Methylphenidate, commonly known as Ritalin, is a uniquely powerful drug. To some, it provides life-changing help. To others, it brings life-threatening harm.
Ritalin helps millions of children and adults with ADHD function at work and school. At the same time, at least one million others abuse the drug and other stimulants like it.
If you or someone you know is addicted to Ritalin, we can help. In this article, we’ll teach you what Ritalin withdrawal and detox looks like. We’ll cover Ritalin withdrawal symptoms, how long Ritalin withdrawal lasts, and how treatment can help.
By learning about Ritalin withdrawal and detox, you’ll know what to expect. Read this article to prepare yourself for the addiction recovery process.
What Causes Ritalin Withdrawal?
The reason Ritalin is so effective at treating those with ADHD is the same reason it can become addictive. The powerful mind/behavior-altering effects of Ritalin are a result of the drug’s effect on brain chemistry. That is, it alters the brain’s production of and responses to certain chemicals.
One of these chemicals is dopamine, which regulates the brain’s reward system. Notably, dopamine/the reward system are a key factor in how addictions develop.
After a moderate duration of use, the brain gets used to the effects of Ritalin and expects to keep receiving it. Ceasing use after this point results in neurochemical imbalances. These imbalances affect the brain and central nervous system, creating the symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal.
After enough time withdrawn from Ritalin, the brain corrects itself back to its original state. It has then achieved balance (homeostasis) and no longer expects to receive Ritalin.
Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms
Here is a general list of Ritalin withdrawal symptoms:
- Return/increase of ADHD symptoms
- Other cognitive impairment
- Uncontrollable muscle clenching or spasms
- Shakiness, jitters, or tremors
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
- Excessive sweating
- Changes in blood pressure
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Increased appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weight gain
- Increased anxiety
- Increased irritability and/or anger
- Insomnia or other sleep problems
These symptoms develop and dissipate according to the timeline below.
Duration of Ritalin Withdrawal
The length of the withdrawal period depends on a few different factors, including:
- Certain health conditions and your health in general
- How long you’ve used Ritalin overall
- How heavily you use
- How long you’ve used heavily
In general, the longer and more heavily you’ve used Ritalin, the longer the withdrawal period will be. Certain health conditions also complicate the addiction/detox process and may lengthen the withdrawal period.
Typically, the period ranges from one to three weeks. But in extreme cases, prolonged withdrawal symptoms can occur for several months.
Ritalin Withdrawal Timeline
Ritalin withdrawal is different for everyone. So is the length of time it takes to withdrawal. Here is a general timeline of when symptoms occur.
1-2 Days After Last Dose
These symptoms will appear quickly and get worse quickly:
- Heartbeat changes
- Increased appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
This period can be very unpleasant. The individual may not be able to do much besides eating, sleeping, and waiting to get through it.
2-7 Days After Last Dose
Symptoms usually peak in this period. While initial symptoms may continue, new symptoms include:
- Increased anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty sleeping
In addition, extreme symptoms may also develop, including psychosis and suicidal thoughts.
7-10 Days After Last Dose
In normal cases, symptoms fade away for good during this period. Emotional symptoms tend to last longer than the physical symptoms.
10-14 Days After Last Dose
In rare cases, emotional and cognitive symptoms continue to persist during this period. In these cases, these symptoms, such as depression and “brain fog,” may need to be treated directly.
Detoxing From Ritalin on Your Own
Since the symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal aren’t usually deadly, constant monitoring of the patient isn’t usually required. Also, aside from the treatment of general symptoms, there is no medication used to treat Ritalin withdrawal. As such, it may be possible to detox at home without medical assistance.
However, as with all addictions, it’s never the best option to “go it alone.” Since withdrawal can cause depression and, potentially, suicidal thoughts, one should not attempt detox on their own.
Also, it most often takes some kind of support for the addict to stay clean and not relapse. Committed intervention or assistance by friends and family, then, could feasibly replace the need for medically-assisted detox.
There are also 12-step programs and recovery support groups that can help the lone addict. Pills Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are examples of such recovery programs that exist for Ritalin abusers.
They typically employ the same type of 12-step treatment made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous. The treatment focuses on group support and usually involves surrendering to a higher power.
Medical Detox for Ritalin
Medically-assisted treatment for Ritalin withdrawal exists to provide a safe and supportive recovery environment for the patient. In addition to guiding patients through the withdrawal period, the treatment prepares them for rehabilitation. Patients are taught rehabilitative techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, to prevent relapse.
How Medical Detox Works and What to Expect
No matter the treatment, as long as the user abstains from Ritalin, the body will detoxify on its own. Medical detox for Ritalin is mostly focused on assisting the patient through withdrawal symptoms and teaching them how to avoid using.
Detox centers will take an initial patient assessment to determine the necessary treatment. Treatment may include:
- Individual counseling
- Group therapy
- 12-step programs
- Medical treatment of symptoms
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
This will likely last at least one month and could last for several.
Most cases will receive outpatient treatment, treatment by appointment on a part-time basis. Extreme cases require inpatient programs, which occur in-house, 24/7 until detox/rehabilitation is complete.
Detox patients with overlapping mental health conditions will likely receive dual diagnosis treatment. This is specialized treatment to carefully treat both (or more) conditions at the same time without negatively affecting either.
Medications Available for Ritalin Detox
As mentioned, there are no FDA-approved medications available to treat Ritalin withdrawal. However, patients may be prescribed medication for associated physical symptoms, such as nausea or headaches. Because of Ritalin’s effect on brain chemistry, it’s unlikely a doctor will prescribe drugs for psychological or emotional symptoms until detox is complete.
Get Help For Ritalin Withdrawal and Detox
Millions of people every day are already getting the help they need with Ritalin withdrawal and detox. Are you?
Don’t wait to get help — help is already waiting for you! As you can see, there are several treatments, thousands of local facilities, and millions of medical professionals just waiting to help you or your loved one. They want to help!
Besides, getting an assessment is easy and free and gets you the treatment you need.
Do you want to get well? Find a treatment center near you and get help right now!
For related help, read what you need to know about drug rehab here.