Children and adults who are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are often treated with Ritalin. The stimulant—also known as methylphenidate—is prescribed to improve an individual’s ability to stay focused on a given task for a longer period of time. By and large, the drug is effective and is, in general, considered safe for most people.
A Risk of Problematic Use
However, there are circumstances involving Ritalin that can lead to illicit use and the development of a substance use disorder. Understanding the drug and its uses can help reduce the chance of healthy use developing into problematic use.
The Right Way to Use Ritalin
Ritalin is a prescription drug and should always be taken in accordance with a physician’s instructions. As a rule, a low dose of the drug will be prescribed at first and then increased as necessary to see improvement in ADHD symptoms. Taken in this way, under the guidance of a doctor, Ritalin is not thought to be a significant addiction risk.
The Wrong Ways to Use Ritalin
Unfortunately, not everyone sticks to their doctor’s instructions and—as is the case with all prescription drugs—this misuse can lead to a range of issues, including the development of a substance use disorder.
When issues of Ritalin abuse are raised, the spotlight is often shone on young people. This is understandable given that research suggests that upwards of 3% of high school seniors have acknowledged taking Ritalin without a prescription in the 12 months prior to the survey. And how are they getting the drug? It turns out the sometimes students who have legitimate prescriptions for Ritalin decide to try their hand at drug dealing. Fellow students may be interested in the drug due to its reported ability to improve academic performance—either by improving concentration, allowing students to stay awake longer to cram, or both—or because of the feelings of euphoria the drug can cause at higher doses due to the increase in dopamine it causes.
But it isn’t just students who might be tempted to misuse Ritalin. After all, adults may also feel a need to increase their productivity at work or want to pursue those feelings of euphoria. Ritalin and other stimulants are also sometimes used to suppress appetite in an effort to lose weight—and that means people with eating disorders or who are struggling with obesity may take the drug in unsafe ways.
Finally, there is a risk that Ritalin might become a gateway drug on a person’s path toward increasingly dangerous misuse of drugs—whether prescribed or illicit. This may be particularly true if a person starts crushing and snorting Ritalin (or even injecting it) in order to increase the speed and potency of its effects. From there, it may be a short step to experimenting with other substances.
Considering Alternatives to Ritalin
Many people—including some physicians—believe Ritalin is over-prescribed. They argue that it might be better to try other interventions before treating ADHD with the pharmaceutical. If that idea resonates with—or if you have a particular reason to be concerned that taking the drug could threaten your sobriety—you might try some other options.
These options include various behavioral, psychological, and/or social interventions that a child or adult and a trained therapist can work on to improve issues of impulsivity or lack of focus. In some cases involving a child, parents and guardians may also be directly involved in the therapy. A doctor may also be able to recommend nutritional approaches that could lessen symptoms of ADHD.
If You Have a Substance Use Disorder, You Have Our Full Attention
At St. Gregory Recovery Center, we are laser-focused on your needs. We will create a personalized treatment plan for your substance use disorder and any co-occurring disorders you may be dealing with as well. Maybe you started taking Ritalin or a similar drug to get better control of your impulses and ability to concentrate. But it is entirely possible that instead you have lost control of your need for the drug. We can help with a powerful combination of expertise and compassion. At St. Gregory Recovery Center, all of our attention will be on you and your needs. If we have your attention and you need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.