Ritalin Withdrawal and Detox
Ritalin is a brand name formulation of the drug methylphenidate, which is FDA-approved to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children over 6 years of age and adults.1 Prescription stimulants generally increase alertness, attention, and energy and may be misused to enhance cognition or create a feeling of euphoria (i.e., get high).1, 2
Therapeutic doses, when used appropriately to treat ADHD, typically don’t result in euphoria and are unlikely to reinforce use. However, misuse in high doses and other ways can increase the drugs reinforcing effects, a characteristic associated with the potential for addiction.1, 10
Long-term Ritalin use, even if taken as prescribed can also lead to tolerance, which results in a reduction of the drug’s desired and/or undesired effects over time. Dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms after a person abruptly stops the drug or significantly lowers the dose or frequency of use.3, 9
This article will discuss the symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal, how to detox from Ritalin safely, and how to find the right treatment and rehab if you or someone you love is struggling with a Ritalin addiction.
What is Ritalin Withdrawal?
Ritalin withdrawal is the set of symptoms that occur when a person suddenly quits or reduces their dose of Ritalin after heavy or long-term use.2, 5 This is the result of a person becoming physiologically dependent on Ritalin. 2 The discomfort of withdrawal symptoms, drug cravings, and feelings of depression, displeasure, and dissatisfaction associated with Ritalin withdrawal can make it difficult for people to stop using the drug.2
Misusing stimulants like Ritalin can lead to a stimulant use disorder, which is the clinical diagnosis of stimulant addiction. When a person has a stimulant addiction, they cannot control stimulant use and continue to use Ritalin and/or other stimulants despite problems caused by misuse.3
Ritalin Withdrawal Symptoms
There is limited research on methylphenidate withdrawal symptoms; however, the FDA-approved label for Ritalin states withdrawal symptoms may include: 2, 3, 9
- Dysphoria (feelings of depression or dissatisfaction).
- Insomnia or hypersomnia.
- Increased appetite.
- Slowed thinking or body movements.
While stimulant withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, withdrawal from Ritalin is rarely dangerous. However, profound dysphoria (feelings of depression coupled with negative thoughts and feelings) can sometimes increase a person’s vulnerability to suicidal thoughts or attempts.5
Cues to use Ritalin can be acquired when a person misuses it. Cravings for Ritalin can then be experienced both during and after withdrawal. Treatment may help a person learn the tools to help manage triggers and cravings and prevent relapse or misuse.
How Long Does Ritalin Withdrawal Last?
The duration of withdrawal symptoms from prescription stimulants like Ritalin can vary widely depending on the person and their patterns of Ritalin and/or other substance use. Symptoms usually last for several days and subside after a few days.5 Some people may experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms, such as dreams about drug use and depression, or a blunted ability to feel pleasure for several weeks after stopping stimulant use.2
Factors that can affect Ritalin withdrawal severity and timeline include:2
- Dose level and duration of Ritalin misuse.
- How a person took Ritalin (i.e., smoking, snorting, injecting, swallowing, etc.).
- The pattern of Ritalin misuse (e.g., long-term prescribed use vs. chronic misuse).
- Individual biological traits and pre-existing medical or mental health conditions like depression or anxiety.
- Polysubstance use (using more than one substance at a time) and the severity and duration of misuse (e.g., alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids are frequently used to self-medicate stimulant withdrawal symptoms).
How to Detox from Ritalin Safely
Stimulant withdrawal is not typically associated with medical complications. However, some people are at greater risk of self-harm during stimulant withdrawal. Those likely to experience profound depression may benefit from supervised detox and withdrawal.2
Supervised detox allows people to be monitored by healthcare professionals to help manage withdrawal symptoms and ensure patient comfort. Detoxification can take place at inpatient, outpatient, and detox-specific facilities.
Behavioral therapies are the most effective intervention for treating stimulant use disorders. After detox, it may be helpful to seek treatment that includes behavioral therapy like contingency management or cognitive behavioral therapy.2 Detox is often the first phase of treatment.7 Combined with additional addiction treatment, it may be more effective at promoting long-term abstinence.7
Find Ritalin Rehabs
There are many factors to consider when trying to find the right rehab or treatment center for stimulant addiction.
Questions to consider may include:
- Where is the rehab facility located?
- Are there inpatient and outpatient options?
- Is a medically assisted detox available at the facility?
- Will the treatment be individualized to address each person’s needs, including the treatment of any co-occurring mental health disorders, vocational, social, or legal issues?
- What is the cost of treatment and does insurance cover it?
If you’re not sure where to begin when searching for treatment, American Addiction Centers is ready to help. Our caring team of admissions navigators is available 24/7 by phone at to answer your questions, explain our treatment options, and help you check insurance. If Ritalin misuse or another substance use disorder negatively impacts you or a loved one, call us today.