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Overview of Ritalin detox

Often when people think of drug addiction they may overlook drugs that are prescribed by doctors. They may think that if it is prescribed by a doctor it has only medical value and may be less harmful than street drugs. Unfortunately that is not the case. Especially in the 21st century, prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed. Whether actually prescribed by doctor or sold on the street, many narcotic medications can be addictive either physically, psychologically, or both. Ritalin is one of these highly abused drugs. Just in the years between 2012 and 2014 Ritalin prescriptions rose 66%, making more of a need for specialized Ritalin detox programs.

Ritalin, or by its chemical name methylphenidate, is a central nervous system stimulant. It is in the class of phenethylamines and is most commonly prescribed to individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. In individuals with ADHD it can be calming and increases focus, but when used recreationally it can induce euphoria, high energy, focus, and an increase in work ethic, making it very desirable. Ritalin can be very psychologically addicting and somewhat physically addicting. As time passes, a person needs more and more of the drug to create the same effect, which is called tolerance. Long term Ritalin abuse can lead to psychosis and heart problems.

Ritalin began being used medically in 1960, but its popularity arose in the 1990s when ADHD became a widespread diagnoses. Ritalin was one of the few drugs to show positive effects in children suffering from ADHD, making it a go-to treatment. It since has had much controversy with lawsuits against doctors and school systems that promote the use of the drug. These lawsuits claimed untold negative side effects, malpractice and an increase in drug abuse among children who were prescribed the drug at a young age. There is little proof of whether it increases chances of addiction, but the drug does prove to be addictive when abused.

The drug continues to be prescribed and is now common among cases of adult ADHD. It sometimes is common on college campuses due to its effects when it comes to focus and problem solving. This is leading to people selling their prescriptions illegally to people for recreation. It is sometimes mixed with other substances like alcohol, which can be damaging to the liver as well as inhibit users to be able to consume more alcohol than if they were not on Ritalin. Sometimes when a person becomes addicted to prescription stimulants and their tolerance increases, they “graduate” to more potent stimulants like cocaine, amphetamines, or methamphetamine.

How Detoxing From Ritalin works

Some drugs, like opioids, benzodiazepines, or alcohol, cause dangerous physical dependence that requires a tapering drug. These drugs allow a decrease in withdrawal symptoms and bring a person off of their drug of choice slowly. With Ritalin it is slightly more complicated. Ritalin does not cause dangerous dependence so a taper cannot be used. Instead a variety of “comfort medications” are used to assist with the withdrawal process.

Like other stimulants, Ritalin withdrawal can cause severe depression and lethargy. To assist with these symptoms, drugs like benzodiazepines and often antidepressants are used. The patient needs to be taken off the drug safely and comfortably to decrease chances of leaving detox against medical advice. Often on one's own it can be very difficult to stay clean, but in detox doctors come up with a specific treatment plan for each person to make the process easier and more successful.

Once Ritalin has been cleansed from the body, sleep aids and antidepressants may still be prescribed to help assist with long term recovery. Ritalin changes the functions of neurotransmitters and chemicals in the brain, and it takes time for the body to return to normal function. Though detoxing from the drug only takes days, symptoms can last months.

WHAT DOES THE Ritalin DETOX PROCESS LOOK LIKE?

Because Ritalin is a stimulant, the body becomes to rely on the drug to function normally. When a person detoxes from the drug they will feel very different. They will feel unmotivated, lethargic and depressed. This is because Ritalin is what was keeping them going and now they no longer have the drug. Stimulants deplete chemicals in the brain associated with pleasure and reward, so it becomes difficult for a person to feel pleasure and happiness naturally.

The Ritalin detox process will consist of 24/7 medical supervision and medication to relieve their symptoms. The patient will be given a room with a bed and have their vitals checked constantly. This is to ensure that they are safe and their body is not having adverse reactions to medications or to the lack of Ritalin in the body. This also gives the patient a chance for constant communication of their symptoms so they can be treated effectively.

Often times in detox therapists are on site for emotional support and to check for underlying psychological conditions. With stimulants like Ritalin, psychosis is a possibility. The patient will likely be examined to make sure they are not suffering from delusions or hallucinations, which can also be treated. Also, with Ritalin detox specifically, the patient can be checked to see if they do in fact have ADHD, and an appropriate non-narcotic treatment plan can be formed.

Though Ritalin is typically considered mostly psychologically addicting, this does not mean that there are no withdrawals. Withdrawal from Ritalin is mostly psychological in nature, but can be as painful as physical withdrawal. When a person no longer has Ritalin in their system they can find it hard to function. They will likely feel very depressed, lethargic, restless, hopeless and sometimes even manic. It will be hard to find pleasure naturally and can leave a person psychologically “broken”.

The point of detox is to get Ritalin out of the system while combating these painful symptoms. Though comfort medication will be used, some symptoms will still persist. While on Ritalin a person has a lot of energy, and in detox this will be quite the opposite. This can be a hard adjustment for a person. Even with medication a patient may still feel depressed but will have therapists, nurses and other patients for emotional support. Often other recovering addicts will visit detox centers to help share their experience and hope with current patients so that they can see that recovery is possible. This can have significant effect because often while detoxing from Ritalin a person may not think a normal life is possible without drugs.

Ritalin Detox Withdrawals

Pill Bottle Icon Coming off of Amphetamine can cause severe depression
Pill Icon Has been used in sports as a performance enhancer
Syringe Icon Overdose can cause confusion, irregular heartbeat, or heart attack

Though Ritalin is typically considered mostly psychologically addicting, this does not mean that there are no withdrawals. Withdrawal from Ritalin is mostly psychological in nature, but can be as painful as physical withdrawal. When a person no longer has Ritalin in their system they can find it hard to function. They will likely feel very depressed, lethargic, restless, hopeless and sometimes even manic. It will be hard to find pleasure naturally and can leave a person psychologically “broken”.

The point of detox is to get Ritalin out of the system while combating these painful symptoms. Though comfort medication will be used, some symptoms will still persist. While on Ritalin a person has a lot of energy, and in detox this will be quite the opposite. This can be a hard adjustment for a person. Even with medication a patient may still feel depressed but will have therapists, nurses and other patients for emotional support. Often other recovering addicts will visit detox centers to help share their experience and hope with current patients so that they can see that recovery is possible. This can have significant effect because often while detoxing from Ritalin a person may not think a normal life is possible without drugs.

List of Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Nightmares
  • Lack of concentration
  • Cravings
  • Dizziness
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of motivation
  • Psychosis
  • Insomnia

Can you detox from Ritalin at home?

Because Ritalin is mostly psychologically addicting, in some cases one may be able to detox from Ritalin at home. If the dose was not long term or in excessive amounts one may be able to detox with few symptoms. When Ritalin is abused heavily, it is not recommended or wise to attempt to detox at home. Severe symptoms will be felt that can be relived in a detox center. Additionally it is much safer to detox in a medical facility regardless of the dose one is taking.

With stimulants like Ritalin, it is fairly common for stimulant psychosis to occur. This can cause bizarre behavior, delusions or hallucinations. Another common withdrawal symptom is anger and agitation; this, coupled with possible psychosis, can lead to violent or dangerous behavior. It is possible that a person put himself or others around him in harm's way while trying to detox from Ritalin. In detox one can be psychologically and physically examined to ensure safety and health. In detox one can also be prescribed medication to assist with long term symptoms associated with post acute withdrawal (PAWS).

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How long does it take to detox from Ritalin

Unlike many other drugs, Ritalin has a very short half life. This means that the drug leaves the body quickly. Typically Ritalin is no longer in the body after 24 hours. Though Ritalin does get out of the system very quickly, this does not mean withdrawal is very quick. Withdrawal can be felt weeks, months, or even years in rare cases. Long lasting withdrawal symptoms is usually referred to as PAWS. Antidepressants, sleep aids, and non-narcotic attention deficit medication can be prescribed to assist with PAWS.

Detox usually lasts 3-10 days. In this period, one will be given a safe and comfortable place to allow for Ritalin to leave the body and the most severe symptoms to pass. After this time it all depends on the amount a person was taking and duration of use to determine how long withdrawal will be felt. Often a person will be advised to continue seeing doctors for months after detox. It is mostly accepted that 90 days is the minimum period of time the body needs to function normally again, though a person may feel normal 30 days or just weeks after their last dose of Ritalin.

Ritalin withdrawal also majorly depends on a person’s metabolism. Age, weight and height all play a role in how long it will take for a person to feel normal after quitting Ritalin. The faster the metabolism, the faster severe symptoms will go away.

  • The United States accounts for 80% of the rise in Ritalin prescriptions
  • In 2013, 2.4 billion more doses were prescribed than 2012
  • Extended release version of drug under brand name Concerta
  • Currently in the United States, up to 7 million children are diagnosed with ADHD. Many of these children are prescribed Ritalin or similar stimulants