Ritalin, the trade name for methylphenidate, is a medication prescribed for children with an abnormally high level of activity or with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and is also occasionally prescribed for treating narcolepsy.
Known as Kibbles and Bits, or Pineapple, Ritalin stimulates the central nervous system, with effects similar to but less potent than amphetamines and more potent than caffeine. Ritalin has a notably calming effect on hyperactive children and a “focusing” effect on those with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Because of its stimulant properties, however, in recent years there have been reports of its abuse by people for whom it is not a medication. A growing number of incidents of abuse have been associated with teens and young adults using MPH for its stimulant effects: appetite suppression, wakefulness, increased attentiveness, increased focus and euphoria. It is being used for appetite suppression in many teenagers; college students are taking advantage of its stimulant affects to help them stay focused and awake for those long nights of studying.
The drug has street names such as “Kibbles and Bits”, “Vitamin R,” “R-Ball” and the “Smart Drug.” It is inexpensive to purchase from friends or dealers for anywhere from 50 cents and up to $5 per pill. Tablets are either taken orally or after they are crushed into a powder. The powder form is snorted. Some users dissolve the tablets with water and inject the mixture.
These prescription tablets can create powerful stimulant effects and serious health risks when crushed and then snorted like cocaine, or injected like heroin.
What are the dangers of abusing Ritalin?
Ritalin can cause addiction when excessive doses are consumed over a long period of time. It is also possible to develop tolerance to the drug, so that larger doses are needed to produce the original effect, leading to more drug use and an increased risk of unwanted side effects and addiction.
Complications from injection are common, since the fillers that are used in manufacturing Ritalin are not soluble in water and when injected they can block small blood vessels, causing damage to the lungs and retina.
Pharmacologically, it works on the neurotransmitter dopamine, and in that respect resembles the stimulant characteristics of cocaine. Short-term effects can include nervousness and insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, palpitations, headaches, changes in heart rate and blood pressure (usually elevation of both, but occasionally depression), skin rashes and itching, abdominal pain, weight loss, and digestive problems, toxic psychosis, psychotic episodes, drug dependence syndrome, and severe depression upon withdrawal.
What are its long-term effects?
High doses of stimulants produce a predictable set of symptoms that include loss of appetite (may cause serious malnutrition), tremors and muscle twitching, fevers, convulsions, and headaches (may be severe), irregular heartbeat and respirations (may be profound and life threatening), anxiety, restlessness, paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions, excessive repetition of movements and meaningless tasks, and formicaton (sensation of bugs or worms crawling under the skin).
Common side effects of Ritalin include: Inability to fall or stay asleep, nervousness, loss of appetite, headache, increased blood pressure, and increased heart rate.
Less common side effects may include: abdominal pain, abnormal heartbeat, abnormal muscular movements, chest pain, dizziness, seizures, psychosis and stroke.