What causes Ritalin withdrawal?

Stimulants like Ritalin act in the brain similarly like the brain neurotransmitters, bio-chemical category in which we may include norepinephrine and dopamine. Central nervous stimulants amplify the effects of these chemicals in the brain. After extended periods of Ritalin use, the user’s body becomes adapted to the increased levels of neurotransmitters, and it is unable to function normally below those levels. When Ritalin is suddenly stopped, the body tries to cope with the sudden loss of the extra stimulation, leading to withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal

Most people experience the following signs and symptoms during detox:

• Intense physical and psychological cravings
• Agitation
• Irritability
• Anxiety
• Exhaustion
• Insomnia
• Sleep patterns problems
• Nausea
• Abdominal cramps
• Extreme depression
• Suicidal thoughts

Duration of Ritalin withdrawal

Signs and symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal can last anywhere between a few days to several months after the last administered dose. The strong acute effects of withdrawal can be treated within about a month. People have reported still feeling fatigue and increased appetite, depression, and cravings long after the initial 30 days.


Ritalin Withdrawal Timeline


  1. Early withdrawal stage

At the end of a binge, the individual enters the crash phase, which is characterized by depression, anxiety, agitation, and drug craving. The memories of the drug effects and the stimuli associated with these effects can result in the conditioned drug craving experienced during the early crash phase.

In the middle period of the crash phase, drug craving is replaced by fatigue, depression, loss of desire for the drug, and insomnia accompanied by an intense desire for sleep. During this time, the individual may use alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opiates to induce the desired sleep.

During the late period of the crash phase, hypersomnolence is followed by awakening in a hyperphagic state.


  1. Intermediate withdrawal stage

Following the crash period, if individuals remain abstinent, they enter an intermediate withdrawal phase with effects that are generally opposite those of the drug: loss of physical and mental energy necessary to most naturally occurring incentive behaviors. During withdrawal, individuals experience fatigue, decreased mental energy, limited interest in the environment, and anhedonia. These symptoms gradually increase in intensity during the 12 to 96 hours following the crash phase. At this time, memories of euphoria induced by amphetamine consumption stand in marked relief to the anhedonia being experienced at the moment. This results in intense drug craving, and the individual is highly prone to relapse by starting another binge cycle. If the individual can remain abstinent for 6 to 18 weeks, the anhedonia and dysphoria attenuate, but may wax and wane over the next 6 to 9 months.


  1. Late withdrawal stage

During the extinction phase, brief periods of drug craving can occur. The individual may experience conditioned combinations of stimulus properties of both the drug and withdrawal hunger effects in the form of cravings. These episodes of craving are triggered by conditioned stimuli (circumstances and objects) that were previously associated with the drug effects. If the individual experiences these cues without the associated drug effects, then the ability of these cues to elicit drug craving will diminish over time; over time the individual will experience less-intense drug cravings, which should lessen the probability of relapse.