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  • Ritalin (generic name methylphenidate hydrochloride) is a prescription stimulant drug that can be dangerous when overdosed. Its stimulant effects on the brain can even be fatal in extremely high doses.

    Ritalin is prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. Taking Ritalin as directed can help reduce your chances of an overdose. On the other hand, Ritalin abuse can greatly increase the risk of overdose.

    Symptoms Of A Ritalin Overdose

    Too much Ritalin in the body can overstimulate the central nervous system (CNS). The use of methylphenidate increases dopamine amounts in the brain, which can be toxic in extremely high amounts. Physical symptoms of a potential Ritalin overdose may include:

    • delirium
    • various heart problems (irregular heart rate, heart palpitations)
    • tremors
    • psychosis
    • hallucinations
    • hypertension
    • sweating
    • seizures
    • vomiting
    • muscle aches

    Because Ritalin is a CNS stimulant, overdose symptoms can spread to many different parts of the body. Immediate medical attention may be needed, especially to treat severe symptoms.

    How Much Ritalin Is Too Much?

    Any amount of Ritalin that is more than your recommended dosing is too much. This can include any form of drug abuse involving Ritalin, including taking it without a prescription or taking higher doses than your prescription tells you to.

    The specific amount needed to cause an overdose will vary from person to person. One example of methylphenidate toxicity was a child who had a Ritalin concentration of 32 mg/kg. This person had 32 mg of Ritalin in their system for every kilogram they weighed.

    By comparison, some professionals recommend you do not exceed more than 2 mg/kg per daily dose of Ritalin. This often translates to daily doses of no more than 60 mg per day. Following dosing instructions from your healthcare provider is an effective way of practicing safe drug use.

    Ritalin Overdose Risk Factors

    Aside from the dosing, other factors may increase your risk of a Ritalin overdose.

    Substance Abuse

    Improper stimulant use of Ritalin includes dosing, as well as how Ritalin can be taken.

    There is evidence that Ritalin and cocaine affect brain reward systems similarly. This evidence suggests Ritalin can be as habit-forming as powerful substances like cocaine, amphetamine, or methamphetamine. Snorting Ritalin can increase its chances of affecting the brain this way.

    Abusing Ritalin often means taking high doses of it at once, which can lead to an overdose. It can also mean mixing it with other substances that should not be taken with Ritalin. Chronic substance abuse can also hurt your mental health and affect your decision-making.

    Ritalin’s Interactions With Other Drugs

    Alcohol can cause Ritalin’s effects to speed up, making safe doses more potent. This is especially true for sustained-release Ritalin, also known as Ritalin SR. 

    The effects of alcohol on immediate-release tablets of Ritalin are less established. However, doctors prescribing stimulants will likely warn against mixing them with alcohol, which includes Ritalin.

    Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) may also cause overdose-like symptoms when taken with Ritalin. When combined, they can have serious effects on your blood pressure. MAOIs are often prescribed as antidepressants, so tell your doctor if you are struggling with both of these mental health issues.

    Ritalin Overdose Treatment

    Immediate Ritalin overdose treatment attempts to treat overdose symptoms. Treatment will often vary depending on the patient’s symptoms.

    Patients who are suffering seizures may be given anticonvulsants, while hyperactive patients may be given benzodiazepines. Restoring cardiovascular systems may be the first priority, especially if the patient has suffered a heart attack. All of these require professional medical attention.

    A successful Ritalin overdose treatment may not stop in the short term. If the overdose was caused by a substance use disorder, a long-term treatment plan may be needed to prevent any future overdoses.

    Treatment For Ritalin Abuse

    Ritalin is a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States. Not long after it was introduced as a legal prescription drug in the mid-1900s, its abuse potential was questioned. Unfortunately, abuse of Ritalin has only increased since then.

    Anyone taking Ritalin can be at risk for an overdose. If you have recently suffered from a Ritalin overdose, you may want to look for a treatment program that will help you come off Ritalin and prevent another overdose. 

    If you struggle with Ritalin abuse, treatment can help you avoid an overdose in the first place. To find the best-dedicated treatment plans available to you, talk to your healthcare provider or contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services - Stimulant and Related Medications: U.S. Food and Drug Administration-Approved Indications and Dosages for Use in Pediatric Patients
    Massachusetts/Rhode Island Poison Control System - CTR-Methylphenidate
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Prescription Stimulants DrugFacts
    National Institutes of Health - NIDA Study Shows That Methylphenidate (Ritalin) Causes Neuronal Changes in Brain Reward Areas
    PubMed Central - Methylphenidate Abuse and Psychiatric Side Effects
    U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Ritalin and Ritalin SR
    U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Label for Ritalin LA
    U.S. National Library of Medicine - Substance Name: Methylphenidate hydrochloride
    U.S. National Library of Medicine - Methylphenidate hydrochloride | C14H20ClNO2

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on April 26, 2022
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