Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a prescription drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While this medication is effective in helping people cope with the symptoms of ADHD, it is known to be highly addictive and habit-forming. It is important to note that most individuals who abuse stimulant medications like Ritalin are not suffering from conditions like ADHD.
Ritalin is a stimulant, so people who abuse Ritalin typically use it to stay awake for long hours and focus on work, school, or other activities. Additionally, some individuals may abuse this drug to stay awake after drinking alcohol and avoid becoming drowsy. Mixing medications like Ritalin with alcohol can become incredibly dangerous, putting people at risk of compounding effects of both substances, life-threatening overdoses, and multiple substance addictions.
Understanding Ritalin Abuse
In people with ADHD, Ritalin can make it easier to think clearly, have healthy social interactions, and develop greater self-esteem. However, among individuals without this condition, Ritalin can cause increased energy, impulsivity, decreased appetite, and an inability to sleep.
Common signs of Ritalin abuse include:
- Taking more Ritalin than prescribed or intended
- Mixing Ritalin with other substances
- Being unable to cut down on Ritalin use
- Experiencing physical signs of intoxication like anxiety, increased blood pressure, insomnia, and nervousness
- Experiencing strong cravings for Ritalin
- Continuing to take the drug despite negative consequences
- Having to use more of the drug to experience the desired effect (tolerance)
- No longer engaging in other activities due to Ritalin abuse
- Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when one cannot abuse Ritalin
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 5 million Americans abuse prescription stimulants like methylphenidate. Even further, more than half of the people who abuse these substances are doing so to receive “cognitive enhancements”. In other words, a majority of people misusing Ritalin are doing so in order to study or work harder.
When you see a substance that you are abusing as an “enhancement,” you are less likely to be cautious. To explain, people who abuse Ritalin often believe the medication is safe, causing them to take too much of the substance or mix it with other drugs that may interact negatively.
The Dangers of Mixing Ritalin With Alcohol
Ritalin is often abused by college-aged students who are looking to study longer and stay up for campus parties. This also means that they are extremely likely to drink alcohol after taking Ritalin. Unfortunately, mixing alcohol with Ritalin can be extremely dangerous, sometimes resulting in life-threatening overdoses and side effects.
Common dangers associated with mixing alcohol and methylphenidate (Ritalin) include:
Confusing the Body
Ritalin is a stimulant drug, which means it increases activity in the central nervous system (CNS). On the other hand, alcohol is a CNS depressant, which means it slows down activity in your brain. When you combine these substances, it can confuse your body.
The way that alcohol slows down your CNS can result in memory problems as well as delayed thinking, reasoning, and judgment. The stimulant effects of Ritalin can cause increased energy, anxiousness, agitation, and paranoia. People may drink more alcohol to feel intoxicated because Ritalin dulls the effects of alcohol, making them think they are more “sober” than they actually are. On the other hand, when a person is heavily intoxicated, they may use substantial amounts of Ritalin to try to “sober up” faster. This type of out-of-control drug use is extremely hazardous and difficult to control.
Mixing stimulants and depressants is incredibly dangerous. According to research by the CDC, “the results of combining drugs are unpredictable, often modifying or even masking the effects of one or both drugs. This may trick you into thinking that the drugs are not affecting you, making it easier to overdose.”
When you are mixing these substances, the effects of Ritalin can make it difficult for you to determine how much the alcohol is affecting you. While Ritalin may decrease feelings of drunkenness, alcohol is still affecting your brain and body.
When you are not experiencing the “drunk” effect of alcohol, you may begin to drink more. This can lead to alcohol poisoning, which is another term for an alcohol overdose.
The symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
- Slow and irregular breathing
- Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
- Low body temperature (hypothermia)
- Passing out
Conversely, the effects of alcohol could render you unable to determine how Ritalin is affecting you which could cause you to increase your dosage of Ritalin, leading to a life-threatening stimulant overdose. The common symptoms of a Ritalin overdose include restlessness, panic, hallucinations, and psychosis.
Lastly, frequently mixing alcohol and Ritalin can cause you to become addicted to the combination of the two substances. This is commonly referred to as polysubstance abuse or polydrug abuse. Polysubstance abuse is extremely dangerous, as mixing two substances can result in unpredictable effects like fatal overdoses.
According to the CDC, “In 2019, nearly half of drug overdose deaths involved multiple drugs.”
Find Help for Ritalin and Alcohol Abuse
If you or a loved one frequently abuse Ritalin, alcohol, or a combination of the two, a drug and alcohol rehab center can help. Using these substances on their own or mixing them can result in severe addiction, life-threatening overdoses, and an increased risk of developing physical or mental health conditions. By attending a professional addiction treatment program, you can receive the treatment, support, and tools you need to maintain long-term recovery.
To learn more about our Ritalin, alcohol, or polysubstance abuse treatment programs, contact Moving Mountains Recovery Center today.