Can You Overdose on Ritalin?

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A Ritalin (methylphenidate) overdose is a medical emergency. It is also often a sign of addiction, meaning the user is at risk of overdosing again. If you experiment with Ritalin, think you might be addicted to it, or know someone who might be, it is important to know what to do in the event of an overdose. 

This article explains what to do in an overdose situation. It covers:

  • Signs and symptoms of a Ritalin overdose
  • Associated health risks 
  • What to do if you think you or someone else has overdosed
  • How a Ritalin overdose is treated
  • The dangers of mixing Ritalin with other drugs
  • How to get help for Ritalin addiction

Can You Overdose on Ritalin? , Key Facts

  • A Ritalin overdose can have serious physical and mental health consequences or even be fatal. 
  • If you think that you or someone else is experiencing an overdose on Ritalin, treat it as a medical emergency. Call 999 and ask for an ambulance. 
  • There is no specific medical treatment for a Ritalin overdose. The medical team will treat the symptoms that the patient is experiencing. 
  • It can be extremely dangerous to mix Ritalin with other drugs, especially alcohol and other stimulants (e.g. cocaine and methamphetamine). 
  • A Ritalin overdose is a sign of addiction to the drug. Breaking the cycle of addiction is a complex process that is safer and easier to achieve with professional support. 

Signs, Risks & Symptoms of a Ritalin Overdose

Ritalin is a stimulant, so it causes the body to work harder and faster. An overdose of the drug puts the cardiovascular system under extreme stress, and vital organs, such as the heart, begin shutting down. Although uncommon, an overdose can be fatal. 

How Does Overdosing on Ritalin Feel?

For someone having a Ritalin overdose, the experience can be highly distressing. They may feel hot or feverish, their heart may race or become irregular, and they may feel anxious, agitated, or angry. In cases of severe overdose, the user may have hallucinations and become paranoid. They may feel as though they cannot get control of their breathing, and their heart is leaping out of their chest. 

Symptoms of a Ritalin Overdose

Everyone reacts to the effects of a substance differently, and the same is the case in an overdose situation. That said, there are several common symptoms.

Physical symptoms:

  • Headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, fainting
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Irregular or rapid breathing
  • Dry mouth or nose
  • Widening (dilated) pupils
  • Abnormal heart rhythm, palpitations, chest pain
  • Muscle twitching, muscle pain, weakness
  • Excessive sweating, flushing, elevated body temperature, fever
  • Abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting
  • Tremors 
  • Convulsions, seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Psychological symptoms:

  • Anxiety, agitation, restlessness, aggression
  • Inappropriate happiness
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Suicidal thoughts.

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Long-Term Health Risks Associated with Ritalin Overdose

In addition to causing a  list of undesirable and, in some cases, dangerous side effects, there are some specific long-term health risks associated with Ritalin overdose. They include:

  • Choking to death on vomit
  • Pneumonia
  • Coma or fatal drug-poisoning
  • Cardiac issues – arrhythmias, heart attack, stroke, dangerously high or low blood pressure, circulation failure
  • Severe dehydration from vomiting and diarrhoea – may lead to long-term heart problems
  • Seizures can trigger a long-term seizure disorder
  • Persisting anxiety, hallucinations, and delusional thinking (for weeks or months)

If You Think You’re Having (Or Witnessing) a Ritalin Overdose

The signs and symptoms of a Ritalin overdose should be treated as a medical emergency, but there are things you can do to help the situation. Taking the steps described below may reduce the long-term effects of an overdose or even save a life. 

What To Do If You Think You May Have Overdosed

  • Try to stay calm
  • Call for emergency services and ask for an ambulance
  • If there is someone with you or nearby, ask them to stay with you
  • Give the emergency services as many details as possible over the phone:
    • What drugs have you taken, and how much?
    • How did you use the drug(s) (injection, by mouth or nose)?
    • When did you take the drug(s)?
    • Are you on other prescribed or over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, or supplements?
    • What symptoms are you experiencing?

If You Think Someone Else May Have Overdosed

  • Stay calm, calm the patient, and be reassuring
  • Call emergency services and ask for an ambulance
  • Stay with the patient
  • Get as many details from the patient as possible:
    • What drugs have they taken, and how much?
    • How did they use the drug(s) (injection, by mouth or nose)?
    • When did they take it?
    • Are they on other prescribed medications, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, or supplements?
    • What are their symptoms? (Ask how they feel and describe what you witness.)

If the patient develops a high temperature or fever:

  • Encourage the patient to rest 
  • Try to reduce their temperature with cool, damp washcloths or fans
  • If possible, give them something to drink that contains electrolytes – e.g. sports drink. 
  • If the patient develops hot, dry skin, they may have heat stroke (hyperthermia). This is a life-threatening condition – call 999 and ask for an ambulance. 

When the ambulance arrives, give the emergency services crew as many details about the overdose as possible. This is important as it can help them provide the right treatment as quickly as possible. 

Ritalin Overdose and Seizures

A Ritalin-induced seizure requires immediate professional emergency treatment, so call 999. 

Signs and symptoms of a seizure include:

  • Drooling or frothing at the mouth
  • Tingling or twitching in one area of the body
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Sudden falling
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Briefly stopping breathing
  • Whole-body stiffness or rigidity
  • Muscle spasms
  • Red or bluish skin.

What to do:

  • Stay with the person
  • Remove or loosen any clothing that may be restrictive
  • Move objects away from the person
  • If possible, gently and calmly put the patient in the recovery position. 

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Never try to restrain someone having a seizure or put anything into their mouth. 

Recovery Position

Placing an unconscious or unresponsive person in the recovery position helps them to breathe easily and prevents them from swallowing their tongue or choking if they vomit. 

How to put someone in the recovery position (NHS guidelines):

  • With the person lying on their back, kneel on the floor at their side.
  • Extend the arm nearest you at a right angle to their body with their palm facing up.
  • Take their other arm and fold it, so the back of their hand rests on the cheek closest to you, and hold it in place.
  • Use your free hand to bend the person’s knee farthest away from you to a right angle.
  • Carefully roll the person onto their side by pulling on the bent knee towards you.
  • Their bent arm should support the head, and their extended arm will stop you from rolling them too far.
  • Make sure their bent leg is at a right angle.
  • Open their airway by gently tilting their head back and lifting their chin, and check that nothing is blocking their airway.
  • Stay with the person and monitor their condition until help arrives.

How Are Ritalin Overdoses Typically Treated?

There are no specific medications for a Ritalin overdose. Emergency treatment will depend on the type and degree of symptoms. 

People who present themselves at casualty usually receive intravenous fluids and medications to help calm them and stabilise their blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rhythm. If their temperature is dangerously high, the hospital staff will attempt to cool the patient using mists, ice packs, and fans. 

The patient will need additional medications to treat symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations, delusion, and paranoia. If Ritalin levels are dangerously high, the clinical team may give the patient activated charcoal to stop their body from absorbing more of the drug. 

Long-Term Recovery

In most cases, people survive an overdose of Ritalin with little or no long-term effects. But that’s not the end of the story. Taking too much Ritalin often indicates that the person is abusing the drug through experimentation, dependence, or addiction. 

If you or someone close to you has overdosed on Ritalin or is worried about overdosing, you may be dealing with an addiction to the substance or at least a level of substance misuse. You don’t have to face it alone. The earlier you ask for help and get treatment, the fewer hurdles there will be in your journey toward long-term abstinence. 

Mixing Ritalin With Other Drugs 

Some people mix Ritalin with alcohol or with other stimulant drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine, to chase a bigger or different type of high. Others may take Ritalin with another prescribed or over-the-counter medication without knowing how the drugs will react together. Whichever way it happens, Ritalin is at its most dangerous when used in high doses alongside certain other substances. 

Ritalin and Other Stimulants

Because Ritalin is a stimulant, mixing it with other stimulant drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine, puts the heart under extreme stress. The user risks developing high blood pressure or having a stroke or heart attack, which could be fatal. 

Ritalin and Alcohol

Ritalin is a stimulant, and alcohol is a depressant. Mixing these two types of drugs can have unpredictable and dangerous effects. 

Safe doses of Ritalin can become unsafe when taken with alcohol. This is because alcohol can accelerate the effects of Ritalin. It is especially important to avoid alcohol when taking sustained-release Ritalin (Ritalin SR) as it can cause the drug to be released into the bloodstream too quickly. Symptoms can include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety, depression

Ritalin can mask the effects of alcohol. When this happens, you will be less able to judge how intoxicated you are, putting you at greater risk of an alcohol overdose or poisoning.

Ritalin with Other Medications

Taking Ritalin with other prescription or over-the-counter drugs can be dangerous, especially when using Ritalin in high doses. 

Drugs that interact with Ritalin include:

  • Antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Blood thinners
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Cold and cough medications
  • Decongestants
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Seizure medications
Can You Overdose on Ritalin

Ritalin Abuse and Addiction

When taken as prescribed, the use of Ritalin should not lead to addiction. However, Ritalin can produce side effects that make some people want to take more of it or use it in certain situations. Common ‘desirable’ side effects include:

  • Feeling more sociable
  • Increased attention span (allowing you to work or study for longer periods)
  • Weight loss
  • Feelings of euphoria (when used in large doses)

With regular use, users develop tolerance to Ritalin and have to take increasing amounts to achieve the desired effects. If the chronic user stops taking the drug abruptly, they will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which can sometimes be life-threatening.  

You can recover from Ritalin addiction with the right help. We know that admitting you need help is the biggest step, but reaching out for support is also the first step you can take on the road to recovery. Our dedicated admissions staff is waiting to help you or your loved one find their way into recovery from addiction. We handle all enquiries with the strictest confidentiality.

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