Ritalin Overdose: Symptoms, Effects, and Treatment
Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant typically prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.1 However, some people misuse Ritalin for its energizing effects, increased alertness, and improved cognitive performance.2, 3
It is categorized as a Schedule II controlled substance due to its high potential for misuse and dependence.1 Therapeutic use of Ritalin, that is, use by people diagnosed with ADHD is not associated with euphoria and misuse. However, nontherapeutic misuse at high doses or IV use is associated with addiction.3
When taken as prescribed, Ritalin is generally safe, although it may come with certain side effects. However, when Ritalin is misused at higher than therapeutic doses, or when it is taken via unapproved routes of administration such as chewing, snorting, and injecting, it can result in a Ritalin overdose.1
This article will explore the consequences of Ritalin overdose, factors that may contribute to it, and steps to take if you or a loved one have experienced it.
Can You Overdose on Ritalin?
It is possible to overdose on Ritalin.1 Overdose results from a person using enough Ritalin to produce a life-threatening reaction or death.2
Deaths from psychostimulant overdose (including methamphetamine, ecstasy, and prescription stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, which is a mix of amphetamine salts) have increased between 2010 and 2019.4 Over 16,000 people in the US died from an overdose involving psychostimulants (mostly methamphetamine) in 2019, which was a 28% increase from 2018.4, 8
Misuse of prescription stimulants like Ritalin continues in the United States, with about 536,000 people misusing methylphenidate products like Ritalin and a total of 3.7 million people misusing any prescription stimulant in 2021.6
Using other substances like opioids, alcohol, or benzodiazepines with a stimulant like Ritalin is potentially dangerous. Stimulants can modify or even mask certain effects of opioids and sedatives, which may increase the risk of overdose.
Can You Die from a Ritalin Overdose?
Overdose on prescription stimulants like Ritalin may cause death, particularly if a person does not receive medical help and is engaging in polysubstance use (misusing more than one substance at a time).2, 5 Combining stimulants with other drugs can lead to unpredictable results that could be dangerous.5
Symptoms of Ritalin Overdose
Ritalin has the potential to cause overdose symptoms; however, the effects experienced can depend on the individual and other factors, like if a person is using other substances.1
If you think you or a person near you has experienced an overdose on Ritalin or another substance, call 911 immediately. Your actions can save their life.
Ritalin overdose symptoms may include:1
- Restlessness or agitation.
- Muscle twitches and pains.
- Mental confusion.
- High fever.
- Fast breathing.
Factors That Affect Ritalin Overdose
The likelihood of overdose increases when Ritalin is misused at high doses or is used in combination with other psychoactive substances.5 Some people may use Ritalin with other CNS stimulants to enhance its effects or the effects of the other drugs taken.5 The combination of CNS stimulants can increase heart rate and blood pressure to dangerous levels and may cause serious health problems or even be fatal.5
Other people may ingest Ritalin alongside opioids or CNS depressants like benzodiazepines and alcohol, with the hope of potentiating euphoria or balancing out the effects of each drug. However, co-ingestion of Ritalin with opioids or CNS depressants may mask their effects and make it easier to overdose.5 Whether intentional or not, polysubstance use is never safe because of its unpredictable effects.5
How to Treat Ritalin Overdose
The first thing to do if a person is experiencing an overdose is to call 911. A person who overdoses requires immediate medical attention.2, 3 If there was known or unknown co-ingestion of Ritalin with heroin or another opioid, naloxone (Narcan), should be administered as soon as possible. If you are unsure, it does not hurt a person to give them naloxone, as its effects only work on someone who has taken an opioid and will not otherwise cause harm.7
After medical professionals are contacted by calling 911, they may begin several interventions to save a person’s life.2 Depending on the symptoms experienced and if a person was using other substances, emergency responders may give medication, provide oxygen, administer IV fluids, or engage other methods to stabilize a person.3
Emergency medical treatment does not treat addiction; if a person is suffering from an underlying addiction to Ritalin or other substances, it’s important they receive continued support and considers drug rehab or addiction treatment.
Treatment for Ritalin Addiction
After an overdose on Ritalin, it may be time to receive support for their substance misuse or a substance use disorder. If a Ritalin overdose occurs because of addiction or a pattern of misuse, substance use treatment is available to help. Further treatment may include detox, inpatient care, or outpatient care.
- Detox: Though the process of stimulant detox does not typically produce life-threatening symptoms, it can lead to severe depression and dysphoria in some people.7 Undergoing detox in a treatment center allows medical management of physical and psychological stimulant withdrawal symptoms.
- Inpatient treatment: People are admitted into a treatment facility to receive 24/7 care.7 Inpatient care is typically for people with more severe addictions, co-occurring disorders, addiction to multiple substances, or other acute care needs.7
- Outpatient care: Can continue to provide ongoing therapy and other treatment services allowing them to return to work and their usual lives.7
Behavioral therapy is commonly used to help a person change their motivations, attitudes, and other lifestyle patterns around stimulant use.7 Some commonly used behavioral therapy interventions include contingency management, cognitive behavioral therapy, and motivational interviewing.7
Get Help for Substance Misuse
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance misuse, support is available and may help prevent an overdose. Addiction can be challenging, but recovery is possible.
Get help today by finding a treatment center by calling to speak with a caring admissions navigator from American Addiction Centers (AAC). We are available 24/7 to answer your questions, check your insurance at our facilities, and help you start the road to recovery.