Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder in the United States. It’s likely that people are born with it, and it can have a negative impact on learning, self-image, and social interaction if it’s left untreated. However, there are several treatment options for people with ADHD. Parenting methods, psychotherapies, and medications can help a person cope with ADHD effectively. One such medication is methylphenidate, which works to help increase focus and motivation in people with the disorder. However, this prescription drug may also have the potential for abuse. Learn more about methylphenidate abuse.

What is Methylphenidate?

Methylphenidate is a prescription stimulant that’s sold under the brand name Ritalin. It’s used to treat narcolepsy and ADHD. It’s considered a first-line medication for ADHD, which means that it’s often the first prescription doctors turn to to treat the disorder. Methylphenidate works by influencing dopamine and norepinephrine, which are important chemical messengers in your brain.

It works as a dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, which means it stops your brain from removing the chemical from your system, which increases the overall levels of those chemicals in your brain. Dopamine is tied to reward and motivation, and it’s an important chemical when it comes to performing and completing tasks. ADHD may involve a lack of dopamine in the brain, which makes rewarding distractions more difficult to resist. In 2015, there was a 66 percent global increase in methylphenidate consumption.

Does Methylphenidate Have High Abuse Potential?

Methylphenidate is sometimes used as a recreational or performance-enhancing substance. As a stimulant, high doses can cause a mild mood lift and euphoria, similar to a weak version of cocaine. Students may also use it to boost studying and test-taking ability. The stimulating effects may cause an increase in alertness and wakefulness, to help take in more information during all-night study sessions.

White pills spilling out of a bottleMethylphenidate is a controlled substance in the United States, and it’s classified as a Schedule II drug, which means it’s considered to have a high potential for abuse even though it has accepted medical uses. When the drug is taken by mouth as directed, it’s unlikely to cause euphoric or intoxicating effects. However, when it’s used intranasally or intravenously, it could cause euphoria. One paper reported that the drug works in a way that’s similar to cocaine when it’s taken through those routes of administration.

It’s popularity as a cognitive performance enhancer may also increase the likelihood that the drug can be abused.

Since the drug is a popular first-line treatment for a common disorder, it’s availability may also fuel its abuse potential.

What Happens if You Abuse Methylphenidate?

Abusing methylphenidate may increase your likelihood of experiencing the drug’s negative side-effects. These effects may include common symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, dry mouth, appetite loss, and weight loss. However, abuse may also lead to symptoms that aren’t common for regular use like dizziness, irritability, panic, heart palpitations, tachycardia, and hypertension.

The drug can also worsen or trigger disorders that involve psychosis like schizophrenia. High doses of methylphenidate can cause a dangerous overdose, which may involve hallucinations, delirium, sweating, hyperthermia, heart arrhythmias, and cardiac arrest. High doses can lead to fatal complications in some people.

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