Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms | Causes, Timeline, & Detox

The prescription drug Ritalin is frequently abused in high doses, despite its potential for addiction, worsened side effects, and severe withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, medical detox and rehab center services are available to help those who struggle with chronic Ritalin abuse.

The immediate-release version of methylphenidate, best known by the brand name Ritalin, is casually abused, predominantly by young adults with little regard for the serious potency, side effects, and addictive potential of this amphetamine-class stimulant drug.

In fact, the very same properties that make Ritalin and similar prescription stimulants effective for managing narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder also make them potentially dangerous drugs for methamphetamine-like stimulant addiction and withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms Of Ritalin Withdrawal

If you’re dependent on Ritalin and stop taking it, you may experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms. 

Withdrawal symptoms may last for a shorter or longer period of time depending on how long you were taking the drug, your dosage, genetic factors, your overall physical and mental health and resilience, and how you were taking the drug (e.g. swallowing, injecting, or snorting Ritalin).

Ritalin withdrawal symptoms have been known to include:

  • anxiety
  • changes in heart rate and blood pressure
  • confusion
  • depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • hallucinations
  • headaches
  • hyperactivity
  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • nausea
  • nightmares
  • paranoia

In rare cases, the psychological effects of Ritalin withdrawal have also been associated with suicidal thoughts. If you experience any severe symptoms as a result of Ritalin withdrawal, inform a healthcare provider immediately.

Causes Of Ritalin Withdrawal

There are many reasons why some people abuse Ritalin, including:

  • to increase alertness and wakefulness
  • to boost concentration and thinking (often before exams)
  • to reduce appetite and encourage unhealthy weight loss
  • to temporarily increase energy, strength, or endurance
  • to get high

When Ritalin is abused in high or low doses, it forces the body’s neurotransmitters (specifically dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin) and central nervous system outside of its natural chemical balance. 

In response, the body begins to make changes to that balance to reduce the drug’s overall effects, producing drug tolerance.

Physical Dependence

The more frequent someone’s Ritalin use is, and the higher the dosage they take, the more the body will make these adjustments until they become physically dependent on it for their normal physical and mental balance. 

If they stop taking Ritalin, that balance will again be disrupted, leading to an uncomfortable adjustment period and symptoms of drug withdrawal.

Ritalin Withdrawal Timeline

The process of Ritalin withdrawal is uncomfortable but temporary, with an acute phase that likely only lasts for 1-3 weeks after a person quits cold turkey.

While everyone’s experience is different, a generalized timeline of the process includes:

1-3 Days After Last Dose

After you stop using Ritalin, withdrawal symptoms will generally emerge after a few days with trouble sleeping, anxiety, and mood swings among the first signs of trouble.

4-10 Days After Last Dose

Symptoms increase in intensity as the drug is fully removed from the body, usually peaking within the first seven days and then improving afterwards. Fatigue, depression, insomnia, headaches, and drug cravings are all commonly reported.

10-14+ Days After Last Dose

Around this time, most people report that their physical symptoms have improved or even resolved entirely. 

However, some mental or psychological symptoms may linger in the form of cravings, anxiety, and depression lasting for a full three weeks or longer after a person’s last dose.

Ritalin Detox

While the physical effects of detoxing from Ritalin aren’t life-threatening, as is sometimes the case with alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal, they can still be distressing. Relapse, mental health crises, and even suicide are all possible without professional care and support.

For this reason, healthcare providers strongly recommend that people discontinue Ritalin abuse with the guidance of a medically assisted detoxification program, which may be offered in both inpatient and outpatient formats.

In the inpatient version, you will work through all symptoms of withdrawal with 24/7 access to compassionate caregivers and medical professionals while staying in a secure and comfortable treatment facility.

Ritalin Addiction Treatment

Ritalin, Concerta, and other ADHD medications are chemically similar to the illicit stimulant drug methamphetamine. Like methamphetamine, these prescription drugs are classified as Schedule II controlled substances. 

If you struggle with ongoing Ritalin substance abuse, consider enrolling in a formal addiction treatment program where you will be given the time, tools, and attention needed to work out your recovery.

At our treatment center, your personalized inpatient treatment program may include:

To learn more about available treatment options for Ritalin addiction and other forms of substance use disorder in Ohio, please contact our team today.

  1. Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7138250/
  2. Drug Enforcement Administration https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Amphetamines-2020_0.pdf
  3. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682188.html

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: August 16, 2023

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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