Ritalin Addiction & Withdrawal Symptoms


If you are concerned that you might be addicted to Ritalin or worried about someone else, you probably have questions about the Ritalin withdrawal process. How will it feel? Is it dangerous? What support will you need, and who will provide it? These are questions that we hear often. 

This article will give you the information you need to make informed decisions about detoxing your body of Ritalin and embarking on recovery from addiction. 

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Summary

  • Ritalin withdrawal causes both psychological and physical symptoms. The severity of symptoms ranges from mild to life-threatening, depending on various factors.
  • Ritalin withdrawal symptoms typically emerge within 72 hours of taking the last dose and fully subside within four weeks. However, the timeline is different for everyone.
  • Ritalin detoxification (detox) should ideally be medically supervised. If you do decide to do it at home, there are steps you should take to make it safer and less likely to result in relapse. 
  • There are several treatment options for someone addicted to Ritalin, such as support groups, counselling and therapy, outpatient rehab, and in-patient rehab. 

Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms

Ritalin acts on the brain’s reward system, so a person going through withdrawal is likely to experience symptoms that affect their emotions, mood, and energy levels. Physical symptoms are common too but tend to subside sooner than psychological disturbances. The severity and range of symptoms are different for everyone and depend on factors such as:

  • How long you have been using Ritalin, how frequently, and in what dosage
  • Your overall physical and mental health
  • Any other prescribed, over-the-counter, or illicit substances that you have been using.

Ritalin withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly uncomfortable, putting you at risk of relapse, volatile behaviour, or even suicidal behaviour. In some cases, withdrawal effects may become life-threatening, especially if the person withdrawing has underlying physical or psychological health problems. For these reasons, it is recommended that anyone with an addiction to Ritalin seeks professional help to detox rather than attempt to go “cold turkey” or do a home detox.

Ritalin Withdrawal Physical Symptoms 

Common physical symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal include:

  • Dizziness
  • Sleep disturbances/insomnia/hypersomnia
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Hyperactivity
  • Chills
  • Delayed movements
  • Increased appetite
  • Muscle aches

Ritalin Withdrawal Psychological Symptoms

Common psychological symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression/apathy
  • Loss of focus
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling jittery
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Memory problems
  • Strong cravings

An important note about depression during Ritalin withdrawal

People sometimes develop extreme depression during Ritalin withdrawal due to the chemical imbalance it causes within the brain. When this happens, it can lead to a condition called anhedonia – the inability to feel pleasure. Although this is usually a temporary symptom, it can lead to suicidal thoughts. 

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Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Some people experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) when they stop taking Ritalin. This is when some of the early symptoms of withdrawal linger for weeks or even months after the user’s last dose. Typically, the person might have ongoing sleep disturbances that impact their daily activities. They may have mood swings, be irritable, and continue to crave Ritalin. Living with these symptoms over an extended period can be physically and emotionally exhausting, unsettling, or frightening. If you think you or someone else is going through PAWS, it is advisable to get professional help to manage the symptoms and avoid relapse.  

Ritalin Withdrawal Timeline

The stages and duration of Ritalin withdrawal vary from person to person. However, a typical withdrawal will generally follow the process described below. 

First 72 hours

Symptoms usually begin to show up within 72 hours of taking the last dose of Ritalin. Onset is more likely to be within 24 hours if the individual used high doses over a long period. Early symptoms commonly include anxiety, low mood, irritability, sleep problems, fatigue, and cravings for Ritalin. Some people may feel nauseous or develop an irregular heartbeat, which can increase anxiety. 

Days 4 – 7

This is the most uncomfortable withdrawal stage. Symptoms increase in intensity, usually peaking by day seven. In addition, you may experience mood swings, deepening depression, exhaustion, and increased appetite.

2 – 3 weeks

Symptoms usually begin to subside in the second week. Psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression may persist longer than physical symptoms. Cravings and sleep disturbances may also linger.  

4 weeks

Some people may be free of symptoms by week three or four, and others may still be experiencing varying levels of anxiety, depression, and cravings. Any remaining symptoms generally subside over the next few weeks, but you may be vulnerable to relapse during this time. It is therefore advisable to seek the support of drug treatment specialists who can help you develop coping strategies.  

Ritalin Detox

The detoxification (detox) process is the first step in recovery from Ritalin addiction. It is possible to detox at home, but it’s not advisable as it can be incredibly challenging and, in some cases, dangerous. A safer option is to go for a medically supervised detox as an inpatient or outpatient at a clinic or hospital.

Home Detox for Ritalin

There is no way of knowing what symptoms you will experience when detoxing from Ritalin. Even if you have been through detox before, it’s not safe to assume that your body will respond the same way this time. The safest form of detox is a medically supervised one, but if you do decide to detox at home, there are some things you can do to make the process safer and less uncomfortable.

Before You Begin

Get Professional Medical Advice

It is really important to have a clear picture of any physical or mental health problems that might exacerbate your withdrawal symptoms. Get checked over by a doctor or nurse with addiction experience so that you can make an informed decision about detoxing at home, the risks (specific to you), and how to approach the process. 

Find a Detox Buddy or Two

There are many reasons why it is not advisable to detox alone. Complications can and do sometimes happen, resulting in a medical emergency. Cravings can take hold, leading to relapse. Physical and psychological symptoms can be overwhelming and frightening, also leading to relapse. Have someone with you throughout the entire detox process who can help take care of you, monitor how you are, encourage you and access additional medical or emotional support if necessary.

Choosing Detox Buddies

Supporting someone through detox is a big responsibility. It can be tempting to ask a family member or friend, but a sponsor or long-term sober member of your recovery community will probably be better equipped to support the process. Also, consider that detoxification can take days or weeks. It may be wise to seek the support of two or three detox partners and set up a rota to reduce the burden on those helping you. 

Preparing Your Detox Buddies

Make sure that those supporting you have the information they need to get the right professional help at the right time, should you need it.

Things to discuss with your detox buddies before commencing detox:

  • What to expect – common symptoms and detox timeline
  • Emergency contact details
  • Personal support person(s) – who will be on standby to provide your detox partner with emotional support?
  • Things to tell medical professionals in the event of an emergency:
    • How long you have been using Ritalin, how often, and how much
    • Any physical or mental health conditions that you have currently or have had in the past
    • The names, dosage, and last use of any prescribed, over-the-counter, or illicit substances that you have taken

If in any doubt at all, your detox partner should call 111 for medical advice or 999 in the event of an emergency.

Create a Comfortable Environment

Detox can be all-consuming, uncomfortable, stressful, and sometimes frightening. Here are some tips to help create a safe and calming space:

  • Have relaxing music on in the background
  • Light the room with lamps and fairy lights rather than bright overhead lights
  • Set up comfortable places to sit and sleep
  • Have food on hand in case you get hungry, and a jug of water so you can stay hydrated
  • Be as close to a bathroom as possible
  • Set a TV up in the room and have a selection of movies or programmes ready to help distract you from your symptoms.

Medically Supervised Detox for Ritalin

A medically supervised detox involves a hospital stay as an in-patient. You will have round-the-clock care, making the detox process as safe and as comfortable as possible. Withdrawal is also more likely to be successful when overseen by medical professionals. 

A medically managed detox is strongly advised if you:

  • Are likely to suffer acute withdrawal symptoms
  • Are detoxing from multiple substances 
  • Have known health, mental health, or psychiatric conditions that may increase the risk of complication
  • Have detoxed before and have a history of relapse

What To Expect

Medical detox is supervised by a team of clinical professionals (doctors, nurses, mental health and psychiatric professionals), who can provide you with a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs. Until you are medically stable, the team will regularly discuss your ongoing condition and adjust your treatment plan according to your progress. Your treatment will involve both clinical and therapeutic support to: 

  • Make your detox as easy to manage as possible
  • Prepare you for the next stage of recovery from your addiction – your rehab programme.

Medicines That Can Support Ritalin Detox

There are no specifically approved medications for Ritalin detox. However, your GP or clinical detox team may prescribe you medications to relieve your specific withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, or sleep disturbances.  

Getting Help for Ritalin Addiction 

The first step to recovering from Ritalin addiction is recognising that you are addicted. This can be hard to come to terms with, especially if you slipped into dependence as a result of being prescribed Ritalin for a medical condition. But there is a wide range of treatment and support available to you from professionals who understand this and can support you through every step of your recovery. 

Detox is just the beginning. Addiction to any substance or activity is more often than not linked to other problems in your life. Tackling the root cause of your dependence on Ritalin is crucial for long-term recovery. 

Where To Start

Book an appointment with your GP to discuss your concerns and ask for their advice. They will be able to signpost you to a specialist drug treatment organisation that can fully assess your situation and discuss your support and treatment options. 

Addiction recovery support can be divided into the following types:

Support Groups

Support groups are where people in addiction meet to share their thoughts and feelings and to provide mutual support. They are a safe space in which to begin coming to terms with your addiction and develop an understanding of the recovery process. 

It can be helpful to join a group before starting your detox. Talking to other people in the same situation can make the idea of detox less daunting and allow you to learn from other people’s experiences. 

Support Groups for Families and Friends

If you are living with or supporting an addict, it can place huge demands on your mental and physical health, finances, commitments and relationships. Support groups for families and friends provide an opportunity to discuss the issues affecting you and provide help to others in a similar position. 

Castle Craig offers relatives of patients a workshop led by one of our expert therapists.

Counselling / Therapy

Counselling and therapy are designed to explore the issues that led to your addiction. A wide variety of therapeutic approaches are available, with something to suit everyone. 

They include:

  • Talking therapies
  • Family therapies
  • Solution-focused therapies
  • Therapeutic art
  • Equine therapy.

Your counsellor or therapist can support you before you start your detox, and continue working on relapse prevention skills with you once you have completed detox. 

Outpatient Rehab

Attending rehab as an outpatient gives you daily access to a team of medical professionals and therapists who will support your recovery journey. You will have a personalised treatment plan, and the team will monitor your response to treatment, adjusting your plan as and when necessary. 

Attending rehab as an outpatient takes great self-discipline. It is best suited to people who don’t feel able to step away from their day-to-day responsibilities to attend residential rehab. 

If you think outpatient would be best suited to your needs then please reach out to our sister clinic CATCH Recovery for online outpatient addiction treatment, or in-person if you are located in the London area.

Residential Rehab

Moving into a residential rehab facility brings a host of benefits that no other approach to addiction recovery can offer. They include:

  • Living in a comfortable setting free of distractions from work, family life, and your drug-using associates
  • Having 24-hour access to professional medical and emotional support 
  • A medically managed detox that allows you to experience minimal cravings and symptoms
  • A tailored treatment plan consisting of evidence-based therapies, group work, and 1:1 work designed to:
    • Address the underlying cause of your addiction 
    • Help you develop the awareness, resources, and skills that you need to remain in long-term recovery
  • The support and experiences of other people in recovery
  • Aftercare support once you have completed your residential programme

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Ritalin Withdrawal FAQs

Can Ritalin Be Stopped Abruptly?

You should never stop taking Ritalin (methylphenidate) suddenly or without talking to your doctor as it can cause a number of symptoms, some of which could be dangerous. This is especially true if you have been taking more of the drug than you should or if you use Ritalin without it being prescribed to you. Your doctor will help you reduce your dose slowly and safely or refer you to an addiction service if you are misusing the drug. 

What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Taking Ritalin?

If you stop taking your prescribed dose of Ritalin, you should only experience mild symptoms that are short-lived, such as temporary sleep disturbances, tiredness during the daytime, hunger pangs and difficulty concentrating. If you are addicted to Ritalin and stop taking it suddenly, the symptoms will likely be more severe, enduring and possibly life-threatening. 

How Long Does It Take To Withdraw from ADHD Medication?

Signs of withdrawal usually start within 72 hours after you stop taking it. Symptoms differ for everyone and can last from a few days to several weeks or even months. You should always reduce your dosage slowly with the help of medical professionals to avoid severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms.

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