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Article Summary


What is Ritalin?

Ritalin, a trade name for the prescription drug methylphenidate, is a central nervous system stimulant. (Its effects are similar to, but more potent than, caffeine and less potent than amphetamine.) Ritalin often is prescribed to treat individuals (mostly children) who are diagnosed with ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Ritalin is abused for the stimulant effects it produces, including appetite suppression, wakefulness, euphoria, and increased focus and attentiveness.

What does Ritalin look like?

Ritalin is available in 5-, 10-, and 20-milligram tablets. The tablets typically are white or yellow in color.

How is Ritalin obtained?

The Ritalin that is abused in the United States typically is diverted from legitimate sources. In some cases abusers obtain the drug from peers, friends, or family members. Often individuals who have legitimate prescriptions sell or give away their supply. Ritalin also is acquired through theft--from individuals with legitimate prescriptions or from school medicine dispensaries.

How is Ritalin abused?

Individuals who abuse Ritalin either swallow the tablets or crush them to produce a powder, which is snorted. Some abusers dissolve the tablets in water and then inject the mixture.

Who abuses Ritalin?

Abuse of Ritalin typically is associated with young people--preadolescents, teenagers, and young adults. The increased use of the drug to treat ADHD--a disorder that is prevalent among young people--has resulted in a corresponding increase in abuse. The University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Survey indicates that 4 percent of high school seniors in the United States abused the drug at least once in the past year.

Although less common, Ritalin is abused among adults as well. The Drug Enforcement Administration has received reports of Ritalin abuse among diverse segments of the population--ranging from healthcare professionals to street addicts.

What are the risks?

When taken as directed by a physician to treat a legitimate medical condition, Ritalin has proven to be a safe and effective medication. Medical studies have shown that individuals who have ADHD and who take Ritalin orally in proper dosages do not become addicted to the drug.

Individuals who abuse the drug, however, risk binge use, psychotic episodes, cardiovascular complications, and severe psychological addiction. In addition, abusers who inject the drug risk further complications because insoluble fillers in Ritalin tablets can block small blood vessels. Injection users also place themselves at risk of contracting HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), hepatitis B and C, and other blood-borne viruses.

What is Ritalin called?

Street Terms for Ritalin

  • Kibbles and bits
  • Kiddy cocaine
  • Pineapple
  • Skippy
  • Smarties
  • Vitamin R
  • West coast

Street Terms for injecting Ritalin with the prescription pain reliever Talwin

  • Crackers
  • One and ones
  • Ritz and Ts
  • Set
  • Ts and rits
  • Ts and Rs

Is abusing Ritalin illegal?

Yes, abusing Ritalin is illegal. Ritalin is a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II drugs, which include cocaine and methamphetamine, have a high potential for abuse. Abuse of these drugs may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

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