoing Ritalin withdrawal.
Causes of Ritalin Withdrawal
Most individuals who have been prescribed Ritalin for a legitimate medical purpose do not abuse their medication. Instead, it is more often misused by students trying to achieve better academic performance or athletes seeking to improve physical performance. It is also used to help those who work long shifts, such as truck drivers or nurses, to remain awake and alert for prolonged periods.
The reason for this is because those who abuse Ritalin without ADHD experience feelings of increased energy and concentration. It can also produce euphoria, and some people abuse it solely for the high they can achieve. Persons may binge on Ritalin over the course of several days or engage in long-term, daily use.
People who abuse Ritalin can develop tolerance, meaning that they will require increasingly higher amounts of the drug to experience the desired effects. This repeated, ever-increasing pattern of use can rapidly lead to physical dependence and addictive behaviors.
Treatment for Ritalin Withdrawal
Detox from Ritalin can be performed on an inpatient or outpatient basis. A medical detox in a clinical environment, such as a rehab center, reduces the risk of relapse using around-the-clock medical intervention and emotional support. Most often, individuals can be administered medications to mitigate many of the worst effects of withdrawal.
Detox is only the first step of the recovery process, however. Individuals who have developed substance abuse disorders tend to be the most successful at recovery when they are provided with long-term treatment in behavioral therapy, counseling, and group support.
In addition to detox, common longer-term treatments for Ritalin abuse problems include the following:
12-Step Programs – Twelve-step programs, including Narcotics Anonymous, offer a step-by-step recovery process that is promoted by the support of others who are dealing with similar addictions. While most of these programs concentrate on giving one’s will over to a higher power, there are non-12-step programs available that adopt a different approach, such as SMART Recovery.
Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders – Treatment for co-occurring disorders addresses the underlying root causes of addiction and any existing mental health conditions that may be interwoven with substance abuse. For those with ADD/ADHD who do end up abusing Ritalin, it is not uncommon for their treatment program to include behavioral counseling and therapy intended to help with their disorder. Therapists can sometimes help persons in recovery learn how to better manage ADHD without using stimulants such as Ritalin.
Therapies used to treat an addiction to substances include the following:
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps individuals recognize how their thoughts and feelings contribute to their behaviors. It teaches techniques for coping with cravings and adopting new, more constructive habits as an alternative to substance use.
Individual Counseling – Individual counseling can help people come to terms with their drug use and address any co-occurring psycho-emotional issues associated with their addiction.
Group Therapy – As the name implies, group therapy allows participants to investigate their addiction’s psychological and social aspects within a supportive group framework. Many health and addiction professionals regard group therapy as an essential component of the recovery process.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer comprehensive programs that address withdrawal symptoms and teach people how to live their lives without the use of drugs or alcohol.