Ritalin–also known as methylphenidate and Concerta–is a prescription medication used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. The drug is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system, providing users with increased focus and energy. A forerunner to the more popular medication Adderall, Ritalin is still widely prescribed and abused. Students and athletes sometimes abuse Ritalin as a performance enhancing drug, enabling them to study or train for longer periods time.

People also abuse Ritalin for its mood-altering effects, getting a feeling of euphoria that is similar to the high experienced by cocaine users. These users either take the drug at higher doses than prescribed (daily medical doses range from 10 mg to 60 mg) or by crushing the pills and snorting them. Ritalin is generally well-tolerated when used as prescribed but can become extremely addictive and lead to withdrawal symptoms when abused.

The Risks of Stopping Ritalin Cold Turkey

People who abuse Ritalin often try to stop using the drug abruptly (known as “going cold turkey”) when they realize they have become addicted. However, stopping all at once without the proper medical help can lead to painful withdrawal symptoms. Heavy Ritalin users become dependent on the effects of the drugs so when Ritalin is suddenly absent from the body they can become fatigued, depressed and confused and have difficulty concentrating. Ritalin withdrawal is unpleasant, but typically not life-threatening. Health professionals recommend treatment at a detox or drug rehab to ensure former Ritalin users do not return to the drug to ease these painful side-effects.

Ritalin vs. Adderall: What’s the Difference?

Both Adderall and Ritalin are prescription drugs used to treat ADHD. They are chemically similar, but users have reported that Adderall has fewer side-effects. The biggest differences between the two drugs are how long they last and how quickly they take effect. Ritalin’s effects are felt more quickly and subside about two to three hours after the last dose while Adderall is longer-lasting. Some users prefer Ritalin because they can avoid side-effects, like having trouble sleeping, by taking their dose well before bedtime. Because doctors prescribe Adderall more often, the medication is easier to obtain and more likely to be abused. However, Ritalin carries the same risk of addiction if abused.

Does Ritalin Make You Smarter?

Prescription stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall do not improve cognitive abilities. The drugs increase focus and energy, which can enable people to study longer or do more research than they normally would. Many people addicted to prescription stimulants do not stop using for fear of losing an advantage or becoming “dumber.” Eventually, the body develops a tolerance to the drug, and those initial advantages of increased concentration and energy become less pronounced over time. People who stop using Ritalin possess the same level of intelligence they had while taking the drug. Studying may take longer, but users do not become “dumber.”

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Common Ritalin Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms

Ritalin Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the dosage and duration of use. Heavy users of Ritalin who abruptly stop using typically experience the effects of the drug in reverse–most commonly fatigue, depression, and concentrating problems. Like other stimulants, the physical side effects of withdrawing from Ritalin are relatively mild, but the psychological symptoms can be severe.

  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Vision changes
  • Weight gain

Ritalin Withdrawal Timeline

Ritalin Withdrawal Timeline

The body processes Ritalin more quickly than Adderall, which has longer-lasting effects. For this reason, Ritalin’s withdrawal process is typically shorter than Adderall.

    • Days 1-3

      Heavy Ritalin users will start to experience withdrawal symptoms about 72 hours after their last dose. The symptoms of withdrawal are most pronounced during this period and include nausea, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.


    • Weeks 1-2

      Most of the physical symptoms of withdrawal subside, but many of the physiological side effects persist. Former Ritalin users can experience cravings for the drug, anxiety, and depression. Some former users have reported trouble sleeping during this period.


  • First Few Months

    Former Ritalin users begin to recover as most symptoms fade. However, many experience Post Acute Withdrawals Symptoms (PAWS), which include cravings, depression, and irritability. Continued treatment can help former users throughout this period.

Ritalin Detox and Treatment

Treating Ritalin Withdrawal

How to Safely Withdrawal from Ritalin

Treatment for withdrawal at a detox or drug rehab facility usually consists of making a client comfortable and preventing relapse. There are no approved medications to specifically treat Ritalin withdrawal. However, medical staff at a detox center can prescribe antidepressants to ease some of the physiological side effects of withdrawal. Medication to prevent nausea can be administered along with mild sedatives, such as Benadryl, to help a client sleep. The physiological symptoms are the most pronounced. With medical help, a client will have a better chance at coping with these stressful side effects in a safe and controlled setting.

Furthermore, Ritalin is often abused with other substances, most frequently alcohol. People who are cross-addicted are highly encouraged to seek treatment if they wish to stop using because, in these cases, the withdrawal process can be life-threatening. People who withdraw from alcohol or benzodiazepines drugs like Xanax in addition to Ritalin can experience potentially deadly seizures.

Continue Treatment after Detox

Many former Ritalin users experience Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS) in the weeks after their last dose. Among the side effects are depression, anxiety, and drug cravings. For this reason, many health professionals recommend treatment at a drug rehab after users successfully withdrawal from Ritalin. By attending either an inpatient or outpatient drug treatment program, clients can receive much-needed support during what can be a trying time. Many treatment centers offer clients Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to help users deal with the underlying issues behind their drug abuse problem. Group therapy settings can also offer clients support from peers with similar problems.

Need Help Finding Treatment in Your Area? Drug Treatment Center Finder Can Help

Many former Ritalin users experience Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS) in the weeks after their last dose. Among the side effects are depression, anxiety, and drug cravings. For this reason, many health professionals recommend treatment at a drug rehab after users successfully withdrawal from Ritalin. By attending either an inpatient or outpatient drug treatment program, clients can receive much-needed support during what can be a trying time. Many treatment centers offer clients Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to help users deal with the underlying issues behind their drug abuse problem. Group therapy settings can also offer clients support from peers with similar problems.

Drug Treatment Center Finder has a database filled with drug rehabs in all 50 states. We can help you find a drug treatment center in your area. If you have questions on withdrawal detox and treatment, call our 24-hour hotline at (855) 619-8070, and one of our call agents will walk you through the addiction treatment process.

Ritalin Withdrawal FAQs

Ritalin Withdrawal Frequently Asked Questions
    • Can stopping Ritalin cold turkey lead to death?

      Withdrawing from Ritalin is typically not life-threatening. The biggest risk to former Ritalin users during the withdrawal period is relapse. Many former users start taking Ritalin again to allay the drug’s uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, including nausea and depression. A detox or drug rehab facility can ensure clients withdrawal from Ritalin safely without a return to using.


    • How dangerous is Ritalin?

      Ritalin is a widely prescribed medication for young adults, which can give users the impression that Ritalin is a “safe” drug. The medication is effective and well tolerated when used as prescribed. However, if the drug is abused (i.e. taken at higher doses or crushed and snorted to increase its potency), it can become extremely addictive and eventually lead to withdrawal symptoms. The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies Ritalin as a Schedule II narcotic–the same designation as cocaine, morphine, and amphetamines.


    • How long do withdrawal symptoms last?

      Most heavy users Ritalin experience withdrawal symptoms for about three to five days. Psychological symptoms like drug cravings, depression, and anxiety can last up to two weeks.


    • Are there home remedies to detox from Ritalin?

      Beware of websites pedaling home detox remedies. There are no medications to directly treat Ritalin withdrawal. Professionals at a detox or drug rehab facility can prescribe anti-depressants or administer a mild sedative, such as Benadryl, to help clients sleep, but there is no quick fix for dealing with the symptoms.


    • What’s the best way to get off Ritalin?

      The best way to get off Ritalin is to seek professional drug treatment and have a medical team supervise your withdrawal process. If you need help finding a drug rehab in your area, Drug Treatment Center Finder can help you begin your journey toward recovery. Call our 24-hour hotline at (855) 619-8070, and one of our call agents will be available to answer any questions you may have about Ritalin addiction and the right treatment methods to pursue.