Ritalin (Methylphenidate) Side Effects In Adults

When used as directed, Ritalin (methylphenidate) can help people with ADHD or narcolepsy live a more manageable life. However, anyone who abuses the drug may experience unpleasant side effects.

Ritalin (Methylphenidate) Side Effects In Adults

Ritalin is a brand name for methylphenidate hydrochloride, a prescription medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Though it’s considered safe when used under a doctor’s supervision, it can have short-term and long-term side effects.

If you abuse Ritalin by taking it against medical advice—without a prescription, in higher doses, more frequently, or longer than prescribed—you raise your risk of experiencing adverse side effects and becoming dependent on it.

Short-Term Effects Of Ritalin

As a stimulant medication, Ritalin increases the action of some neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain, including norepinephrine and dopamine.

Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant as well, and works similarly to Concerta (extended-release methylphenidate) and Adderall (amphetamine).

The short-term effect of Ritalin is greater concentration and energy levels, which decreases ADHD symptoms. Some people feel euphoria when they take Ritalin, which is one reason they abuse it.

Ritalin (Methylphenidate) Side Effects In Adults

Not everyone will have side effects when taking Ritalin, and some side effects are more common than others. Following your prescription closely is the best way to avoid an adverse reaction. But if you have side effects you’re concerned about, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor.

Common side effects of Ritalin are:

  • irritability
  • nervousness
  • restlessness
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • trouble sleeping
  • back pain
  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • heartburn
  • headaches
  • muscle tightness
  • sweating
  • lowered sexual desire

Serious side effects of Ritalin include:

  • racing or irregular heartbeat
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • fainting
  • agitation
  • seizures
  • difficulty speaking
  • motor or verbal tics
  • vision changes or blurred vision
  • weakness or numbness in a limb
  • extreme fatigue
  • changes in mood
  • depression or mania
  • hallucinations
  • extreme paranoia
  • hives or rash
  • itching, blistering, or peeling skin
  • swelling of the face, eyes, lips, tongue, or throat
  • difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • unexplained wounds on toes or fingers
  • a prolonged, painful erection (priapism)

Ritalin Drug Interactions & Risky Conditions

Some drugs aren’t safe to take with Ritalin. If you’re on these medications, your doctor needs to know. If you’re abusing Ritalin, doing so while taking certain other drugs increases your risk of complications.

Drugs that interact with Ritalin include (but are not limited to):

  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): isocarboxazid (Marplan), linezolid (Zyvox), methylene blue, phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Eldepryl), tranylcypromine (Parnate)
  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft)
  • blood thinners
  • antidepressants
  • decongestants
  • heartburn or ulcer medication
  • high blood pressure medication
  • seizure medication
  • some natural supplements

Some pre-existing health conditions increase the risk of adverse side effects if you take Ritalin. These conditions include:

  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • glaucoma
  • overactive thyroid
  • a heart condition (or family history)
  • depression
  • anxiety, tension, or agitation
  • seizures

Ritalin Long-Term Effects

Ritalin use can have long-term effects on your body and mind, even with prescribed use. Abusing Ritalin can lead to addiction and more adverse health consequences.

Increased Heart Rate & Blood Pressure

Ritalin can increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and energy levels. If your doctor prescribes Ritalin, they will likely monitor you for tachycardia (rapid heart rate) or hypertension (severe high blood pressure).

Abusing Ritalin raises your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If you have a heart condition, it’s more dangerous to take Ritalin, and the drug could cause additional heart problems.

Mental Health Symptoms

As a stimulant, Ritalin may make it difficult to sleep. Lack of sleep, paired with raised blood pressure and heart rate can worsen anxiety or give you mood swings. Ritalin use can lead to worsened symptoms of other pre-existing mental health disorders.

Digestion & Nutrition Issues

If you have a decreased appetite while taking Ritalin, you may struggle with malnutrition and weight loss. Ritalin can cause other digestive issues, such as stomachaches, nausea, and diarrhea.

Addiction & Dependence

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies Ritalin as a Schedule II controlled substance with a high potential for abuse and addiction. It’s addictive because it activates the brain’s reward system by increasing feel-good chemicals like dopamine.

When you’re rewarded with a pleasant sensation from a drug, your brain responds by desiring that drug again. If you continue to seek the reward from Ritalin, you rewire your brain to crave it.

Addiction makes it hard to stop taking a drug or to find the same pleasure from any other source.

Long-Term Effects Of Ritalin Abuse

Many people who abuse Ritalin do so by taking it orally in pill form. But some people crush it to snort or inject. These methods of abuse come with unique risks and potential long-term effects.

Abusing Ritalin by snorting (insufflation) damages the nasal tissue and can lead to:

  • nosebleeds
  • whistling breath
  • difficulty swallowing
  • sore throat
  • lung problems
  • erosion between the nostrils or through the roof of the mouth

Ritalin injection is hard on veins and blood vessels, posing the risk of:

  • clogged blood vessels
  • abscesses (pus-filled skin at the injection site)
  • scarring (track marks)
  • collapsed veins
  • disease transmission (from shared needles)

Snorting and injecting Ritalin causes the drug to reach your bloodstream all at once, rather than passing through your digestive system and being gradually distributed in your body.

Ritalin SR (sustained-release) and Ritalin LA (long-acting) are formulated to enter the body slowly throughout the day. Taking them by snorting or injection can cause an overdose.

Is Ritalin Bad For You?

When used as directed, Ritalin (methylphenidate) can help people with ADHD or narcolepsy live a more manageable life. However, anyone may have unpleasant side effects while taking the drug.

If the side effects you experience lower your quality of life, talk to your doctor. They may be able to remedy the problem by adjusting your dosage or switching you to a different drug.

Ritalin may be bad for you if you mix it with some medications, take it with certain health conditions, or abuse it. Abusing Ritalin usually leads to adverse health effects and addiction.

If you or a loved one are abusing Ritalin, now is the time to ask for help. At Northeast Addictions Treatment Center, we offer unique outpatient rehab programs that are tailored to your needs. Talk to one of our specialists today to start your recovery journey.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

Published on

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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