Ritalin is a prescription medication that helps people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) calm their minds and improve their levels of focus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that parents of young children with ADHD try behavior therapy first, but less than half are receiving such services. Meanwhile, an eyebrow-raising 75 percent are receiving drugs as treatment.1The majority of people who use Ritalin as prescribed do not develop an addiction to the medication. However, people who abuse the drug for recreational purposes are more likely to develop serious addictions to the drug. For these individuals, drug rehab programs provide meaningful help that can stop the abuse from occurring and promote the healing process.
By the time Hannah M. entered high school, she was struggling with an eating disorder. She fueled her weight loss efforts with diet pills, marijuana and alcohol, but it wasn’t enough. “Next up, came Adderall and Ritalin… and regular use throughout the week.” Within a few years, she’d be involved in a tragic car accident, charged with vehicular manslaughter and facing a prison term. Four years later, she’d finally begun making her way toward lasting recovery.
“Life before recovery was bleak and hopeless. Anything that got in the way of my use had to go. My goals continued to change in order to meet the needs of my addiction. Since getting sober, recovery has taught me to use my own experiences to cultivate healing in others. I was once a lost and frightened young girl, but today I have begun to pick up the wreckage of my past. I now realize that bad things happen sometimes, but we have a choice in what happens afterward.” —Hannah M., Heroes in Recovery
The First Step
Ritalin is a powerful medication that has a chemical structure quite similar to cocaine. People who have ADHD have a chemical deficiency in the brain. Ritalin is designed to help correct that depletion. People who do not have ADHD, however, flood their brains with unneeded chemicals each time they take Ritalin. The body reacts to this assault by adjusting its chemical processes in a variety of ways.
A person who takes Ritalin on a regular basis may have a brain that has been chemically altered to respond to Ritalin and is more likely to develop an addiction. Sadly, these chemical changes must be undone before recovery can move forward. Detoxification is considered the first step in this process. Here, people are given a safe place in which to allow their bodies to adjust to the lack of Ritalin. They may also have access to therapies that can help them make the adjustment without facing serious physical discomfort.
Some people experience these side effects as they attempt to withdraw from Ritalin:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Cravings for Ritalin2
While it’s possible for people to overcome these symptoms at home, it’s also possible that doing so could lead to drug relapse. Strong feelings of anxiety and depression are hard for anyone to live with, but they might be particularly hard to endure if people know they can make the symptoms stop by taking drugs.
Individuals may also be given medications to help ease the symptoms they feel as the detoxification process moves forward. After a few days have passed, the person will have a system free of Ritalin, and the next phase of healing can begin.
Other tests are physical, designed to help determine if there are underlying physical conditions that must also be addressed as the rehab process moves forward. Ritalin abuse can put a significant amount of stress on the heart. The problems tend to escalate with increasingly large doses of the drug. People with Ritalin addictions may have heart damage that must be both spotted and treated during rehab. Other physical conditions such as chronic pain might also play a role in addictions, so physical testing is considered a crucial part of the screening process.
Some people develop addictions to Ritalin due to an inability to deal with stress. Some students who feel overwhelmed by the pressure to get good grades on all of their tests may turn to Ritalin in order to help them stay awake and focused on their studies. Instead of understanding how to manage their time and expectations, these teens may turn to Ritalin to help them succeed.
“Recovery is a way of life for me.” Hannah M. says. “Everything that I have and everything that I do is because of my recovery. It is not just about putting down the drink and the drugs and maintaining an abstinent lifestyle. Recovery is much more than that. It is finding a community of others to relate to and reach to for support; practicing love, patience and tolerance for others in all areas of my life; and using the principles of 12-step programs to improve not only the quality of my life but the quality of others’ lives as well.”
No medications have been specifically developed to help people overcome an addiction to Ritalin. In other words, no pills can help people to leave their addictions behind. Instead, people will need to use specific therapeutic techniques in order to understand how the addiction developed and how it can be controlled in the future.
Some therapists use a form of therapy that helps addicts to understand how their hidden thoughts and impulses guide them to drug use. Addicts are asked by a therapist to explain what they thought about in the moments leading up to drug use, and they’re encouraged to come up with new ways of thinking that may not lead to drug use. Someone who thinks, “I’m not smart enough to pass this test,” may be encouraged to replace that thought with, “I have studied hard, and I feel confident.” While this may sound simplistic, it can be revolutionary. As an individual learns to replace these negative thoughts, in many cases, he can loosen the grip of Ritalin addiction.
Other forms of therapy treat past trauma or conflict. Family therapy is a time where families come together to learn more about addiction and talk about the challenges they face. Psychotherapies might also help people who have been victims of violence to deal with their memories and their pain without leaning on drugs, or resorting to depression.
If you have a Ritalin addiction, please know you can do something about it today. Your addiction can be successfully treated in a residential program. If you have a severe case of Ritalin addiction, an inpatient program gives you a chance to heal in anew environment. If you’d like more information on how a Ritalin rehab program works, please contact us at Michael’s House at 760-548-4032. We are glad to answer your questions and give you any information you need. Don’t delay. You can move forward in your recovery right now.
1 Cha, Ariana Eunjung. “CDC warns that Americans may be overmedicating youngest children with ADHD.” The Washington Post. 03 May 2016. Web. 10 July 2017.
2 “Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines.” NIDA. Jan. 2014. Web. 10 July 2017.