Use of medications like Ritalin has evolved into a culture of abuse with the intent to improve performance. Unsurprisingly, using a medication improperly can lead to damaging side effects and increased risk for addiction.
Prescription drugs are used to treat numerous mental and physical health conditions. These medications can bring relief and comfort to the people who receive prescriptions for a variety of disorders and conditions. In many cases, the side effects of these medications are not only effective in treating the ailment but can be incredibly desirable in and of themselves, causing some to misuse their prescription and others to use it even if the medication hasn’t been prescribed for them.
The Risk in Using Non-Prescription Ritalin
What is Ritalin
Ritalin is a prescription stimulant used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The drug works by affecting chemicals in the brain that contribute to impulse control and hyperactivity. While it is most frequently prescribed for children and adolescents, adults can be prescribed the medication as well. When taken as prescribed, the medication can be very effective; however, users can still be at risk for developing a dependency on it.
How Ritalin is Abused
Ritalin is available in pill or tablet form. When abused, people may use the medication in pill form, but they may also crush it up and snort it, or mix it with water to inject it. The drug has become increasingly popular on college campuses and is often referred to as a “study drug.” Many people misuse Ritalin in an attempt to stay up late, enhance their concentration, and improve academically. Despite being called a study drug, there is no evidence that Ritalin has any effect on academic performance. In fact, many studies show that Ritalin does the opposite and negatively impacts academic performance.
Although students use Ritalin for what they perceive to be a positive intent, the risks they expose themselves to far outweigh any potential benefits. In addition to the fact that there is no proven correlation between Ritalin and improved academic performance, studies show that non-prescription use of Ritalin can change brain chemistry in negative ways. Ritalin impacts the reward pathway, locomotor activity, and can affect body weight. These changes can affect a person’s risk-taking behaviors, their weight gain/loss, cause disruptions to sleep patterns, and negatively impact other behaviors. Other side effects include:
- Weight loss
- Mood swings
- Blurriness in vision
- Heart complications
The Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drugs are more accessible than ever before. Most households contain at least one prescription drug at any given time. Ritalin’s side effects make it a desirable drug, which contributes to its high potential for abuse. Even when taken as prescribed, Ritalin can lead to dependency and addiction over a long period of time.
Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse can be difficult to treat without professional help. Due to the availability of many prescription medications and the normalization of misuse—particularly in college—entering into a treatment program can be the most effective way to remove the influence of enabling peers and environments. Depending on the severity of the addiction, a person may need to undergo a detox phase before beginning the treatment process.
Treatment for prescription drug abuse is highly individualized. Because of Ritalin’s effect on brain chemistry, it is important to address a person’s unique needs in treatment. Since Ritalin is a medication used to treat mental health, some people may have co-occurring disorders that must be treated as well. This involves helping them develop healthy coping mechanisms and life skills to manage sobriety effectively. Many will encounter triggers for relapse in life after treatment, making the development of these skills imperative to long-term sobriety. This may be especially true in some cases as certain forms of substance abuse are normalized. Helping those in recovery become resolute in their recovery and develop methods of handling tough situations is a central focus of treatment.
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