How Ritalin Addiction Affects the Brain

Ritalin is a commonly prescribed drug, but this doesn’t mean it is safe for use and abuse. Its nicknames include “Kiddie Cocaine” and “Steroids for SATs,” because this psychostimulant, typically used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, acts like cocaine for those who do not need the drug or who do not use it as prescribed. Ritalin can be highly addictive and can significantly affect the brain.

Effects of Ritalin Abuse

Ritalin increases the dopamine levels in the brain, which gives the user a euphoric high. It also helps with concentration by weakening the firing of “background” neurons. In other words, it diminishes a user’s awareness of what is happening around him or her in order to put more focus on a task. For this reason many college students use the drug to study for exams and to perform better in class.

Scientists at the University at Buffalo were the first to recognize that Ritalin can cause long-lasting changes in the brain that continue after the drug’s therapeutic effects wear off. National Institutes of Health and Harvard Medical School studies likewise suggest that healthy kids taking Ritalin at a young age have a higher disposition for depression as an adult. In terms of addiction, Ritalin affects the central nervous system by targeting the reward pathway in the brain, and like cocaine, the drug drowns out other stimuli and becomes the main activator for this pleasure center. At this stage a lack of Ritalin initiates withdrawal symptoms, and the brain struggles to enjoy pleasurable activities that don’t include narcotics.

Ritalin Addiction Treatment

Neural effects can leave Ritalin users with a nasty addiction that is hard to break. Abruptly quitting the drug can have serious consequences on a person’s health, which is why treatment facilities are important for Ritalin recovery. Proper treatment includes the following methods:

  • Progressively weaning a person off the drug to reduce withdrawals
  • Medical examination to address the physical effects of Ritalin abuse
  • Counseling for any underlying issues or disorders associated with the addiction
  • Teaching what triggers to avoid that make a person stumble
  • Recognizing behaviors that might lead to a relapse
  • Ongoing treatment to address the long-term effects of Ritalin addiction

It takes time for the reward pathway in the brain to recover, and during this time a person can experience mood disorders like depression. Post-detox treatment is important for minimizing such lows and keeping the person empowered. The pathway will return to normal, and you’ll feel that much stronger in your recovery. Ongoing counseling and support communities are excellent sources of strength during these early days after detox.

Ritalin Addiction Help

We can help. Our caring staff is available 24 hours a day through our toll-free helpline to answer questions, describe treatment and help identify a problem. We can even check your health insurance to see if treatment is covered. Call our toll-free helpline, and start your recovery today.