Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder that often occurs in children. The most recent statistics show that 6.4 million American children ages 4 through 17 have been diagnosed with the condition. The use of Ritalin and other medication prescribed to treat ADHD have doubled in the past 10 years, and one has to wonder if the disorder has worsened in our nation or if overprescribing medications are the problem.
ADHD symptoms include difficulty in paying attention, an inability to concentrate for long periods, remembering details, and even staying organized.
The condition is not easily diagnosed, and it could be a reason why doctors are so quick to prescribe medications with the hope it will be the cure-all solution to their problem. Children who are diagnosed are often viewed as the problem children of the class or troublemakers, but that is not the case in many situations if they have ADHD.
There are many avenues worth searching before deciding if your child needs strong stimulant medications. If they do, drugs like Ritalin, when used as prescribed, can be a beneficial medication for children.
Research has shown that children with ADHD have lower standardized test scores than others (including their own siblings) and are more likely to be placed in special education classes, repeat grade levels, and have behavior problems. While the use of stimulant medications has led to academic improvements, there is still a risk of short and long-term side effects short that have led to controversy. Withdrawal in children is one of these factors.
Unfortunately, doctors will continue to prescribe the medication despite a lack of symptoms, and most young adults will not keep using the pills if they do not have to. Ritalin and other stimulant drugs are highly sought out on college campuses as study aids, and some young people who are looking to make an extra buck will sell their medication to friends who want to use the drug recreationally.
By doing this, it can put those purchasing the drugs on the fast track to addiction. When the drug is used not as prescribed or by someone who does not experience symptoms of ADHD, they can begin to abuse the drug and build their tolerance. Innocent all-night study sessions can quickly turn into a Ritalin addiction, and upon cessation of the drug can result in Ritalin withdrawals.
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As with all drugs, withdrawal symptoms are going to vary from one person to another. These results will depend on the regular dose of Ritalin, the last dose taken, how long the substance was used, and the user’s age and weight.
Ritalin withdrawal can result in what’s known as a crash. This is when your brain becomes used to certain levels of dopamine that Ritalin would provide; your brain stops producing it on its own or much less than it was before being medicated. When you stop using the drug, you “crash” because your body is not producing its own dopamine.
Symptoms of a crash include:
Those who have developed a dependence on Ritalin and abuse large doses will experience a different set of side effects. The most common is the reverse effects of Ritalin, which include:
Physical symptoms attributed to Ritalin withdrawal are mild; however, the psychological effects can be much more severe.
The one positive about Ritalin is that it has a short half-life, and that means it is in your system for less than 24 hours after your last dose. The half-life is about three to four hours, and the feelings of withdrawal will be felt quickly. As mentioned above, the timeline will vary from one person to another, but we will provide an estimation of times that follow as:
As the drug exits your system, you will begin to experience physical symptoms of withdrawal that include cravings, nausea, fatigue, and increased heart rate.
At this stage, physical symptoms will have reached their peak and be met with mental symptoms such as depression, insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.
Once you have accomplished two weeks without Ritalin, a majority of the physical symptoms will disappear, but depression and anxiety may persist.
At this point, cravings should be nonexistent at this point, and most symptoms will have run their course. Depression is still a factor to contend with, however, as the body battles to replenish its dopamine levels.
The dose will play a significant role in Ritalin withdrawal. A standard dose of Ritalin can range from 10 mg to 60 mg (milligrams) with the average dose being around 30 mg. Those who abuse Ritalin to the point of developing a tolerance will often take more than 60 mg to experience euphoria associated with the use of the drug.
Heavy users are much more likely to develop post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which is where the effects of Ritalin withdrawal can persist for months or even years after abstaining from the drug.
Ritalin withdrawal is not severe when compared to stronger stimulants or benzodiazepine drugs, but it can still be a complicated process that pushes the former user back into Ritalin. Addiction specialists will always advise someone to enter into medical detoxification to safely transition into sobriety.
While each case is unique and stimulant withdrawal may not be inherently dangerous, there is still the risk that the unexpected can occur.
In the event something does happen, it is more desirable to be in the presence of professionals who plan for the unexpected.
The experienced staff will place you on a gradual taper and can wean you off your Ritalin use comfortably.
Depending on the severity of the dependence, the tapering process can last anywhere from three to seven days.
Each case is unique and will be treated as such.
Detox is a crucial step in the continuum of care, but it is only the first step. To successfully recover from addiction, a full treatment plan will be vital to abstain from Ritalin long-term.
Those who skip this portion and fail to recognize their behaviors and motivations behind addictive behaviors will unlikely change. This can raise their risk of relapse.
All treatment must be tailored for the client to have a shot at success, and therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy have proven to be extremely useful to overcome behaviors and learn triggers to addiction. Studies have shown they are helpful for people who are addicted to stimulants.
Stimulants are not as physically addictive as other drugs, so most clients who attend treatment are placed at an outpatient treatment center. The benefit of an outpatient center is that the client can return home once their therapy sessions conclude. In many cases, having a job or pursuing an education can deter people from entering treatment. But outpatient treatment enables recovering users to take care of their personal commitments and get the help they need.
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(May, 2014). Do Stimulant Medications Improve Educational and Behavioral Outcomes for Children with ADHD?. US National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4815037/
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