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Ritalin and its Effects

Ritalin is a drug, classified as Schedule II in the United States, which is widely prescribed to treat young people who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - usually shortened to ADHD - or who have extremely high activity levels for some other reason. Rather less frequently, it may also be used with the objective of combating narcolepsy. Ritalin is a trade name, and the drug's generic name is methylphenidate. Like many drugs which can be misused, Ritalin has a variety of street names, which include pineapple, kibbles and bits, vitamin R, study buddies, and west coast.

How Ritalin Operates

Ritalin works by causing a stimulus to the body's central nervous system. This is a similar approach to that which is taken by amphetamines, although it is rather weaker. However, it is considerably stronger than the equivalent hit given by caffeine, such as may be found in coffee or tea, as well as some soft drinks. Ritalin's main beneficial effects are that it can significantly calm children with hyperactivity, as well as allowing those who suffer from ADHD to experience more focused behavior.

Provided that Ritalin is taken in the dosages prescribed by a doctor, Ritalin is a very useful drug, as well as being quite safe. The National Institute of Mental Health has sponsored research into Ritalin, the results of which showed that patients who had ADHD did not become dependent on their medications, provided that they obeyed instructions regarding what dose of them to take.

However, because Ritalin acts as a stimulant, in the last few years reports have increasingly appeared of the drug being used in a harmful fashion as a social drug, rather than as a properly regulated medication. The tablets or pills in which Ritalin is dispensed are either injected, in the way that heroin is, or snorted up in crushed form, a similar method to the way that cocaine is usually abused.

Ritalin's Short-Term Effects

Because methylphenidate, the active ingredient of Ritalin, acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system, its effects are quite similar to those produced by taking amphetamines. This is the case both when considering the length of time the effects may last and in terms of the overall nature of those effects. Although it is not fully understood how Ritalin acts on the brain, most scientists believe that it does so by stimulating the cortex of the brain and the arousal area of the brain stem. In pharmalogical terms, it affects dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter. This element of Ritalin's action is reminiscent of that which is produced by cocaine.

With Ritalin effects which may be encountered in the short term are quite numerous, although most people will not suffer badly from them. Insomnia and nervousness are among the more commonly encountered, as are a loss of appetite, dizziness, and both vomiting and nausea. External symptoms such as itchy or reddened skin may also occur, while other easily noticeable effects include pain in the abdomen, headaches, loss of weight, and problems with digestion. More seriously, very high - or, rarely, very low - blood pressure and heart rate may be encountered.

The most serious short-term effects of Ritalin include psychosis, which may present itself either as individual psychotic episodes or as generalized toxic psychosis. Depression can also be a major problem, especially when the time comes for a patient to withdraw from taking the drug. Associated with this is the risk of becoming dependent on Ritalin, for which individualized and targeted treatment by a professional with expertise in the area of addiction is likely to be necessary.

Longer-term Effects of Ritalin

The long-term side-effects which may occur when taking Ritalin, or indeed any other stimulant, in large doses are more predictable than those which are confined to short-term presentation. However, some are basically very severe versions of their shorter-term equivalents - for example, loss of appetite may persist for such a long time that malnutrition becomes a real risk.

Similarly, heart problems can develop into life-threatening conditions such as irregular heartbeats. Symptoms which are particularly characteristic of long-term problems include hallucinations and paranoia. In extreme cases, a person may suffer from a conviction that he or she has worms crawling beneath his or her skin. With these severe symptoms, immediate attention from a health professional is vital.


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