How Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Affects Ritalin Addiction

How Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Affects Ritalin Addiction

Compulsive behavior is one of the defining characteristics of addiction, but some people suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that can precipitate substance abuse. Often tied to heredity, OCD is commonly thought to be associated with parts of the brain involved in fear and anxiety, and the disorder is characterized by intrusive thoughts and repeated behaviors. People who suffer OCD often experience escalating anxiety, and the only way to ease the symptoms is by repeatedly engaging in certain actions, which are often nominal or inconsequential. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health website, OCD affects approximately 2.2 million adults in the US, and around one-third of OCD individuals first experience symptoms during childhood. If OCD accompanies a Ritalin addiction, the person often has overwhelming compulsions to take the drug to get high, placate the anxiety or self-medicate the symptoms.

Ritalin and OCD

Ritalin is a psychostimulant prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but by slowing certain brain activity, the drug empowers sharper concentration. Reasons for nonmedical use can include rapid weight loss, getting high, and gaining an academic or athletic advantage, but a person with OCD might abuse Ritalin for other reasons, including the following:

  • An attempt to tune out intrusive thoughts
  • Spikes in energy to complete repetitive tasks
  • Chasing the euphoric high to escape emotional pain
  • Obsessive drive to take large drug quantities

OCD individuals compulsively repeat certain acts to relieve anxiety, and in some cases, taking Ritalin might be the behavior the disorder drives. Such compulsion can occur even when the person is taking Ritalin for medicinal reasons, and even legitimate use can result in addiction, which in turns produces more compulsion and obsessive use.

Ritalin Abuse Risks

Ritalin is a Schedule II controlled substance, which means it has similar risk and addiction potential as similarly classified drugs like cocaine, morphine, opium, and oxycodone painkillers (e.g., OxyContin and Percocet). Several potential health concerns are associated with Ritalin abuse, including the following:

  • Long-lasting changes in the addict’s neurobiology
  • Adulthood depression stemming from childhood use
  • Inability to trigger brain reward from non-drug stimuli
  • Initiating the onset of bipolar and other mental disorders
  • Possible association with sudden death in healthy children

Moreover, side effects from Ritalin abuse include heart palpitations, anxiety attacks, sleep disorders, and other health concerns. Addiction and OCD are both rooted in neurobiology and share similar symptoms. When paired as co-occurring disorders, comprehensive treatment for both disorders is the most effective path to recovery.

Addiction and Mental Disorder Treatment

Ritalin addiction and mental disorder treatment typically start with medically supervised detoxification that weans the drug toxins from the system. Comprehensive integrated therapies are then used to promote an overall recovery. Several overlapping therapies may potentially be used, including the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – Counseling to improve maladaptive thought patterns and beliefs that negatively affect conduct
  • Psychotherapy – Counseling to address traumatic histories, anger management issues, and cues that trigger OCD symptoms and Ritalin cravings
  • Psychodynamic counseling – Intensive therapies aimed at uncovering and treating unconscious conflicts
  • Relapse-prevention tools – Actions and practices designed to minimize unhealthy stress, conflict, and emotions

Counseling occurs in both individual and group sessions, and optional holistic therapies like yoga, meditation, and acupuncture are commonly available. Treatment centers also provide mental health screenings and diagnosis to ensure proper care for all co-occurring conditions, including OCD and other disorders.


Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day on our toll-free helpline. We can answer questions about addiction, OCD, and treatment options, and if you have health insurance, we can look up your policy and explain its benefits. If you or a loved one needs help, please call now.