What Drug Category is Methylphenidate?

Methylphenidate is a central nervous system stimulant that is used in the treatments of attention deficit disorder in children and narcolepsy in adults. The active ingredient is used in several stimulant-like drugs and is sold under brand names such as Ritalin, Concerta, and Daytrana just to name a few.

It’s a powerful and effective drug for those who need it. But a little research shows that methylphenidate has a high risk of being abused. Yet prescriptions written for the drug are at an all-time high. The following article is a resource concerning any questions you may have about methylphenidate abuse or addiction to prescription stimulants.

What Drug Class is Methylphenidate?

Is Methylphenidate a Dangerous Medication?

When taken properly and not abused, methylphenidate is an effective tool for those who need it, mainly for ADHD disorders and narcolepsy conditions. The drug has helped thousands of children who have trouble concentrating and also has unnamed benefits to treat depression in the elderly. But the drug does have side effects which can include insomnia, aches, and loss of appetite although these side effects are relatively nominal.

What Happens When Methylphenidate is Abused?

Most side effects can be diminished with adjusted doses or added medications. But when abused, all therapeutic benefits seem to be tossed out the window. In large, unregulated doses, methylphenidate acts similarly to any other abused stimulant…including the big one: methamphetamine. Therefore, yes, methylphenidate can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Not only because abusing methylphenidate is indistinguishable from abuse of meth or cocaine, but that it can lead to toxic street drugs once the pills are gone.

How Does Methylphenidate Work?

CNS (central nervous system) stimulants (or psychostimulants) work by increasing dopamine in the brain. The increase of dopamine causes a series of chemical reactions in the brain which produce the benefits we associate with the drug: increased motivation, inhibition of impulsivity, and increased focus. The problem with the drug is that it has very little therapeutic benefits if the user does not suffer from the affliction methylphenidate is trying to fix. Simply put, if there is no need for methylphenidate,  the drug is simply that: a drug.

How is Methylphenidate Abused?

Methylphenidate is almost always prescribed as pills or tabs ranging from 5-30mg doses to be taken orally. But the stimulant is water-soluble meaning that it can be ingested in multiple ways (although orally is the only medically approved method and perhaps the first indication of abuse). When abused, an addict is likely to crush up the methylphenidate and inhale it intranasally. This method is preferred because it allows the drug to enter the system instantly and not over time as the pills are designed to do. The rush achieved from snorting Ritalin is akin to the high from cocaine and methamphetamine. And to make matters worse, the drug is also injectable and can be added to street drugs such as heroin to increase potency. Such a combination is known as a “goofball” and is extremely dangerous.

Taking Methylphenidate Safely and As Prescribed

As mentioned before, as long as prescriptions (in general) are taken as recommended, any risks or dangers associated with CNS stimulants are relatively low. But when abused, methylphenidate is no different to the brain as amphetamine-based salts, cocaine, or methamphetamine and the high is extremely gratifying (and therefore addicting).

Addiction to any drug is serious but with psychostimulants, the outlook is particularly grim. Brain chemistry changes with time as the addiction continues and does not revert to normal until there has been significant abstinence from the drugs. And if methylphenidate leads to methamphetamine, all risks and dangers associated are compounded. If you think you or your loved one has an addiction to anything starting with the word “meth,” please contact us at Garden State Treatment Center today.