Back in the 1990s, many doctors started to prescribe methylphenidate, better known as Ritalin, to both children and adults diagnosed with conditions like attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It helped millions of Americans get their ADD and ADHD under control, but it also led to a spike in Ritalin addiction and abuse.
Today, Ritalin addiction and abuse is still a problem in many circles. Ritalin is often abused by college students, professional athletes, and others who use the stimulant to get high.
Ritalin Addiction Statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 6 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 who suffer from ADHD. That represents more than 10 percent of all kids in this country.
While a portion of those kids do not take Ritalin or any other prescribed medications to get a handle on their ADHD, many of them do. And with that in mind, it’s not all that surprising to hear that the U.S. is currently responsible for consuming upwards of 85 percent of the world’s Ritalin supply.
It’s also not all that surprising to hear that a lot of the Ritalin that is distributed throughout the U.S. ends up falling into the wrong hands. There are many people who don’t have a prescription to take Ritalin who are taking it on a regular basis for recreational purposes.
Many of these people are college students. The 2018 College Prescription Drug Study revealed that about 16 percent of college students take stimulants like Ritalin both to help their grades and to help them cope with campus life.
But it’s not just college students who are abusing Ritalin at a high rate. In 2013, the Partnership Attitude Tracking Study found that about 2.7 million teenagers, or roughly 12 percent of the total teen population, also admitted to abusing either Ritalin or another stimulant called Adderall at least once in their lives.
Additionally, there are amateur and professional athletes who have abused Ritalin in an effort to gain a competitive advantage. Ritalin and other stimulants like it have proven to be effectivewhen it comes to helping athletes improve their strength, explosiveness, and stamina. This is why Ritalin has been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency and most of the world’s major sports leagues.
Signs of Ritalin Abuse
“Am I addicted to Ritalin?”
That might be a question you’re asking yourself right now if you have abused Ritalin in the past. You might also be wondering about addiction if you know someone who seems to have an issue with Ritalin addiction and abuse.
There are lots of signs of Ritalin abuse that you can and should look out for if you suspect that you or someone else might be addicted to it. Take a look at some of the common signs of abuse below:
- You continue to use and abuse Ritalin despite the fact that you’ve told yourself you weren’t going to do it anymore
- You become noticeably irritable when you don’t take Ritalin
- You have an especially low appetite and don’t eat at all throughout the course of a day in some cases
- You experience a rapid heart rate and bouts of anxiety when you’re not using Ritalin as you normally do
- You suffer from depression regularly and can’t seem to boost your mood without taking Ritalin
- You sustain panic attacks when you’re trying to abstain from using Ritalin
- You’re taking more Ritalin than you used to in order to get the desired effect
- You have started to crush and snort Ritalin to feel the effects of it faster than taking it in pill form
- You can’t seem to make it through a day anymore without turning to Ritalin
Outside of the physical symptoms that will let you know that you or someone you know is likely dealing with Ritalin addiction and abuse, there are also certain behavioral issues you should keep an eye out for.
Those who are abusing Ritalin because of addiction will often spend money that they can’t afford to spend on it. They might even steal money if they have to in order to be able to fund their habit.
Some people will also resort to visiting a number of different doctors in their area to get their hands on as much Ritalin as they can. This is a pretty clear-cut sign that you or someone you know likely has a serious Ritalin abuse problem that requires treatment.
Dangers of Ritalin Abuse
When you first take Ritalin, it’ll provide you with a handful of desired effects that will make you feel good. These short-term effects include:
- An increase in your overall alertness
- Periodic feelings of happiness and euphoria
- More energy to complete tasks
But those short-term effects will usually only last for a matter of a few hours. And once they disappear, they’re often replaced with dangerous side effects that can put you and your health in harm’s way.
The dangerous side effects of Ritalin addiction and abuse include:
- Chest pain
- Increased or decreased blood pressure
There are also some instances in which those who are abusing Ritalin will overdose on the drug and experience more serious side effects.
When a person overdoses on Ritalin, they’ll often begin vomiting uncontrollably. They’ll also experience severe hallucinations and a body temperature that is elevated to a dangerous level.
They may experience seizures and lose consciousness if they don’t get medical attention right away. And although rare, there have been deaths linked to Ritalin abuse over the years.
Ritalin Addiction and Abuse: The Bottom Line
When used as prescribed by those diagnosed with conditions like ADD and ADHD, Ritalin and other stimulants like it can do a lot of good for people. They can help people function better than they would be able to otherwise.
But Ritalin addiction and abuse is a very real problem for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans today. Many teenagers and college students, in particular, are subjecting themselves to the potentially harmful side effects that accompany Ritalin abuse every day.