How to Treat an Addiction to Ritalin

Ritalin is a prescription stimulant medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and some other conditions. However, it is also a potentially addictive drug.

This page will go over how someone can get sober and achieve lasting recovery through treatment.

Treating an Addiction to Ritalin

Ritalin addiction treatment

Like other nervous system stimulants, Ritalin–a formulation called methylphenidate–acts on the brain’s dopamine system, which is associated with feelings of euphoria as well as motivation and reward. This effect can cause people to want to repeat the experience despite negative consequences and is part of the reason people become addicted to Ritalin.

There is no cure for stimulant use disorder—the clinical term for stimulant addiction; however, with treatment, it is possible to recover from a stimulant addiction and learn to control the cravings and triggers that lead to relapse. Common steps to treating an addiction to Ritalin are outlined below.

Step 1: Find a Rehab Program

The first step many people take to treating any addiction—including an addiction to stimulant medications—is to find a reputable, research-based treatment facility. While many people try to fight addiction on their own, they are generally not prepared for the challenges that arise when trying to recover from drug use, such as:

  • Uncomfortable side effects of withdrawal.
  • The severity of cravings.
  • Negative effects of triggers, such as friends who still use or certain places.
  • Presence or effects of co-occurring conditions like depression and anxiety.

Professional rehab facilities that provide treatment based on research and an understanding of how Ritalin acts in the brain can help the individual manage these challenges and stay on the path to recovery despite the stumbling blocks that may arise along the way.

Treatment centers like Sunrise House, our inpatient rehab facility in New Jersey, offer comprehensive addiction treatment services at various levels of care, including medical detox and inpatient treatment. Contact an admissions navigator at to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one.

Step 2: Enter Detox

It seems intuitive, but before treatment can be effective, the individual needs to stop using the drug. Nevertheless, this can be a challenge for the individual, because often attempts to stop using the drug can result in extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if the patient has developed a physiological dependence. For some, medical detox may be required to safely and comfortably withdraw from Ritalin.

As described by Mental Health Daily, Ritalin is associated with the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Sleepiness, fatigue, and insomnia
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Dizziness
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Agitation, anger, and mood swings
  • Depression
  • Upset stomach
  • Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
  • Cravings for the drug

Withdrawal from Ritalin is very rarely life-threatening. However, they can make it difficult for a person to continue abstaining from use, and psychological symptoms like depression can present some serious safety concerns. Working with a treatment center to complete detox can mitigate symptoms and risks, enabling medical staff to monitor the patient and ensure their safety.

Step 3: Participate in Therapy

Therapy is the main element of a treatment program to overcome Ritalin addiction. Behavioral therapy can help a patient avoid triggers and overcome cravings by understanding how they work on the brain and replacing the drug-seeking response with other behaviors that research has shown to prevent relapse.

One common type of therapy used in addiction treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy. As described in the Harvard Medical School mental health newsletter, this type of therapy helps the individual recognize triggers of the desire to use drugs and learn other, non-drug-use behaviors to insert in response.

Another evidence-based therapy is contingency management, where the person is given rewards or incentives to avoid drug use. Programs that are likely to have positive outcomes combine these therapies and others to fill the individual’s toolbox with techniques to avoid returning to Ritalin use.

Step 4: Collaborate in Group and Family Work

A major element of addiction treatment is the need for social support. Many times, it is social connections that get an individual into misusing Ritalin, to begin with–a friend who encourages Ritalin use to help pass a test or someone claiming that Ritalin gives a great high. Similarly, it is supportive social structures that can help the person stop using, including strong family relationships and connections with others who are also struggling with or who have recovered from stimulant addiction.

For this reason, a strong treatment program will often include family therapy and 12-Step group participation as part of the treatment plan. Family therapy can help all family members learn how to cope with the changes that a drug addiction diagnosis creates in their lives, and how best to support their loved ones and themselves.

12-Step group work can provide the individual with the solidarity and support that comes from those who have recovered from Ritalin addiction, providing insight into what works and what doesn’t, offering educational resources, and developing accountability for behavior over the process of recovery. Research from the Textbook of Substance Abuse Treatment shows that people who continue attending 12-Step programs as part of their recovery are more likely to achieve and maintain recovery than those who don’t attend or who stop attending.

Step 5: Get Involved in Aftercare.

people embracing during a 12-step meeting for Ritalin addiction Some people who have been addicted to Ritalin or other stimulants for a long time may need a little extra help after the treatment program is over to continue avoiding relapse on their own. A reputable treatment center provides resources to help with the transition from treatment to home through continual motivational support, ongoing participation in a 12-Step program, and even residential living in sober houses if needed.

As explained by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a chronic disorder, not a one-time lapse in judgment. As with other chronic illnesses like asthma and high blood pressure, treatment continues throughout the individual’s life to control symptoms, and relapse is always possible. The goal of both the treatment program and aftercare is to help the person maintain the level of treatment that increases the ability to stay sober and avoid relapse.

Step 6: Maintain Recovery and Avoid Relapse

Relapse prevention is the main goal of treatment, and relapse rates for addiction are similar to those of other chronic illnesses, at between 40 and 60 percent. There are many reasons for this, and the individual might have many triggers that could cause cravings to return, even years after treatment is over.

Because of this, when treatment is complete, it is helpful for the individual to continue practicing the techniques learned in rehab to continue avoiding a return to Ritalin use, as well as applying active relapse prevention techniques, including an aftercare practice called mindfulness-based relapse prevention.

A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that people who actively practice relapse prevention techniques have better recovery outcomes than those who don’t. This can be supported by family, friends, and 12-Step group members who encourage the person’s continued recovery and who can provide reminders of the positive effects of avoiding drug use.

By attending a strong treatment program, learning how to manage addiction symptoms, and developing a social support structure, the individual emerges from rehab with the tools and capabilities to stay abstinent and move forward into a life free from Ritalin misuse and filled with renewed potential.

Verify your insurance coverage at Sunrise House by filling out the confidential or call an admissions navigator at to start treatment today.

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