Why Is Ritalin Abused?

Why Is Ritalin Abused?

Ritalin is common in treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a condition that causes excessive sleepiness and daytime sleep attacks. For people with these issues, the drug increases energy, attentiveness and overall wakefulness: it stimulates dopamine, a brain chemical that is often low in people with these conditions. When taken as prescribed, it is a great method of ongoing treatment, but a growing number of people abuse Ritalin by taking it without a prescription or in a way the prescription discourages.

Ritalin: Drug of Convenience

One reason for the increase in Ritalin abuse is its availability. According to a 2012 article in the New York Times, the consumption of drugs for ADHD has increased 20-fold in the last 30 years, so there is more Ritalin today than before. Furthermore, according to a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about five percent of Americans aged 18-25 misused psychotherapeutic drugs like Ritalin, which is higher than the number of people in the same age group who abuse cocaine and hallucinogens combined.

Finally, according to a report from ABC News, the flood of Ritalin on the street has caused a six-fold increase in emergency room visits over the last decade. Those lucky enough to avoid a trip to the hospital still face serious side effects if they use the drug long term.

According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, long-term Ritalin use can cause the following problems:

  • Permanent damage to blood vessels in the heart heart and brain, which can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and death
  • Liver, kidney and lung damage
  • Destruction of nasal tissue if users snort the drug
  • Respiratory problems if smoked
  • Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected
  • Malnutrition, weight loss
  • Disorientation, apathy, confusion and exhaustion
  • Strong psychological dependence
  • Psychosis
  • Depression
  • Damage to the brain, including strokes and perhaps epilepsy

Given the serious consequences of Ritalin abuse, people give a number of reasons for such behavior.

Ritalin: The Study Aid

Younger people who abuse Ritalin do so to boost their academic performance. The drug has gained the reputation that it can improve one’s capacity to learn and retain information. It also increases wakefulness, focus and attention. According to an article from the Huffington Post, about 50 percent of students at the University of Texas who have prescriptions for ADHD have been asked by other students to give out their pills for abuse.

Teenagers also abuse Ritalin to enhance their studies. According to a 2013 article from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, one in eight teens admits to abusing Ritalin, and over 25 percent of them believe the drug improves their academic performance. Many teens mistakenly believe that prescription drugs are safer than taking illegal drugs, but they do not understand the dangers associated with taking medications not prescribed to them.

Ritalin: The New Weight-Loss Drug

Some people abuse Ritalin to lose weight. Although this reason is less common, some people claim it suppresses their appetite. The stimulant does suppress hunger, but the sensation is short lived: according to a 2010 article from Everyday Health, when the effects of Ritalin wear off, appetite returns in a stronger way than before.

Ritalin: A Cheap High

Some people abuse Ritalin just to get high, because it creates a rush similar to cocaine. Cocaine is much more expensive and more difficult to get, so people turn to Ritalin. Also, a 2012 New York Times article quotes a high school student who sold pills at $5 to $20 per pill, an economical alternative to illegal drugs. Furthermore, according to a story from ABC News, some people snort the drug before a night out to increase wakefulness and endurance for fun.

Ritalin’s Dark Side

Ritalin abuse comes at a price. A report from the National Drug Intelligence Center indicates that people who abuse Ritalin are four times more likely to experience memory loss, flashbacks, guilt and withdrawal. Addiction is also a real problem with this drug.

Signs of Ritalin addiction include the following problems:

  • Taking the drug more often or in higher doses than prescribed
  • Stealing or buying it from others
  • Inability to stop taking it even though you want to
  • Increased aggression toward others
  • Urges to harm yourself and/or others
  • Visual or auditory hallucinations

Serious symptoms may also arise, such as chest pain and rapid heart rate. If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, seek help immediately.

Get Help for Ritalin Addiction

If you or a loved one struggles with Ritalin addiction, we can help. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline anytime, because our admissions coordinators can evaluate your symptoms to determine the best course of action. They can even help you find treatment that specializes in Ritalin addicts. This type of addiction is just as dangerous as addictions to illegal drugs, so get help today.