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What Is Ritalin Withdrawal?

Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a prescription central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. It is most often prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and, less commonly, for narcolepsy. It can induce effects similar to meth or cocaine when abused and has a high potential for dependence. Discontinuing Ritalin after prolonged use can result in highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which, if left untreated, may lead to relapse.

Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms

Common Ritalin withdrawal effects include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive sleep
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Mood changes
  • Vivid dreams
  • Nightmares
  • Cravings
  • Inability to feel pleasure

Ritalin withdrawal symptoms vary in severity depending on individual factors, such as biology and how long and at what intensity Ritalin was being used or abused.

Ritalin Withdrawal Timeline

Ritalin withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. The duration largely depends on the severity of the dependence or addiction. However, the Ritalin withdrawal timeline typically unfolds as follows.

In the first day or two, withdrawal symptoms onset and may include fatigue, nausea, mood swings, and cravings. Over the next few weeks, depression or anxiety may develop. The former user may also experience sleep disturbances and increased appetite. 

By week 4, withdrawal symptoms should be significantly reduced or have stopped altogether. The person in recovery may still struggle with drug cravings after this time, however, and may still be at risk of relapsing.

Ritalin Withdrawal Risks

Ritalin withdrawal is not by any means life-threatening. That said, withdrawal effects can be both physically and emotionally uncomfortable, and users may feel compelled to relapse to relieve these symptoms. People may experience depression and even suicidal thoughts when undergoing withdrawal from Ritalin.

What Is Ritalin Withdrawal?

Causes of Ritalin Withdrawal

Most people who have been prescribed Ritalin for a legitimate medical purpose do not misuse Ritalin. Instead, it is more often abused by students trying to excel academically or athletes seeking to improve performance. It is also abused to help those who work long shifts, such as truck drivers, to help them stay awake and alert for long periods.

The reason for this is because people who use Ritalin without ADHD experience increased energy and concentration. It can also induce euphoria, and some people abuse it solely for the high they experience. Users may binge on Ritalin over the course days or engage in long-term, daily use.

People who misuse Ritalin can develop tolerance, meaning that they will require increasingly higher amounts of the drug to experience the desired effects. This repeated, escalating pattern of use can rapidly result in physical dependence and addictive behaviors.

Treatment for Ritalin Withdrawal

A Ritalin Detox from Ritalin can take place on an inpatient or outpatient basis. A professional detox in a clinical environment, such as a treatment center, reduces the risk of relapse using medical intervention and emotional support. Most often, patients can be administered medications to relieve many of the worst side effects of withdrawal.

Detox is only the beginning of the recovery process, however. People who have developed substance use disorders tend to be the most successful at recovery when they receive long-term treatment in the form of psychotherapy, counseling, and group support.

In addition to detox, common treatments for Ritalin use disorder include the following:

12-Step Programs

Twelve-step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous, offer a one-step-at-a-time process of recovery that is bolstered by the support of peers who are coping with similar addictions. While most of these programs focus on giving one’s will over to a higher power, non-12-step programs, which take on a different approach, such as SMART Recovery, are also available.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Treatment for co-occurring disorders addresses the underlying causes of addiction, as well as any existing mental health disorders that may be intertwined with substance abuse. For those persons with ADHD who do end up misusing Ritalin, it is not uncommon for their treatment program to include ADHD behavioral counseling and therapy as well. Therapists are sometimes able to help those in recovery learn how to better manage ADHD without using stimulants like Ritalin.

Therapies used to address an addiction to substances include the following:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)—Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people recognize how their thoughts and feelings contribute to their behaviors. It teaches strategies for coping with cravings and adopting new, healthier habits as an alternative to substance abuse.

Individual Counseling—Individual counseling can help people come to terms with their drug use and also address any co-existing psychological issues that are linked to their addiction.

Group Counseling—As the name implies, group counseling allows people to investigate the psychological and social aspects of their addiction within a supportive group environment. Many addiction professionals regard group therapy as a vital component of the recovery process.

Treatment for Ritalin Withdrawal and Addiction

Midwood Addiction Treatment offers comprehensive programs that address the symptoms of withdrawal and teach people how to navigate through life without the use of drugs or alcohol.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to Ritalin, contact us as soon as possible! Discover how our programs help those who need it most reclaim the healthy and happy lives they deserve!

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