Parents, listen up. If you hear some of these unusual terms coming from your teens, be aware that:
- “Study buddies” may not refer to classmates cramming for a test.
- “Skippy” may not be peanut butter.
- “Smarties” may not be a candy.
- “Kibbles & Bits” may not be dog food.
- “Vitamin R” may not be a health supplement.
- “R Pop” and “kiddy coke” are not carbonated beverages.
These are all street names for Ritalin, which is popular with teens and young adults. Even though some users of Ritalin may have good intentions, they can still become addicted to it just like cocaine, heroin, or ecstasy – which could be their next drug of choice when Ritalin does not give them what they need.
Why Teens Abuse Ritalin
Ritalin is classified as a central nervous system stimulant, though it is not completely clear how it works on the human body. Once used to treat chronic fatigue, psychosis, and barbiturate overdoses, Ritalin is now primarily prescribed for kids and adults who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
However, Ritalin is also popular among people who are not diagnosed with ADHD. Many high school and college students take Ritalin because it helps them stay focused on their schoolwork, especially when they are working on a project or prepping for an exam. A Partnership for Drug-Free Kids study released in 2013 revealed that about one out of every eight teenagers has tried Ritalin (or Adderall, a similar stimulant) at least once.
This hyperfocused, euphoric feeling is why its non-prescription use is so widespread. In fact, those who take Ritalin recreationally often grind pills up and snort the powder or even dissolve them in water and inject the solution.
The Scary Side of Ritalin
Shortly after ingestion, Ritalin dilates the user’s pupils and increases his or her body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. Higher doses can also cause erratic behavior, irritability, panic, hallucinations, seizures, and even death in rare cases.
As in the case with many other drugs, Ritalin users develop a tolerance for the drug and require higher doses to achieve the same high. Over time, this can lead to unwanted side effects. Negative side effects of Ritalin in teenagers include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Appetite loss and malnutrition
- Confusion or disorientation
- Muscle twitches or a “crawling skin” sensation
- Damage to blood vessels of brain and heart
- Damage to kidneys, liver, lungs, brain, and other organs
Furthermore, Ritalin is often described as a “gateway drug” because users tend to turn to illegal substances once their tolerance to Ritalin builds up. A 20-year study of 500 students found that those who took Ritalin were more likely to experiment with cocaine and other stimulants when they got older.
Ritalin Requires Vigilance
It is important to note that when Ritalin is prescribed to a patient and used as directed, there is no evidence that drug abuse is likelier later in life. Many children have benefited from taking Ritalin to combat their ADHD.
However, if you are a parent thinking about getting Ritalin for your child, make absolutely certain that you receive a diagnosis of ADHD from a medical professional first. Do not simply assume your child has ADHD if he or she is getting bad grades or having other problems at school.
If you do opt for Ritalin, be sure to maintain complete control over the storage and administration of the drug instead of allowing your kids to self-medicate and have access to the pills. Before stopping the drug regimen, decrease the dosage over time in order to wean your child off Ritalin slowly so as to prevent withdrawal symptoms and unwanted cravings. Then, dispose of any unused medication promptly.
In summary, it is essential that you treat Ritalin like any other prescription medication which can cause unwanted side effects. This means sticking to the prescribed dose, keeping the medication away from your children when not in use, and watching out for signs of side effects or abuse. If you are concerned about Ritalin addiction in your teen, contact a medical professional immediately and seek help from a substance abuse treatment facility.
Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.