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What is Methylphenidate, and Why is it Prescribed?

MethylphenidateMethylphenidate, also known as Methylphenidylacetate hydrochloride, is a psychoactive stimulate, often used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. This drug is also known to treat individuals suffering from narcolepsy and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome in both adolescents and adults. The drug is not available for children under six years old, as the long-term effects of methylphenidate on the developing brain remain unknown.

As a psychostimulate, methylphenidate works by increasing the overall activity within the central nervous system. The drug increases certain chemicals in the brain, helping to enhance certain aspects and behavior within the individual. For those suffering from ADHD, this can be particularly helpful, as this activity is correlated with an increase in alertness and attention.

For those suffering from narcolepsy, a disease that is characterized by bouts of excessive drowsiness and sleep attacks, methylphenidate is used to help induce an alert effect throughout the day. Narcolepsy is often due to the brain’s inability to regulate appropriate sleep-wake cycles. Although methylphenidate is merely treating the symptoms of the illness, it still has shown some promise in helping to alleviate daytime narcolepsy attacks in many individuals. The long-term effects for methylphenidate use in narcolepsy patients is still unknown.

Although the short-term effects of methylphenidate are well-known, science knows very little about the long-term effects of this drug on the brain and the body. The drug, over time, can become habit forming, and should not be used by individuals who have had a history of addictive behaviors. These behaviors can also present themselves in individuals who do not have a history of addiction, if the individual decides to take a larger dose of the drug than recommended by their doctor.

How Does Methylphenidate Affect The Body?

Methylphenidate works by activating certain chemicals in the brain, altering their function and behavior. The central nervous system, or the CNS, is stimulated through the consumption of this drug. Attention, focus, and concentration are all aspects of the CNS that are modified during and after the metabolism of methylphenidate. It is theorized that ADHD is caused, or at least related to, an imbalance of dopamine within the brain. Methylphenidate may be helpful in blocking the transport protein from removing dopamine out of the synapses, thus increasing the levels of dopamine.

Due to its stimulate effects, methylphenidate may play a role in inducing wakefulness in individuals suffering from narcolepsy. This may be associated with its role in activating the sympathetic nervous system, the nervous system that is associated with the “fight or flight” response. Stimulation may be necessary for many individuals suffering from lethargy, depression, and lack of motivation. In ADHD patients, methylphenidate seems to activate focus, concentration, and alertness without causing hyperactivity. The exact cause of this is unknown, yet most scientists theroize that it has to do with dopamine receptors in the brain.

Substance abuse is possible with methylphenidate, but is often rare when taken at therapeutic levels. The drug works on increasing dopamine levels, which can produce a slight euphoric response in the brain. If an individual were to take more than what was recommended, over time the brain would become more dependent on the drug for maintain dopamine levels essential for producing a positive mood.

How Does Methylphenidate Affect The Body When Abused?

Due to the fact that methylphenidate may increase the levels of dopamine within the synapses, individuals who abuse the drug may become dependent on its pleasing and euphoric effects on the brain. When abused, individuals may become nervous, agitated, and depressed when the drug is absent from their system. Although abuse of this drug is rare, its possibility for abuse is undeniably valid.

Often, doctors will only prescribe very low doses for a therapeutic effect. When consumed orally, the “high” one may receive from a drug like cocaine isn’t as likely. The real risk for addiction comes when the drug is crushed and snorted or injected, as this speeds the reactions that take place within the body and the brain.

Just like any other drug, methylphenidate does contain certain side effects with immediate or continued use. It is impossible to say who may experience side effects when taking methylphenidate; however, it is often advisable to research any and all adverse effects before taking any type of drug. This may eliminate the possibility of potentially hazardous outcomes both in short- and long-term effects of the drug. Some of the adverse reactions that may happen in the body for some individuals include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Appetite Loss
  • Angina
  • Nervousness
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Stunted growth
  • Dry mouth

Many doctors who prescribe the drug will help educate their patients about any other side effects that may be possible when consuming the methylphenidate. Often, patients will have time to research any medical history that may interact with the drug in any way. Some physicians may take further precautions before prescribing the drug, such as taking blood work or urinary samples.

There is some concern that excessive use of this drug may cause long-term damage to the heart. However, considering that long-term studies have yet to be performed, one can only be speculative in nature when arriving at particular health concerns. At low dosages, most physicians agree that the drug’s benefits outweigh the risks when taken by otherwise healthy individuals.

How is Methylphenidate Dangerous?

As stated previously, long-term effects of methylphenidate have yet to be conducted by any reputable scientific team. This gives cause for concern amongst some individuals, especially critics of the drug. It is known, however, that the drug does have certain interactions between other drugs, possibly causing immediate or long-term effects in certain individuals.

For example, people taking tricyclic antidepressants should be wary against taking methylphenidate, as the drug combination may increase plasma concentrations and thus increase toxicity within the body. This toxicity is associated mostly with negative cardiovascular health effects, such as heart disease and heart attack. Individuals who have a history of addictive behavior should also not be prescribed with methylphenidate, which has the possibility of becoming addictive to the brain in high doses.

People suffering from arrhythmia, hypertension, and aggressiveness should also be warned against taking methylphenidate. These individuals are perhaps the last people in the world that need stimulate medications. Those taking adrenergic agonist drugs should not take methylphenidate, as this combination may contribute to liver toxicity.

For all individuals not taking drugs that may contradict with methylphenidate’s effects, the drug does not seem to be overall dangerous at very low levels. All cautions and research should be handled directly, however, before starting on any prescription. These concerns and questions should be addressed to a doctor or practicing physician.

How Does One Go About Getting Help for Methylphenidate Addiction?

Like any addiction, getting help for methylphenidate addiction requires time, effort, and courage. Self-treatment often fails, especially if an individual is experiencing a full-blown methylphenidate or other stimulate addiction. Medical detoxes may have their place in some addiction treatment programs; however, more work is needed healing from addiction to methylphenidate.

There are many available treatment programs available all across the world today, often specializing in particular or general drug addictions. Inpatient therapy seems to have the highest success rate, as this mode of treatment seems to involve more interaction and intervention than any other program. A combination of psychological therapy, group support, and complete withdrawal from the drug in question, inpatient therapy seems to contain more benefits in its approach to drug addiction treatment.

Here are just some of the known benefits to inpatient treatment:

  • Safe and supporting environment
  • Removed from triggers and influnces
  • Psychological therapy to help deal with everyday triggers
  • Hands-on education resources
  • Immediate attention to individualised needs
  • Access to doctors and nurses
  • Structured meal plans/nutrition therapy

Choosing inpatient treatment for methylphenidate addiction or abuse may be wise, especially if the use of this drug has become uncontrollable. Many medical doctors can help an individual seeking freedom from their addiction, while at the same time remaining confidential in their recommendations and advice. Research on specific inpatient treatment centers is also necessary for choosing the correct facility that will fulfil each individual’s needs.

Most inpatient facilities have a select team of doctors, nurses, therapists, and nutritionists that make up a treatment team. Each treatment team will often use an individualized approach to treatment, catering to a patient’s particular health needs and goals. Often, this is the most successful way of treating any addiction, even an addiction to methylphenidate. Since each individual is different, both in body and mind, finding unique and personalized ways to treat the whole individual is essential for overall success. Generalized approaches to treatment often fail because they lack the specificity that is required for treating each aspect of the addiction.

Contact us today to speak with one of our counselors about your addiction to methylphenidate.

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