How Does Ritalin Affect The Nervous System?
Medications that are prescribed or used for legitimate reasons can still be abused and may have adverse consequences. Methylphenidate, or Ritalin as it is better known, is one such medication. It has many side effects when it is misused.
What Is Ritalin?
Ritalin is the brand name of a stimulant called methylphenidate, the NIDA says. It is primarily used to treat patients diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, although it has other legitimate uses in the treatment of depression, narcolepsy, and other cognitive disorders.
Its main function is to create a focusing effect on the mind of the user by stimulating their central nervous system. The drug is available through prescription only and comes in tablets of 5, 10, or 20 mg dosages.
Short Term Effects
Ritalin is believed to interact with the brain stem and central cortex of the nervous system. In pharmacological terms, it interacts with dopamine and can produce a response similar to what the body has towards cocaine. The drug enhances the effect of dopamine and other similar chemicals that are naturally occurring in the brain.
Dopamine remains at an increased level while the drug is in the person’s system and causes them to have an increase in focus and remain calm. As beneficial as the increase is, it often causes a disruption in the normal connections in the brain.
Short-term side effects on the nervous system can include dizziness, loss of appetite, headaches, changes in cardiac function, and itching. Additionally, Ritalin’s effect on the nervous system can spread or interfere with the function of other systems in the body. Abdominal pain, usually without any identifiable cause, has been reported in some cases.
Long Term Effects
When used properly, the long-term effects of Ritalin on the nervous system are not as severe when abused. The primary long-term effects are on the body’s growth, as many children and teens who are diagnosed with ADHD often show signs of growth and suppression and minor weight loss.
According to CESAR, many cases of long-term Ritalin usage report the development of sleep problems and anxiety disorders. High dosages of Ritalin, usually in cases of extreme abuse, have resulted in the advent of prolonged psychosis. In some cases, abusers have developed a state of paranoia that is similar to schizophrenia.
Additionally, abusers of Ritalin have exhibited muscle twitches and tremors after prolonged use. Convulsions, severe headaches, and unexplained repetition of movements have also been reported. In some cases, patients have reported feeling a sensation of something crawling underneath their skin, termed as formication. When formication develops, it can be accompanied by tingling, itching, burning, or even seemingly random nerve pain.
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