By Bill Nee, VP Sales/Marketing uVera Diagnostics
There are risks to taking Ritalin and Adderall. Parents should know the risk of addiction and overdose.
They should be aware of the popularity of selling the drug to others for recreational use. Read on to learn the truth about Ritalin and Adderall.
The Truth About Ritalin and Adderall
Approximately 6.4 million kids ages 4 -17 have received an ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, diagnosis in the United States. Two thirds of those diagnosed receive medication for their symptoms. Two popular prescription drugs that treat ADHD are Ritalin and Adderall.
There is controversy surrounding the rapid increase of these drugs. Some medical professionals believe there is a problem with over-diagnosis due to lax diagnostic techniques. Some say parents are pushing for their children to receive the medication when their child’s grades are dropping, or if they display any behavioral problems. Other medical professionals see the increasing diagnosis as a growing awareness of the disorder ADHD.
No matter the reason, the reality is that Ritalin and Adderall are being prescribed at an increased rate. Parents should know that there are risks associated with taking both Ritalin and Adderall. Two of these risks are addiction and overdose.
What is Ritalin?
Ritalin is a type of methylphenidate, or central nervous system drug, frequently prescribed to those diagnosed with ADHD. Ritalin comes in the form of tablets or capsules of varying dosages and is prescribed for daily use.
Ritalin is a stimulant. This may seem paradoxical for those who already have trouble focusing; however, in the case of a person with ADHD, it actually produces a calming and focusing effect.
The Truth About Ritalin
Ritalin is often abused by teens for its stimulant effects. Like many other drugs, Ritalin increases the dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is the transmitter in the brain that deals with pleasure and rewards, as well as, attention and movement.
When Ritalin is taken beyond the dosage prescribed by a physician, it produces feelings of euphoria. High levels of dopamine and addiction are linked, and so it should come as no surprise that Ritalin carries the risk of addiction.
Ritalin is being abused at an alarming rate, leading to overdoses and an increasing amount of emergency room visits. According to a statistic shared by drugrehab.net “Emergency room visits by children ages 10-14 involving Ritalin intoxication have now reached the same level as those for cocaine, which indicates escalating abuse of this highly addictive drug.”
Those prescribed Ritalin are not necessarily the ones who abuse it. Ritalin is sold on the street because of its stimulant effects and is usually ingested. Sometimes addicts abuse it by dissolving it water and then injecting it. This can cause serious damage to the lungs and eyes and can cause other serious complications. Some street names for Ritalin include: Skittles, Diet Coke, Kiddie Coke, Kiddie Cocaine, Smarties, Rids, R-ball and Vitamin R.
Psychiatric effects of Ritalin
Even when taken at levels prescribed by physicians, like all prescription drugs, Ritalin has some unfavorable side effects. Ritalin has cardiovascular (heart), cerebrovascular (brain) and psychological effects.
Ritalin can cause severe psychiatric problems. In the words of the 2005 FDA report on methylphenidate, “serious psychiatric adverse events were reported in pediatric patients with no previously diagnosed psychiatric illness other than that being treated with methylphenidate.” Some of the psychiatric problems include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Visual hallucinations
- Psychotic behavior
- Aggressive or violent behavior
This is not to say that every person on Ritalin will display these psychiatric symptoms, but there is a risk factor nonetheless.
Physical side effects of Ritalin
Physical side effects of taking Ritalin as prescribed by a physician are:
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Agitation or nervousness
- Changes in pulse
- Heart problems
When you combine the feelings of euphoria and weight loss, this becomes a highly sought after drug on the street. Many high school and college age kids know someone who is selling Ritalin or Adderall.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is a legal stimulant, combining amphetamine and dextroamphetamine in the hope of restoring balance to the neurotransmitters of the brain. Like Ritalin, Adderall is prescribed for patients with ADHD as well as for those with narcolepsy.
Adderall helps those with ADHD concentrate, stay focused and stop fidgeting. It comes in various color tablets that indicate dosage.
The Truth About Adderall
Like, Ritalin, Adderall is often abused for its stimulant effects. One way teens and young adults abuse Adderall is by snorting it. Teens often have the impression that it is safer to snort Adderall, because it is a prescription drug, rather than cocaine or speed. Snorting Adderall can have serious and even deadly consequences. Snorting the drug sends a more concentrated dose directly into the bloodstream. Snorting Adderall can cause respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat, problems with circulation, seizures and toxic shock. It can also spur increased aggression and psychosis. It is important to note that snorting Adderall can be fatal!
Adderall is a highly available drug both in medicine cabinets and on the streets. Some street names for Adderall include: Black beauties, Addy, Bennys, and Uppers.
Psychological effects of Adderall
Common psychological effects of Adderall include nervousness and restlessness. Like Ritalin or methylphenidate, Adderall has been linked to psychosis, hallucinations and aggressive behavior. Livestrong.com reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found about 1,000 cases of psychosis in patients taking ADHD medications between 2000 and 2005.
Physical effects of Adderall
Side effects of Adderall may include:
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Stomach pain and nausea
- Bladder pain
Why are Ritalin and Adderall abused?
Ritalin and Adderall are abused for many reasons including:
- Availability: Millions of teens are prescribed drugs to treat ADHD, so they aren’t as hard to come by as other prescription drugs. Read our blog, “What Parents should know about Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs.”
- Stimulant effects: Teens may abuse them to help stay awake when studying for a test or to deal with life and time-management pressures. College students, in particular, carry the risk of abusing Ritalin and Adderall. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found in their study that full-time college students were twice as likely as non-students to have used Adderall non-medically.
- Weight loss: Teens sometimes use Ritalin and Adderall as diet pills since it speeds up metabolism and reduces appetite. The effects however are not lasting. Weight gain would likely occur when stopping regular ingestion of the pills, and risks include irregular heartbeat and cardiac problems. Taking any prescription drug without a prescription from a physician is not only illegal but can be very dangerous!
- They are addictive: These prescription drugs carry risks of addiction. Read our blog “What is Drug Addiction?” for more information on addiction.
What can parents do to reduce abuse of Ritalin and Adderall?
Because of the risks of addiction and overdose, use of Ritalin and Adderall should be monitored. If you are the parent of a child prescribed either Ritalin or Adderall, make sure you are frequently paying attention to the amount of pills that are taken from the bottle. Make sure your child is swallowing the pills rather than pocketing them and selling them. This can be a temptation for a teen, as it is a quick way to make money.
Even if your child is not prescribed Ritalin and Adderall, they can still be abusing these drugs. If you notice insomnia, irritability, restlessness, and personality changes or psychotic episodes, your child may be abusing Ritalin or Adderall. A severe rash is also a sign of Adderall abuse.
If you suspect your child is abusing Ritalin, Adderall or other drugs, you can have them take a drug test. uVera Diagnostics provides drug testing supplies for at-home use and workplace drug testing. Click here for an amphetamine drug test that can detect Ritalin or Adderall abuse. For more information on drug testing call 1-866-242-5930.
Posted by Bill Nee, VP Sales/Marketing uVera Diagnostics and Co-designer and Developer of the CR3 split-sample drug test cup. Bill has 25 years in sales management and marketing and is a 10 year veteran of the drug testing industry. As a parent and co-worker, Bill’s energy is focused on drug testing on every level. Addiction is all around us in alcohol, prescriptions and street drugs, and that is a constant reminder a drug free society starts with each and every one of us.
For more information on drug testing, click here or call 1-866-242-5930.
This information is meant for awareness and education purposes only. Any medical or life saving advice should come from experts. Always consult with your physician about any and all drugs.
Sources: drugfreeworld.org, drugrehab.net, drugabuse.gov, drugabuse.com, webmd.com, livescience.com, livestrong.com, fda.gov, nytimes.com, adderallabusetreatment.com, dea.gov; 2005 FDA report on methylphenidate
Photos courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.com by pat138241 (teen boy) and Vichaya Kiatying (college girl studying) and Artur84 (Boy aggressive and girl with headache)