Updated on November 23, 2023
6 min read

Ritalin Uses, Effects, Risks & Addiction

Is Ritalin Addictive?

Yes, it’s possible to develop an addiction or physical dependence on Ritalin. Methylphenidate is a Schedule II substance and has a high potential for misuse.7

Ritalin releases dopamine in the brain, which is responsible for activating its reward system. When an abnormal amount of dopamine gets released in your brain, it can contribute to drug abuse.

Misusing Ritalin can lead to a substance use disorder (SUD) and increased drug tolerance. You’ll then require a more frequent or higher dosage to achieve the same effects.

Abuse and Addiction Symptoms

Ritalin doesn’t develop a tolerance if taken as prescribed per the correct dosage. However, getting a SUD after long-term drug use or when taken against medical indications is possible. 

People often misuse Ritalin for its methamphetamine-like qualities. College students abuse it as a "study drug."

Signs of Ritalin abuse include:4

  • Taking more significant amounts of Ritalin than prescribed
  • Snorting or injecting Ritalin
  • Intense cravings for Ritalin
  • Increased tolerance
  • Spending time getting, using, and recovering from Ritalin
  • Continuing Ritalin abuse despite physical and mental health consequences
  • Drug misuse is causing social, financial, and legal problems
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms

Online Therapy Can Help

Over 3 million people use BetterHelp. Their services are:

  • Professional and effective
  • Affordable and convenient
  • Personalized and discreet
  • Easy to start
Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Woman drinking coffee on couch

Snorting & Injecting Ritalin

When people snort Ritalin, it results in a stronger drug concentration than swallowing it as a pill. It doesn’t maintain the pill’s time-release attributes, leading to a faster “come down” when the effects of the drug start to wear off or crash.7

On the other hand, injecting Ritalin can increase the feeling of complete euphoria. Like other injected stimulants, the half-life is shorter than the orally prescribed dosage.7

The shorter half-life or come-down phase can cause you to chase the high more frequently. It leads to a dangerous cycle of substance abuse.4,7


When abused, Ritalin can have similar effects on the body to cocaine, but with a longer duration and a slower peak. At high dosages or overdosages, prescription stimulants can lead to:1

  • Dangerously high body temperature
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart failure
  • Seizures

In some cases, a Ritalin overdose can cause constant hallucinations and paranoia. This effect can happen in children and adults.

Ritalin overdose can be fatal. You should call 911 immediately if you suspect an overdose is occurring, as it can often cause heart issues and seizures, even in children.


Ritalin withdrawal is typical in people who abruptly stop taking the drug after long-term use.

Some of the symptoms of withdrawal include:1,2

  • Depression or bipolar-like symptoms
  • Insomnia or sleep-related problems
  • Extreme fatigue or even muscle malfunction

Treatment Options

Treating a Ritalin addiction or dependency requires tapering your prescription over time. This method can help you minimize harmful side effects and withdrawal symptoms.

You should reach out to an addiction professional or doctor. They’ll be able to monitor your detox and provide medical support.

Standard treatment programs for Ritalin addictions may include:

Get Professional Help

BetterHelp can connect you to an addiction and mental health counselor.

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Rehab Together

What is Ritalin?

Ritalin is the branded name for methylphenidate. It is a prescription drug that affects the central nervous system (CNS). It is a stimulant typically used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.1,2 

Some of the street names for Ritalin include:

  • West Coast
  • Vitamin R
  • Kiddy Coke
  • R-ball
  • Speed

Use and Dosage

Healthcare providers often prescribe Ritalin in 5 mg and 10 mg dosages. Its most common form is time-release capsules, taken up to three times daily.1

Prescriptions typically don’t exceed 60 mg a day. Most people start to see an increase in adverse side effects above 60 mg.

Ritalin Abuse

Ritalin comes in the following types of tablets:1

  • Oral ingested water-soluble tablets
  • Chewable tablets
  • Long-acting tablet
  • Sustained-release tablets
  • Extended-release tablets

Phone, Video, or Live-Chat Support

BetterHelp provides therapy in a way that works for YOU. Fill out the questionnaire, get matched, begin therapy.

Get Started

Answer a few questions to get started

Woman drinking coffee on couch

Effects of Ritalin Usage

Ritalin causes an increase in dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These control reactions to external and internal stimuli, like a conversation, being touched, hearing music, or hunger.6

Although these stimuli are everyday occurrences to someone with ADHD, they create a dopamine rush. This rush is why those with symptoms of ADHD may seem:

  • Unable to focus
  • Restless
  • Fidgety
  • Bored
  • Hyperactive
  • To have roller coaster-like emotions
  • Easily agitated
  • Uninterested in tasks

Ritalin can assist in correcting the way the brain reacts to these stimuli for ADHD-affected children. The correct dosage of Ritalin can help focus on the right thing at the right time.2,5

Side Effects of Ritalin

Ritalin is a stimulant that makes you feel awake, excited, alert, and energized. The most common side effects of Ritalin usage are mild and can include:1

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Dizziness or headache
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Restlessness
  • Increased breathing and heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure

Severe Side Effects of Ritalin

Ritalin can also cause some severe side effects within the body. These can include but aren’t limited to:1

  • Fever
  • Hallucinations, hearing voices, or believing things that are not true
  • Mood changes and depression
  • Fast, pounding, and/or irregular heartbeat
  • Sudden death in those with heart-related health problems
  • Stroke and heart attacks in adults
  • Shortness of breath
  • Seizures
  • Blistering or peeling of skin
  • Slow growth/low weight gain in children

Risks of Ritalin

The increased heart rate associated with regular dosage can lead to heart attacks in adults and severe heart issues in children. Long-term use can also cause depression in adults.1 

It can also interact with other drugs and alcohol, leading to uncomfortable side effects. These side effects include:1

Drug Interactions

Mixing the following drugs with Ritalin can lower its effects. Mixing drugs can also cause serious side effects and increase health risks. Always consult a doctor before beginning the use of the following drug types:1

  • Cold medications that contain decongestants: The depressive effects can counteract Ritalin’s stimulating effects, causing delirium in some people
  • Blood thinners: These can increase the toxicity of methylphenidate in the bloodstream
  • Blood pressure medication: Ritalin can raise your heart rate and negate the effects of blood pressure medication
  • Caffeine: Caffeine can increase the number of adverse side effects of the drug; however, small amounts should be fine

Ritalin and Alcohol

Drinking alcohol while taking methylphenidate can increase the risk of alcohol poisoning. The drug masks the sedative effects of alcohol, making it difficult to determine how intoxicated you are. 

This interaction can lead to binge drinking or alcohol abuse. Alcohol can also enhance Ritalin’s adverse side effects and increase the risk of:1

  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Mood disorders such as depression or anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased drowsiness
  • Drug overdose
  • Withdrawal symptoms


Ritalin, or methylphenidate, is a prescription stimulant medication used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. It increases dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, helping you manage external and internal stimuli reactions.

Ritalin is an addictive drug, classified as a Schedule II substance with a high potential for abuse. Misusing Ritalin can lead to addiction, dependence, and withdrawal.

Ritalin can also interact with other substances and alcohol, leading to uncomfortable side effects. If you or someone you know is abusing Ritalin, consider seeking treatment.

Get matched with an affordable mental health counselor

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Updated on November 23, 2023

Related Pages

Ritalin Uses, Effects, Risks & Addiction

Ritalin’s Drug Interactions, Risks, and Treatment for Abuse

Learn about the uses and effects of Ritalin, as well as the risks and addiction potential associated with this medication.

Substance Addiction Resources

Addiction Treatment Resources During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Learn about the uses and effects of Ritalin, as well as the risks and addiction potential associated with this medication.

Ritalin Uses, Effects, Risks & Addiction

Substance Addiction Resources

Learn about the uses and effects of Ritalin, as well as the risks and addiction potential associated with this medication.


What Does Adderall Addiction and Abuse Look Like?

Learn about the uses and effects of Ritalin, as well as the risks and addiction potential associated with this medication.

Addiction Resources: Treatment Options and When to Seek Help

Dangers of "Study Drug" Abuse in College

Learn about the uses and effects of Ritalin, as well as the risks and addiction potential associated with this medication.