How Long Do Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms Last? Ritalin vs. Adderall, Ritalin Withdrawal Medications, Detox & Treatment Options
What is Ritalin?
Ritalin. or Methylphenidate hydrochloride—the generic for Ritalin, is a stimulant prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) treatment and to manage symptoms of narcolepsy (sleep disorder). It affects the parts of the brain and central nervous system (CNS) that control impulses and hyperactivity. Ritalin is one of the trade names for the drug known as methylphenidate. Other brand names can include Concerta, Methylin, and Metadate. Methylphenidate was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1955 for treating what was then referred to as hyperactivity .
Ritalin works by stimulating the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, chemicals associated with control and attention. Dopamine also has strong associations with pleasure and reward. Norepinephrine mobilizes the brain and body to get ready for action and is involved in the fight or flight response. Ritalin is prone to abuse, just like other stimulants. In addition, its ability to improve concentration means some people use it to boost cognitive ability. Ritalin is available as a tablet that a person can take orally and as a patch that allows absorption of the medication through the skin.
Ritalin vs. Adderall: What Are the Differences?
There are a lot of similarities between the two prescription drugs. Both medications are stimulants used to treat ADHD, and both are classified as Schedule II controlled substances. Drugs are classified as schedule II drugs if they are determined to have a high potential for misuse, dependence, and addiction. If you have a history of substance use problems, it’s important to let your doctor know before taking either medication. As far as differences, the primary chemical in Ritalin is methylphenidate; in Adderall, it’s the amphetamine. Treating addiction to both drugs is a very delicate process. The most important thing to know for Adderall addiction treatment is that the ‘cold turkey’ method is not always the best approach.
Ritalin comes in three forms: instant release (lasting 3-4 hours), sustained release (lasting 6-8 hours), and long-acting (lasting 8 hours). Adderall comes in two formulations: instant release (lasting 4-6 hours) and extended release (lasting 12 hours).
Both medications help individuals with ADHD by improving symptoms that interfere with their ability to focus and pay attention. Ritalin and Adderall also lessen hyperactivity and impulsivity. In addition, studies show that for approximately 80% of adults with ADHD, Ritalin provides relief of symptoms. The main difference is that Ritalin works more quickly than Adderall, and Adderall stays in the body longer.
Is Ritalin Addictive?
Ritalin is addictive, especially when used without a prescription. It is a drug of abuse among some because they believe or have experienced that it:
- Promotes improved concentration
- Increases mental sharpness
- Helps a person manage a heavy workload
- Stimulates weight loss
- Gets a person high
The drugs Ritalin and Adderall may be so intertwined in the public mind. Psychological, physical, and behavioral signs of Ritalin addiction include:
- Low appetite
- Rapid heart rate
- Panic attacks
- Crushing and snorting Ritalin
- Asking other people for their Ritalin pills
- Stealing, lying, and/or doctor shopping to get extra Ritalin pills
Addiction to this drug is usually a result of illegal Ritalin abuse. Ritalin addiction is more likely to happen if you take it without a legitimate medical reason, take it in very high doses, or have a previous history of alcohol and drug abuse.
Ritalin has very different effects on people with ADHD than the rest of the population, serving to help sufferers focus more quickly and stay relaxed and calm. They don’t really experience this drug’s stimulant or euphoric qualities that make it so attractive to other people.
After recognizing signs of Ritalin addiction, a loved one may want to recommend treatment to the affected person. Though Ritalin addiction can cause significant damage to a person’s life, most of its effects can be effectively reversed with comprehensive treatment.
Benefits Of Ritalin Addiction Treatment
There are many benefits of receiving treatment for a Ritalin addiction, including:
- Education on the disease of addiction
- Encouragement and support from others who are facing the same types of challenges
- The ability to safely talk about and personal process experiences with a therapist who can help explore the root causes of the addiction
- Knowledge of healthy coping skills, including relapse prevention strategies, and the ability to practice implementing them in a safe environment
- The ability to participate in family therapy and work on improving personal relationships
- The ability to take the time needed to truly invest in oneself and improve physical and mental health
How Long Do Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
Ritalin can produce effects similar to cocaine when misused, and it has a high potential for abuse. Long-term use can result in dependence and withdrawal symptoms upon quitting. Ritalin, like other stimulants, often causes psychological symptoms during withdrawal. Since Ritalin primarily works by influencing dopamine in the brain, Ritalin withdrawal symptoms will be related to reward, emotion, and energy levels. You may feel depressed, apathetic, anxious, irritable, and tired.
The duration of the physical symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal generally lasts from 1-3 weeks, depending on the length of the addiction and how high the dosages were. Without treatment, the timeline for symptoms can last much longer, and the psychological symptoms can be more severe.
Ritalin Withdrawal Side Effects
What are the Ritalin withdrawal side effects? Common Ritalin withdrawal symptoms include:
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Vivid dreams or nightmares
- Inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia)
Even those who do not take the drug regularly may experience a crash when the drug wears off. A Ritalin crash may consist of the following symptoms:
- Excessive sleep
- Increased appetite
Ritalin withdrawal symptoms can vary in intensity depending on individual physiology and how large the last dose was, and how long the person took Ritalin.
Ritalin Withdrawal Timeline
- 72 hours: After your last dose of Ritalin, your first symptoms may show up within 72 hours. If you were used to a high dose for a long time, you might feel symptoms after 24 hours. Early symptoms may include sleep issues, anxiety, and irritability. You may also start to crave the drug.
- 7 days: Symptoms will increase in intensity over the first week, and they will likely reach their peak within the first seven days. Peak symptoms are when the Ritalin withdrawal period is at its most uncomfortable. Symptoms can include depression, insomnia, nausea, and fatigue.
- 2 weeks: By the second week, your symptoms will start to subside. Psychological symptoms tend to linger longer than physical ones; you may continue to experience anxiety and depression. Cravings also last longer than other acute symptoms.
- 1 month: In some cases, certain symptoms like anxiety may continue for a month or more. You may need to attend addiction treatment to address issues like drug cravings and psychological symptoms. Treatment can help you learn how to cope with ongoing issues without relapse.
Managing Symptoms of Ritalin Withdrawal
Ritalin withdrawal may be more dangerous if it causes symptoms like severe depression. Stimulants can sometimes cause you to experience depression that leads to feelings of hopelessness and despair. If this leads to suicidal thoughts, it’s important to talk to someone immediately.
Ritalin withdrawal can also be dangerous if it presents a barrier to you getting help for a substance use problem. If you’ve developed an addiction to Ritalin, withdrawal symptoms might come with a compulsion to use the drug despite serious consequences. These consequences may include health issues, strained relationships, and financial instability.
Remaining in a pattern of addiction to Ritalin can be dangerous. High doses can affect your heart rate and blood pressure, and very high doses can lead to overdose. Going through Ritalin withdrawal with help may allow you to break the cycle of addiction.
Detox is a high level of care in addiction treatment used to treat people who could go through severe Ritalin withdrawal symptoms. However, it may also be used to treat people who have other health conditions that need to be addressed or monitored alongside withdrawal.
For instance, stimulants like Ritalin can cause changes in heart rate and blood pressure that can be risky for people with heart conditions. Detox involves 24-hour medically managed services that usually last for about a week to 10 days, depending on your needs.
Ritalin Withdrawal Medications and Detox
Treatment for withdrawal from prescription stimulants like Ritalin is symptomatic. Symptoms are usually not medically life-threatening and do not require pharmaceutical intervention. Still, some medications may be used during Ritalin withdrawal to treat symptoms and provide support. These include:
- Antidepressants are used to minimize the risk of doing harm to self or others.
- Benadryl is used for sedation and for effects on possible dermatologic problems (itching and hypersensitivity of the skin).
- Drug craving medications, medicines such as bromocriptine, amantadine may address cravings for Ritalin, but without clear results.
- Neuroleptics, this class of drugs can be used if needed to treat psychotic episodes provoked by high doses of methylphenidate.
Additionally, alternative treatments such as acupuncture to the ear may help ease symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal. But in any case, plenty of bed rest and drinking plenty of fluids is indicated as the body adapts to the absence of Ritalin.
Treatment for Ritalin Addiction
There is a strong link between mental health and substance abuse. Individuals who struggle with mood disorders like depression and anxiety are more susceptible to developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol, often to self-medicate symptoms of their underlying mental health condition. These co-occurring disorders can make each other worse without proper treatment.
To answer the question “how long do Ritalin withdrawal symptoms last?” it’s crucial to first get an accurate assessment of all the symptoms. When the symptoms have been evaluated by a mental health professional, it may be determined that another form of mental condition is present and needs a particular type of treatment. Very often, some combination of psychotherapy, medication, and/or lifestyle changes are effective for coping with functional.
Detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of Ritalin withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.
Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of Ritalin withdrawals.
Psychotherapy for Depression
Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of mental health disorders along with addiction, including:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.”
- Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
- Solution Focused Therapy – is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Prescription drug abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.
Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for alcohol use disorder and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.
If you or a loved one are struggling with long-term prescription drug abuse and a co-occurring mental health condition such as depression, contact one of our helpful treatment specialists today. We Level Up can provide information on dual diagnosis and detox programs that may fit your specific needs.