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What Is Ritalin Dependence?

Ongoing Ritalin use is likely to lead to the development of physical dependence. After a few weeks of regular use, the body starts to require Ritalin to feel normal…but each individual reacts differently to it. Some users may develop dependence within a few weeks of regular, daily use. Others, for example, will need more time to develop Ritalin dependence.

Q: But, how is Ritalin dependence formed? A: When your body and brain adapt to the presence of Ritalin – dependence has developed.

Basically, Ritalin works by increasing the release of neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. With time and prolonged use, the body slows down the production of these natural neurotransmitters and makes the body dependent on an outside source (taking Ritalin) to stimulate their release. This dependence is what throws your balance off whenever you lower or stop your regular Ritalin use.

Ritalin Dependence Symptoms

After using Ritalin for a period of time, the body develops tolerance to the drug and will produce withdrawal symptoms. In fact, these two conditions – tolerance and withdrawal – are the two main symptoms of Ritalin dependence.

Tolerance = You may notice that your initial doses of Ritalin are declining in their effectiveness, so you require more of the medication and more often in order to get the desired feeling. This is tolerance.

Withdrawal = When the dose or frequency of use is decreased or cut out totally, you will start to experience withdrawal symptoms. Ritalin withdrawal starts only a few hours after the last missed dose and can last anywhere from a few days to several months. The duration and severity of withdrawal symptoms depend on several factors, such as:

  • Body weight.

  • General state of health .

  • How long and how often Ritalin was taken.

  • In what doses Ritalin was taken.

  • Level of hydration.

  • Level of tolerance.

  • Mode of Ritalin administration.

  • Your drug history.

To give you a better idea of the symptoms that occur during withdrawal and get you better prepared for what this phase feels like, here we list some of the most common Ritalin withdrawal symptoms:

  • anxiety

  • depression

  • fatigue

  • irritability

  • increased appetite

  • muscle aches

  • paranoia

  • poor concentration

  • psychomotor retardation

  • sleep disturbances

Signs Of Ritalin Dependence

In addition to tolerance and withdrawal, some of the main signs of Ritalin dependence include, but are not limited to:

  • Buying Ritalin illegally (off the street, from internet pharmacies, off of prescribed patients).

  • Feeling a physical need for Ritalin to be able to function normally.

  • Going doctor shopping (seeing multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions).

  • Inability to control or stop Ritalin use.

  • Running out of Ritalin before it’s time for a prescription refill.

  • Spending a lot of time and effort acquiring and using Ritalin.

  • Taking Ritalin in order to stop or prevent withdrawal symptoms.

  • Using Ritalin longer, more frequently, or in higher amounts than intended.

If you recognize 2 or more of these warning signs of Ritalin dependence in yourself or a loved one, and feel like you need help stopping use…seek medical help! You don’t have to go through Ritalin withdrawal alone. Reputable treatment programs can address the main issues you are facing.


Does Ritalin Dependence = Addiction?

No. Ritalin dependence is NOT the same as Ritalin addiction. In fact, a person can be diagnosed with Ritalin dependence and not be addicted to the drug.

But, what’s the difference between these two?

Developing a DEPENDENCE ON RITALIN means that you can’t stop taking the drug without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. It is a normal and expected physiological adaptation. In fact, it’s the natural mechanism of our bodies that helps establish balance. It is also easier to address dependence as users don’t experience a need or compulsion to use Ritalin once use is discontinued.

While dependence is the physical state of the body, RITALIN ADDICTION is a psychological state…a state of the mind. Ritalin addiction is manifested through obsessive thinking, drug seeking behavior, and drug carvings. Addiction requires lasting and structured treatment to resolve the psychological and behavioral aspects of habitual Ritalin abuse.

How To End Ritalin Dependence

In order to end Ritalin dependence, the first thing you can do is to ask for help. It’s very important to have the support and assistance from friends and family, along with the medical care of professionals such as:

  • a licensed medical specialist

  • a psychiatrist

  • a psychologist

  • a family doctor

  • an addiction professional

The basic methods to end dependence on Ritalin include:

Tapered withdrawal – If you want to make your Ritalin cessation more comfortable, you should choose tapered withdrawal. This is a methods that involves a slow and gradual lowering of your Ritalin dose that can span throughout the course of several weeks. Tapering gives your body enough time to slowly adapt to functioning without Ritalin. This is perhaps the most recommended way to lower your tolerance on Ritalin and avoid harsh withdrawal effects.

NOTE HERE: Before attempting to taper or stop Ritalin use, it’s best and safest to consult a doctor, or if your situation requires more structured help, an addiction professional at a Ritalin addiction treatment program directly. They can help create a tapering schedule that best suits your needs, and offer additional advise on navigating this phase.

Medical detoxification – You may need to check into a Ritalin detox clinic as you taper off of Ritalin or after you stop all use. Doctors and nurses work to remove all traces of Ritalin from your system in a safe and supportive environment. They provide 24/7 monitoring and assistance, administer medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, and can address any complications that may require immediate medical attention.

Supportive withdrawal – You can become a part of a support group. During group sessions you will share your own and hear other members’ dependence and withdrawal experiences that can help you overcome your struggles.

Pharmacological treatment – No medications have yet been approved by the FDA for the treatment of stimulant dependence. However, doctors may still recommend and prescribe medications during withdrawal to treat specific symptoms. For instance, neuroleptics can control states of delirium, while antidepressants or benzodiazepines are good for treating paranoia and panic attacks.

Home treatment – If you have your doctor’s clearance, you may be allowed to withdraw from Ritalin at home. But first, you’d have to be in a good health state and have a strong will to end Ritalin dependence. The use of over-the-counter medications, home remedies, massages, and hot baths can help you ease Ritalin withdrawal symptoms at home.

Got More Questions?

We hope that we have answered your questions regarding Ritalin dependence. If not, please do not hesitate to send us your questions in the comments section at the end or via our contact us page. We do our best to answer all our reader’s legitimate inquiries personally and promptly. All your comments and feedback are appreciated.

Reference Sources: FDA Medication Guide: Ritalin

NIH: Medicine Plus: Ritalinylphenidate

DEA: Ritalinylphenidate (Ritalin)

Drug Abuse: DrugFacts: Stimulant ADHD Medications – Ritalinylphenidate and Amphetamines

Justice: Ritalin

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