Methylphenidate is a drug commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and is also known by the brand name Ritalin. If methylphenidate is used in ways other than what it is prescribed for, it can be addictive. If a person addicted to methylphenidate suddenly stops using it, they may go through methylphenidate withdrawal. Drug withdrawal can have a variety of effects that can be difficult to endure.

Several treatment options can help a person get through methylphenidate withdrawal, such as detoxification programs to help the person adjust to the drug leaving their system.

What is Methylphenidate Withdrawal?

Methylphenidate withdrawal occurs when a person is addicted to methylphenidate and stops using it. When a person is addicted, their body has made adjustments to function with the drug present in their system. Some people may have even become dependent on it. Frequently, a person addicted to methylphenidate will not feel normal unless they are using the drug. When they suddenly stop using the drug, their body has to re-adjust to it not being there. This process is called withdrawal.

Signs and Symptoms of Methylphenidate Withdrawal

During the withdrawal process, an individual that is addicted to methylphenidate experiences several symptoms that can be uncomfortable and are sometimes dangerous to their health. Methylphenidate withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Aggression
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Hunger or increased appetite
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood swings
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal thoughts

Methylphenidate Duration and Withdrawal Timeline

When taken at the prescription dose, the effects of methylphenidate usually lasts about eight hours. A person dependent on methylphenidate can start to feel withdrawal symptoms as soon as the drug starts to wear off if they do not use more of the drug. The first symptoms of withdrawal can usually be felt within 12 hours of stopping use.

The complete methylphenidate withdrawal timeline will vary based on the person and the extent of use, but it generally lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. A person who has used methylphenidate for a long time and at high doses will experience withdrawal symptoms for longer.

Short-Term Symptoms

The short-term symptoms occur during the immediate withdrawal of the drug from a person’s system. This effect can also be called a “crash.” The person may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Cravings for methylphenidate
  • The inability to concentrate
  • Irritable
  • Hyperactivity

Long-Term Symptoms

Long-term symptoms of withdrawal can last for weeks or months after stopping methylphenidate use. Some long-term withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Mood changes
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble sleeping or sleep disturbances

Managing Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of withdrawal can be managed by tapering the drug instead of completely stopping it all at once. By sequentially lowering the amount of methylphenidate used, the person can gradually adjust to the absence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms may be less severe.

An individual addicted to methylphenidate could also choose to undergo withdrawal while under the supervision of a medical professional. In this case, they may be able to receive medication that will help them deal with the symptoms of withdrawal and avoid returning to methylphenidate use.

Methylphenidate Withdrawal Treatment Options

It is suggested that a person undergoes methylphenidate withdrawal under the supervision of medical professionals. The symptoms of withdrawal can be difficult to deal with and medical professionals can help them manage. For example, in people who have chronically used methylphenidate, long-term severe depression can occur during the withdrawal process. It is helpful to have a medical professional who can help them manage depression in a constructive way.

Methylphenidate Detox

Methylphenidate detox involves weaning a person off the drug until they are no longer using it. This process can involve the use of medication or tapering of drug use to help prevent severe withdrawal symptoms.

Detoxification Process for Methylphenidate

When a person is detoxing from methylphenidate, they will generally use gradually lower doses of the drug until they are no longer using the drug at all. This can be done in a facility so that the person has 24-hour access to care if they need it. The detox and withdrawal process can be painful and uncomfortable, so it is helpful to have medical attention if it is needed.

Once the detox process has begun, the person will be offered a variety of other treatment forms, including group counseling, counseling for the patient’s family, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help the person to start to understand if there are habits or underlying issues that lead them to misuse methylphenidate.

Methylphenidate Detox Programs and Treatment Centers

The best way to successfully detox from methylphenidate is to get help. Treatment centers can provide supervision and medical help during the detoxification process to make sure the individual stays as comfortable as possible.

If you or a loved one struggle with a substance use disorder, The Recovery Village Palm Beach can help. A professional addiction treatment facility can help people address their addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders. Contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach to speak to a representative about taking the first step toward a healthier future.

  • Sources

    Food and Drug Administration. “Ritalin.” Accessed July 25, 2019.

    National Institute of Drug Abuse. “Prescription Stimulants.” June 2018. Accessed July 25, 2019.