Ritalin Symptoms and Warning Signs

Modified: 22nd Jul 2019

Last updated on July 22nd, 2019 at 02:48 pm

Six million people in the world use Ritalin, and 75% of them are children

Although Ritalin can have a positive effect on those who use it properly for specific ailments, in some instances it’s misused and abused. In other cases, Ritalin becomes an addiction, causing a further downward spiral from the purpose it serves. 

Ritalin symptoms and warning signs are apparent sometimes and you must be on the lookout for them if you or a loved one begin taking Ritalin. It could be the difference between life or death.

Ritalin Symptoms and Warning Signs

While Ritalin works well when taken as prescribed, it’s also a drug that’s prime for addiction. 

Symptoms of Addiction to Ritalin

Ritalin is a nervous system stimulant called methylphenidate. These types of drugs help boost productivity by increasing focus, awareness, and concentration. They come in tablet form and are taken at the same time every day or as prescribed by a doctor.

Ritalin is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and has proven very effective. However, it’s also rated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a drug that’s highly susceptible to abuse if not taken as prescribed.

Ritalin has been linked to having the same effects as cocaine. Their chemical makeup is similar and Ritalin produces a euphoria similar to cocaine when taken in high doses. A key difference, though, is that cocaine reaches your system more quickly than Ritalin, as Ritalin is in pill form and will take more time to break down in the body.

It also causes withdrawal symptoms if the medication is stopped suddenly. If you need to discontinue the medication, your doctor may gradually reduce your dosage.

Every medication comes with side effects. Side effects of Ritalin are:

  • nervousness
  • insomnia
  • vomiting
  • numbness
  • headaches
  • twitching

The physical and behavioral symptoms of Ritalin addiction are:

  • depression
  • difficulty sleeping or insomnia
  • increased heart rate
  • abdominal pain
  • headaches
  • weight loss
  • blurred vision
  • dizziness
  • nervousness
  • skin rashes
  • poor hygiene habits

Though each person responds differently to medications, some or all of these symptoms could be present. It’s also important to note that some of the side effects overlap with signs of addiction, so watching the person carefully is essential.

Warning Signs a Loved One May be Abusing Ritalin

Because Ritalin can become highly addictive, it’s important to monitor you or your loved one’s usage. 

Is My Child Using Ritalin?

Ritalin is often prescribed for ADHD for children 6 years old or older in small doses. In fact, if after taking Ritalin and adjusting the dosage, the child shows no improvement, doctors will usually discontinue the medication.

Teenagers, however, have greater access to Ritalin today, especially with it being a commonly prescribed drug. Some will even use it recreationally by grinding pills and ingesting them.

‘Code’ names have been given to Ritalin to disguise its use among teenagers. Some of those names are:

  • Vitamin R 
  • Kibbles and Bits
  • R Pop
  • Study buddy
  • Smarties
  • Skippy
  • Coke Junior
  • Diet Coke

If you hear your child mention any of the above when speaking to friends, it could be a cause for concern.

Your child may be using Ritalin if they’re experiencing the symptoms listed above as well as other behavioral tendencies:

  • losing interest in school or missing classes
  • not showing up for work
  • hanging out with people who are known for drug use
  • lying
  • stealing
  • unstable mood
  • has a sense of euphoria
  • losing interest in hobbies, activities, or family life
  • continuing to take the medication despite doctor’s orders to stop
  • becomes angry easily

While these symptoms are not an exhaustive list, keeping an eye out for them is important in detecting addiction.

Is my parent using Ritalin?

Although Ritalin can be prescribed for children and teenagers, adults also use Ritalin. Sometimes doctor’s write prescriptions for other ailments such as severe cases of narcolepsy and depression. Or it could simply be that the adult used Ritalin as a child and has developed an unhealthy dependence on it. 

Being an adult does not make you less prone to developing an addiction. Unfortunately, addictions happen to all people of any age. Adults can become just as addicted to a drug like Ritalin similar to a younger individual.

Signs of addiction to Ritalin for adults are the following:

  • experiencing cravings for Ritalin
  • taking more than prescribed
  • being disengaged in hobbies, activities, or family life
  • not showing up for work or missing several days 
  • financial strain or asking others for money
  • feels like they need Ritalin to get through the day
  • aggressive behaviors or becoming violent
  • strained relationships

If you have a parent or child you believe is addicted to Ritalin, it could be appropriate to stage an intervention.

Intervention for Ritalin Abuse

When you discover a loved one is addicted to or abusing drugs, you can feel lost and confused. While drug addiction and abuse is a very serious issue, thankfully interventions can help.

An intervention is a conversation between the person who is struggling and their loved ones about their addiction. Sometimes an intervention can be done with a licensed counselor or therapist who specializes in helping individuals and families fight addiction.

Staging an intervention can be intimidating but a counselor can help you plan and walk you through the action steps. They may script and rehearse dialog with you before the intervention takes place.

Gather all the people you believe have an impact on your loved one’s life and ask them if they’d be willing to participate in an intervention. This could be other immediate family, friends, teachers, or others. Your family member does not have to face a Ritalin addiction alone. 

Accepting the fact that your loved one has an addiction is not easy for anyone. But if they agree that they need treatment, be sure to have options available for them during the intervention. 

Don’t Face Addiction Alone

Addiction is very real and scary. Ritalin can be an answer to a problem or become something worse. These Ritalin symptoms and warning signs are vital to be aware of if you know someone who’s currently taking Ritalin.

Don’t suffer through addiction alone. We know how to help. Contact us today to find hope and freedom from addiction. 

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.