Like other prescription stimulants with a high potential for addiction, Ritalin is widely abused by high school students, college students and adults. Ritalin, the brand name version of methylphenidate, is prescribed to help manage the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or narcolepsy, a serious sleep disorder. People who participate in Ritalin abuse are drawn to the drug for its speed-like high and its effects on mental performance. Taking Ritalin can make you feel energetic, focused and alert, but abusing the medication can cause violent mood swings, heart problems, sleep disturbances, malnutrition and addiction.
In our competitive society, people of all generations feel the pressure to excel. Whether you’re in high school, in college or at a busy job, you’ve probably felt the need to study all night or push yourself to meet a deadline. According to CNN Health, Ritalin abuse has become common among teens, adults and even young children who want to give themselves a mental boost in order to pass a test or get a promotion. Unfortunately, using Ritalin without a prescription once or twice may eventually lead to dependence, a dangerous condition that can destroy your relationships, your academic performance, your career and your future.
What Makes Ritalin Addictive?
Although Ritalin is a stimulant that enhances central nervous system activity, this drug has a calming effect on patients who suffer from ADHD. By stimulating the brain’s release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that affects your sense of emotional stability and well-being, Ritalin can sharpen your mental faculties and lengthen your attention span, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
When taken at therapeutic doses according to the manufacturer’s instructions, Ritalin is not addictive. Taking the medication orally as directed has only a mild stimulant effect. Users in search of a more intense high will crush the pills and snort them or inject them intravenously. When Ritalin is misused this way, it can cause severe physical and psychological complications, warns the Partnership at Drugfree.org:
- Chemical dependence
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Hostility and aggression
- Loss of sleep
- Loss of appetite
Ritalin use and abuse have increased in recent years. According to the University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center, about 6 million Americans currently have a prescription for this drug. Many of these individuals are teens or children with ADHD or other behavioral disorders. For everyone with a legitimate prescription, there’s a risk of abuse. Teenagers who find the drug in a parent’s medicine cabinet or buy it from a friend with a prescription are in danger of overdose and dependence.
Like cocaine and meth, Ritalin is a powerful stimulant, and intensive outpatient or inpatient rehab is often the only way to ensure a complete recovery. If you’re close to someone who’s abusing Ritalin, or you’re misusing the drug yourself, a treatment program for Ritalin abuse could help you regain control of your future.
Levels of Ritalin Rehab
Ritalin abuse treatment can take place in a number of settings. Outpatient rehab centers provide detox with consulting physicians, counseling and group support services in a supportive but minimally monitored environment. Clients are free to go home or return to work or school at the end of their treatment sessions.
Because accommodations and round-the-clock medical care are not provided in outpatient rehab, this level of treatment is generally more affordable than inpatient care. Partial hospitalization programs combine the flexibility of outpatient care with the more intensive treatment of an inpatient program. Clients attend treatment for several hours a day, five days a week, then return home at night to work on their new coping strategies. Partial hospitalization may be used as a transition point following inpatient rehab, or as a standalone program for medically stable
patients who need intensive therapy and partial supervision. Residential care is the highest level of treatment on the continuum of care. At a residential treatment facility, you’ll stay at the treatment center for the duration of your rehab program.
This level of care is most appropriate for clients in the advanced stages of addiction who have already suffered extensive damage to their health, their personal relationships, their academic careers or their professional lives. Many have had complications with rehab in the past or have serious medical or psychological conditions that require 24-hour monitoring. If your Ritalin abuse has reached this point, your treatment team may recommend the safe, controlled environment of a residential facility to help you get your life back.
Stages of Treatment for Ritalin Abuse
Assessment and evaluation are the first stages of Ritalin abuse treatment. Your evaluation will be performed by an addiction counselor, doctor or psychologist, who will review your medical history and ask you questions about your history of substance abuse. You will also be evaluated for co-occurring psychiatric disorders, like anxiety, depression or personality disorders. Many people who abuse Ritalin have been treated for a behavioral disorder or conduct disorder at some point in their lives. These co-occurring conditions must be addressed through an integrated treatment program.
Like cocaine or meth addiction, Ritalin dependence requires a period of detox to cleanse your body of the drug and prepare you for the psychosocial tasks of rehab. During the withdrawal period, you may experience symptoms like headaches, sleep disturbances, severe fatigue or anxiety. You may also have strong cravings for the drug. These symptoms can be managed with the help of therapeutic prescription medications, motivational counseling and holistic therapies like acupuncture or massage. This is all done under the supervision of consulting physicians.
Once you’ve been through detox, you’ll be ready to proceed to the next phase of rehab. At this stage, you’ll receive individual counseling on a one-to-one basis, along with group counseling and family therapy.
Therapeutic strategies for the treatment of Ritalin addiction include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This popular approach to behavioral modification helps you identify destructive habits and motives and replace them with positive behaviors that promote sobriety.
- Motivational interviewing. This supportive therapeutic technique creates a collaborative relationship between the therapist and the client in order to increase the client’s motivation to heal.
- Contingency management. Contingency management is a reward system that reinforces positive behavior by offering items of value in exchange for meeting specific goals. Items might include food coupons, tokens or gift certificates.
- Family-based therapy. Addiction is a disease that affects not just the individual but the entire household. Family therapy includes education, preventive services and individual counseling for parents and siblings as well as the client.
Along with therapy, people who are recovering from Ritalin addiction may benefit from activities that promote physical health or nurture their spirituality. Exercise therapy, yoga, pet therapy and expressive therapy help you find positive, creative ways to deal with the triggers that drive you to use. Twelve-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous or Dual Recovery Anonymous provide support and motivation according to the principles of the 12 steps.
Getting a Loved One Into Treatment
Getting your teenager, your spouse or your partner into rehab for Ritalin abuse may be one of the toughest things you ever do. When faced with the idea of talking to a loved one about treatment, most of us hesitate, not wanting to interfere or “make things worse.” But in fact, the sooner you get help for someone you care about, the more effective treatment is likely to be. Even at the early, experimental stages of drug abuse, it’s not too soon to start discussing the subject of getting help. When you approach your loved one, use the following guidelines to keep the conversation neutral and positive:
- Avoid making moral judgments about Ritalin abuse; keep the discussion focused on the personal risks and health dangers of drug addiction.
- Give your loved one the opportunity to explain his or her motives for using the drug. Listen without interrupting.
- Keep your voice calm and avoid using inflammatory words or making accusations.
- Let your loved one know that he or she has your support, no matter what happens.
Sometimes it’s not enough to talk with a loved one about Ritalin use. If he or she gets hostile or persists in abusing drugs, you may need to stage an intervention to prevent further damage and protect the family from harm. Intervention counselors specialize in arranging these formal meetings and helping families talk with their loved ones about treatment. An intervention specialist can act as an impartial, objective participant in the meeting itself, keeping the discussion neutral.
Finding a Ritalin Abuse Treatment Program
Before you hold an intervention or have a serious discussion with someone about Ritalin addiction treatment, investigate treatment programs that specialize in Ritalin abuse. When it’s injected or snorted, Ritalin can be just as dangerous as cocaine or methamphetamine. It’s crucial to find a facility that can work with you or your loved one to overcome your dependence on this prescription drug, so you can be free to build a safer, healthier life.
Ask these important questions as you compare rehab facilities:
- Is the program licensed by the state agency that oversees rehab facilities?
- Is the staff highly educated, dedicated to addiction treatment and cross-trained in co-occurring disorders?
- Does the facility offer a complete continuum of services, from assessment and detox to residential care, partial hospitalization and outpatient care?
- Does the program offer access to educational services, such as tutoring or test preparation, for teenage clients?
- Does the program involve the whole family in the recovery process?
At The Oaks at La Paloma, we’re committed to giving our clients the resources they need to break free from Ritalin addiction. Along with our top-rated Ritalin abuse treatment program, we provide specialized treatment plans for clients with co-occurring mental health disorders. Call our intake specialists at any time to find out how you can start looking forward to a brighter future.