- Classification: Stimulant CSA
- Schedule: Schedule II
- Trade Name: Methylphenidate
- Medical Uses: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy
- Physical Dependence: Possible
- Psychological Dependence: High
- Tolerance: Yes
- Duration (hours): 2–4
- Usual Method: Oral, injected, snorted
- Possible Effects: Increased alertness, excitation, euphoria, increased pulse rate and blood pressure, insomnia, loss of appetite
- Effects of Overdose: Agitation, increased body temperature, hallucinations, convulsions, possible death
- Withdrawal Syndrome: Apathy, long periods of sleep, irritability, depression, disorientation
Methylphenidate (Ritalin) belong to a class of drugs called amphetamine-like stimulants. It is structurally similar to amphetamine and cocaine. These three drugs are all central nervous system stimulants that act on a chemical within the human body known as dopamine, one of the substances within the human body that controls feelings of pleasure.
Stimulants also have effects that increase endurance, reduce hunger, make the user feel less tired, and produce feelings of well-being and happiness. Unlike cocaine and amphetamine, however, methylphenidate does not cause feelings of pleasure in the brains of individuals with ADHD. However, when healthy people unaffected by ADHD take methylphenidate illicitly, they get, at least initially, a sharp signal reception that the brain interprets as pleasure.
Unfortunately, people without ADHD soon develop a tolerance to the drug and need increasing amounts of the drug to achieve the same effect, often leading to methylphenidate abuse.
Even though Ritalin is prescribed by a doctor, it can also be found on the illegal market. Many people buy, sell, and use these drugs illegally. Ritalin and most amphetamines generally are not smuggled into the USA from other countries. Instead, people get these drugs through prescription forgeries (fake prescriptions), buy them legally, or buy them from someone who has stolen them from a pharmacy. On the streets, it has one of the highest values because it is considered one of the easiest drugs to abuse.
Common names for Ritalin are Vitamin R, Skippy, MPH, R-Ball. At first, Ritalin came on the market as an immediate-release form drug. Immediate-release form drugs refer to drugs that work quickly and their effects last only a short time (Ritalin-SR). Currently Ritalin can also be found as a long-term acting drug with effects lasting longer periods of time (Ritalin-LA).
Origin of Ritalin Use
Ritalin is considered to one of the first methylphenidate products. It was first discovered in Europe in the 1940’s. It got patented in United States in 1954, and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) one year later. At first, Ritalin was supposed to be a substitute for more powerful and addictive stimulants, such as the amphetamines. It was used to treat conditions that included depression, narcolepsy, and fatigue. In the 1960’s, the FDA approved Ritalin to treat memory loss in the elderly and behavior problems in children. At first, doctors prescribed methylphenidate only for children who were having problems standing still. In the 1980’s, the physicians devised a name for these problems and coined the term attention deficit disorder (ADD). In 1987, beside the behavioral symptoms, the physicians discovered that this disorder also included symptoms of high energy and reckless actions and the condition was renamed into attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Once the diagnostic guidelines became well known, the physicians began diagnosing more and more children with ADHD and prescribed more and more methylphenidate. Ritalin use increased dramatically, partly because it was advertised safer than the amphetamines. Drug companies had to produce more methylphenidate to keep up with the demand. Although it is believed that the abuse of methylphenidate began much earlier, it was not until the 1960’s that drug regulators in several countries realized that the drug could be abused and the people could become addicted to it. In 1968, Sweden was one of the first countries to ban methylphenidate because of the increasingly widespread street use of the drug .
Ritalin still remains popular today because of the important role played into the ADHD’s (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) treatment.
ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder in childhood. The symptoms become apparent in some children in the preschool and early school years. It implies manifestations like inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Symptoms related to attentional behavior deficits include difficulties in maintaining attention, lack of ability to listen to detailed instructions, forgetfulness and difficulty in maintaining attention. The symptoms related to hyperactivity include excessive activity, fidgetiness and difficulty in sustaining play.
Most of the time, the children with ADHD have trouble paying attention in school, sitting still, concentrating and focusing on certain class tasks (including tests and assignments). These difficulties sometimes interfere with social development and building lasting relationships.
Diagnosing ADHD is not an easy task for a physician. Before it is diagnosed, the manifestations must continue for at least six months, and the symptoms must create a real behavioral handicap in at least two aspects of a person’s life.Even though ADHD represents a commonly diagnosed mental disorder, the pathological mechanisms involved are still not fully understood by physicians.
In 1980’s, the doctors noticed that methylphenidate had a calming effect on overactive children. That seemed a bit odd, stimulants like this were known for their properties of increasing energy and excitement, and not for their calming effects. The doctors began to ask themselves of how this could happen. At first, scientists thought that methylphenidate drugs would calm people down only if they had ADHD. The researchers believed that low doses could slow down the part of the brain responsible for hyperactivity. Since then, some research was done and the studies proved the hypothesis wrong. New studies about the methylphenidate show us that stimulants can help anyone to focus and concentrate, and not just people with the ADHD. The researchers concluded that the effects are just a bit more obvious for patients with ADHD.
How Ritalin is Consumed
Ritalin usually comes in tablet, liquid, and capsule form and when is used for medical purposes, it is taken orally.
Illicit users of the drug usually swallow it, inhale or snort it through the nose, smoke it, or inject it by needle into a vein. Abusers typically crush the tablets into a powder to inhale or smoke the drug. To prevent abuse, some methylphenidate tablets— Concerta, for example—are made in a special way so they cannot be ground into a powder. To inject the drug, abusers usually dissolve immediate-release methylphenidate tablets in water and then inject the mixture into a vein with a needle and syringe.
Effects of Ritalin Use
Short Term Use Effects
• Loss of appetite
• Increased heart rate
• Increased blood pressure
• Increased body temperature
• Dilation of pupils
Long Term Use Effects
• Permanent damage to blood vessels of heart and brain,
• Increased blood pressure leading to heart attacks, strokes and death
• Liver, kidney and lung damage
• Destruction of tissues in nose if sniffed
• Respiratory disorders if smoked
• Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected
• Weight loss
• Disorientation, apathy, confused exhaustion
• Strong psychological dependence