A growing number of young people are snorting Ritalin — a much-lauded drug for hyperactive children — to lose weight, study for exams and in some cases, just to get high, according to some drug experts. Teens and 20-somethings are the key abusers, and some even go to their doctors and fake symptoms in order to get prescriptions for Ritalin that they subsequently misuse themselves, and even sell to their friends, experts said. There has been a six-fold increase in emergency room visits associated to Ritalin abuse over the past decade, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, which tracks drug abuse data for federal health authorities. There were 271 Ritalin-related emergency room visits in 1990 and 1,478 visits in 2001.
What is Ritalin?
Ritalin is the common name for methylphenidate, classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II narcotic—the same classification as cocaine, morphine and amphetamines.1 It is abused by teens for its stimulant effects. Even when Ritalin is used as a prescription drug, it may have severe effects including nervousness, insomnia, anorexia, loss of appetite, pulse changes, heart problems and weight loss. The manufacturer says it is a drug of dependency.
What are the effects of Ritalin abuse?
Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a central nervous system stimulant, similar to amphetamines in the nature and duration of its effects. It is believed that it works by activating the brain stem arousal system and cortex. Pharmacologically, it works on the neurotransmitter dopamine, and in that respect resembles the stimulant characteristics of cocaine. Short-term effects can include nervousness and insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, palpitations, headaches, changes in heart rate and blood pressure (usually elevation of both, but occasionally depression), skin rashes and itching, abdominal pain, weight loss, and digestive problems, toxic psychosis, psychotic episodes, drug dependence syndrome, and severe depression upon withdrawal.
High doses of stimulants produce a predictable set of symptoms that include loss of appetite (may cause serious malnutrition), tremors and muscle twitching, fevers, convulsions, and headaches (may be severe), irregular heartbeat and respirations (may be profound and life threatening), anxiety, restlessness, paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions, excessive repetition of movements and meaningless tasks, and formicaton (sensation of bugs or worms crawling under the skin).
Children and adults prescribed Ritalin to treat ADHD or narcolepsy do not appear to develop tolerance to its therapeutic effects, but abusers develop tolerance to the effects they seek from the drug. Chronic heavy use can lead to physical dependence, and withdrawal symptoms include exhaustion and severe emotional depression. Ritalin abusers who become psychologically dependent may experience cravings for the drug and feelings of panic if the drug becomes temporarily unavailable.
Amphetamine abuse such as Ritalin abuse is big problem in the country and unfortunately it is affecting the younger population. The best way of course to help someone who you know has a Ritalin abuse problem is to send them to drug rehab. Also look for alternatives to Ritalin to help with ADD. The less people are prescribed the drug the less it can be abused.