How Does Methylphenidate Work in the Body?

Methylphenidate or Ritalin is a CNS psychostimulant mainly used to treat ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). However, it has also been used to treat other conditions such as depression, narcolepsy, cancer, brain injury, pain, and cognitive disorders. In someone with ADHD, methylphenidate helps to improve focus, concentration and reduces impulsive behavior. Methylphenidate can also promote wakefulness and decrease appetite.

Methylphenidate is classified as a Schedule II narcotic. Schedule II drugs have a medically recognized therapeutic purpose, but they also have a high potential for abuse.

How Does Methylphenidate Work in the Body?

What Does Methylphenidate Do to Your Dopamine Levels?

Methylphenidate increases central nervous system activity by acting as a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor, increasing dopamine and norepinephrine. In addition, methylphenidate activates the neurotransmission of dopamine and norepinephrine within the brain’s prefrontal cortex, where ADHD is often seen.

The National Institute of Health describes the mechanism of action of methylphenidate.

Methylphenidate blocks the reuptake of two neurotransmitters, norepinephrine (NE) and dopamine, by presynaptic neurons. More specifically, it inhibits the transporters of these neurotransmitters, increasing the concentration of dopamine and NE in the synaptic cleft. Overall, this creates its classic stimulant effect within the central nervous system (CNS), mainly in the prefrontal cortex. It chemically derives from phenethylamine and benzylpiperazine. It undergoes metabolism by the liver to ritalinic acid through a process called de-esterification via carboxylesterase CES1A1. Compared to other medications (i.e., amphetamines) that are phenethylamine derivatives, methylphenidate appears to increase the firing rate of neurons. (NIH)

At high doses, methylphenidate produces a flood of dopamine in the brain, which causes an intense euphoric feeling. Dopamine is the body’s feel-good chemical and is responsible for reward and pleasure. This is what makes it so addictive.

The Side Effects of Methylphenidate on the Body

Methylphenidate has several effects on the body. Some of the side effects of the medication can be:

  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Mood changes
  • Insomnia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Rapid breathing
  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Improved attention span
  • Blurry vision
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea and diarrhea (when the medication is first started)
  • Prolonged erection
  • Circulation issues

Methylphenidate could cause more seizures to occur in a person with a seizure disorder. It can also affect a child’s growth in the first two years of them taking the medication.

Is There Physical Dependence After Taking Methylphenidate?

If taken at extremely high doses or abused, a person can develop a physical dependence on methylphenidate. If a physical dependence is developed, then abruptly stopping the medication will produce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Also, methylphenidate can cause symptoms like paranoia, hostility, confusion, hallucinations or delusions, mood changes, severe shaking or twitching, and seizures at very high doses.

Stimulant abuse can be dangerous, especially in someone that has pre-existing heart problems or blood pressure. For example, methylphenidate could increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. And crushing and snorting or injecting the drug could cause blood vessel blockage, a dangerously high blood pressure, or irregular heartbeat.

Treatment for a Methylphenidate Addiction 

If you or someone you love struggles with an addiction to methylphenidate or stimulants, such as Ritalin, our addiction specialists are available around the clock to assist you. Recreate Life Counseling offers evidence-based addiction treatment. Our cutting-edge addiction treatment will lead you on the road to long-lasting recovery.

At Recreate Life Counseling, we are here to help you, and military members are always welcome. So give us a call today, our specialists are available around the clock and all calls are free and completely confidential.