Ritalin addiction is usually defined by those individuals who use more than is prescribed on a regular basis, or any amount and frequency that is purchased on the street. People who abuse Ritalin may develop a pathological attachment to the drug. This occurs because it heightens concentration, productivity and mood rapidly, and lasts for a few hours.
Ritalin (methylphenidate) addiction cycle occurs in a number of stages. The cycle of addiction begins with initiation, followed by experimentation and casual use. Typically, casual use leads to problem use which is when you begin abusing Ritalin regularly enough that it begins to negatively affect other aspects of your life.
When Does Ritalin Misuse Turn Into Addiction?
People who regularly misuse a Ritalin prescription may run the risk of developing an addiction. This is because people who reach the problem use stage of addiction often develop a dependence on Ritalin. People who are dependent on the drug are physically unable to stop using Ritalin.
During the stage of dependence, people usually experience a tolerance to Ritalin and the dependence is marked both physically and mentally. Following dependence, people generally become quite affected by their substance use and can be diagnosed as having a substance use disorder.
Once you have reach the stage of full dependency, your brain’s reward system has become dependent on Ritalin in order to release the pleasure chemical, dopamine. Without Ritalin, your brain is depleted of dopamine, or pleasure, and is no longer capable of producing this chemical by itself. After you have reached this stage, your continued abuse of Ritalin results in a consistent cycle of addiction. This cycle of addiction is marked by Ritalin abuse, Ritalin high, Ritalin crash, and the aftermath of Ritalin cravings.
Ritalin withdrawal runs through several stages. Hours after using Ritalin, the user undergoes a “crash,” which begins with a rapid decrease in concentration and mood, and an increase in fatigue and cravings for Ritalin.
This craving usually subsides within a few hours, followed by increased fatigue and an intense need for sleep. At this point, some people who are not in treatment often use alcohol, anti-anxiety drugs, sedatives, opiates, or marijuana—just to get some sleep.
After a Ritalin Crash
Once the individual gets past the acute fatigue and need for sleep, most of the “crash” symptoms disappear. Some people experience side effects severe enough to require a trip to a hospital, such as stimulant-induced psychosis. This is a severe and less common side effect of continued Ritalin abuse, however, it is still prevalent enough to cause worry. After continued abuse, it is common for people to experience a mental state resulting from Ritalin withdrawal, such as anhedonia—an inability to feel pleasure or enjoyment.
The most common complaint following chronic Ritalin abuse is “boredom”, which corresponds to the mental state referred to by medical professionals as anhedonia. This state can be described as an empty subjective existence, and during anhedonia the individual may feel more intense cravings for Ritalin to counteract this feeling.
Treatment for Ritalin Addiction
In treatment for Ritalin addiction, your symptoms of a Ritalin crash can be managed with balanced nutrition, certain natural supplements, mild exercise, and the occasional use of non-addictive, mildly sedating medications. As you transition out of the “crash”, you will begin therapy with an individual therapists and in group sessions. In therapy, you are able to learn the underlying factors that fed your addiction to Ritalin and learn healthy coping skills to manage cravings.
During treatment, with abstinence and with medical and psychological support, the anhedonia disappears—usually within two to ten weeks. Quality treatment programs also have the great advantage of protecting those who abuse Ritalin against “cues” or reminders of past euphoria that make returning to Ritalin so tempting during the period of boredom.
Why Is Important to Go to Rehab for a Ritalin Addiction?
Even after the worst is over, there can be moments of intense Ritalin craving. Unfortunately, people who have an addiction to Ritalin often struggle to remember the negative effects of their substance abuse. While dealing with the physical, emotional, and social impacts of Ritalin abuse can be difficult, people often lose sight of their dysfunctional behaviors after a short period of sobriety. As a result, the remarkably strong memories of the “high” may lead you to relapse.
That being said, people who complete the entirety of a treatment program often are able to maintain sobriety and live a life in recovery. This is because the negative consequences associated with Ritalin abuse are able to sink in during treatment. Being able to remember why you don’t want to return to Ritalin abuse—namely, the side effects during the crash and the disrupt of your daily routine—makes Ritalin less appealing. Going to rehab for Ritalin addiction can provide you the medical care and coping skills necessary to push through the period of intense cravings and into a life of recovery.
In fact, a huge part of addiction treatment is to help you learn healthy, alternative behaviors that will enable you to cope with cravings. Not only that, but treatment for Ritalin addiction helps to reinforce your reasons for wanting and needing to quit. Most importantly, you are able to honestly comfort yourself by knowing the pros of recovery.
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