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Ritalin Overdose

Ritalin, or methylphenidate, is a psycho-stimulant drug used to treat people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and narcolepsy. It can be prescribed for adults as well as children, and is meant to be taken only in prescribed amounts and frequency. Ritalin should be administered or prescribed to emotionally unstable patients or patients with drug or alcohol abuse with care as these patients could increase their dosage amount or frequency unnecessarily. This is extremely harmful as overuse of this medication for lengthy periods of time is highly likely to reduce drug effectiveness and may increase dependence on the drug and abnormal behaviour.

As with everything, too much of Ritalin could be very bad. Overdose rarely leads to death, but other complications such as coma, strokes or paralysis may occur. The symptoms of an overdose build up gradually and as such treatment can be very effective. These symptoms are:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Confusion
  • Aggressiveness
  • Hallucinations
  • Cold Sweating
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Paranoia

The fatal dosage of Ritalin for humans is approximated to be around 12g (or 1200 10mg tablets). This is equivalent to a bowlful of the tablets. The likelihood of such an event is next to zero. However, taking Ritalin along with other substances or alcohol may prove fatal. Thus it is highly recommended that while on Ritalin medication, alcohol or other drugs should not be consumed without prior doctor approval. These drugs are (but not limited to):

  • Anti seizure drugs such as Dilantin and phenobarbital
  • Anti depressants such as Norpramin and Effexor
  • Blood thinners such as Coumadin
  • Drugs that restore blood pressure such as EpiPenPhenylbutazone

MAO inhibitors (such as Nardil and Parnate) and Clonidine (Catapres-TTS) are especially harmful and may trigger shock or even death if consumed alongside Ritalin. In fact a 14-day gap minimum must be maintained between their consumption.

Also it is highly advisable to keep Ritalin out of reach of children due to higher tendency of overdose. Not only that, it is strongly advised not to give Ritalin to children below six years of age. Although a causal relationship between Ritalin and impeded growth in children (height and weight) has not been established, suppressed growth has been reported with the use of Ritalin by children. Even in adults, prolonged use of Ritalin has been linked with Tourette's syndrome, anaemia and leucopoenia, although again no causal relationship has been established. Toxic psychosis has also been reported, though in very rare cases. A few instances of hair loss have also been reported. Thus it is highly advisable to monitor Ritalin usage with the help of a qualified practitioner.

Emotionally unstable patients, especially those who have a history of parental abuse have been reported to exhibit frank psychotic episodes. Also those with a history of drug abuse and/or alcoholism need to be carefully supervised while being administered Ritalin, as such patients may increase their dosage by self-initiative. During drug withdrawal especially, these patients need to be carefully watched over since severe depression as well as chronic over activity are exhibited during this period leading to a higher probability of a severe relapse over Ritalin. Because of the patient's basic disturbed personality, long-term follow-up is required to prevent cases of overdose.

In case an overdose on Ritalin is observed, the patient, or the family or friends of the patient must immediately contact a qualified doctor or hospital where if possible the doctor may remove the drug with the help of a pump. Medical personnel thus need to know the level of the drug taken, the quantity, the duration during which overdose occurs, as well as the time elapsed between last consumption of the drug and the patient being brought to the hospital. This is required so that the course of treatment may be determined. Cases where the drug is removed via a pump require the presence of an emotionally stable and in-his-senses relative or friend as the removal of the drug via a tube through the nose is an uncomfortable process. Supportive measures are also required pre-treatment as well as post-treatment to prevent the patient from succumbing to depression.

Detoxification is just one part of the whole treatment. The causes of the overdose need to be examined and worked upon so that in the future overdose does not happen again. This is because the drug may be the patient's treatment for a certain disorder. Thus drug safety depends on responsible consumption with a comprehensive consultation from an established practitioner.


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