Ritalin

POOR MAN’S COCAINE

Test subjects who were given cocaine and Ritalin could not tell the difference. Photo credit: itar-Tass
Test subjects who were given cocaine and Ritalin could not tell the difference.
Photo credit: itar-Tass

Ritalin is easy to get, and cheap. Taken from someone’s prescription, stolen from a sibling or obtained by a fraudulent prescription, these tablets are then broadly sold. The price runs from a dollar or two in school to $20 per pill on the black market.

"I ended up doing a lot of stronger amphetamines that brought me down pretty quick, and I don’t know if I would have gotten interested in them if I hadn’t started using Ritalin.” —Andy

The comparison of Ritalin to cocaine is not just a slogan. Ritalin is chemically similar to cocaine. When injected as a liquid, it sends that “jolt” that addicts crave so much.

Thirteen times more Ritalin abusers checked into emergency rooms in 2004 than in 1990.
Thirteen times more Ritalin abusers checked into emergency rooms in 2004 than in 1990.

In 2000, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) revealed the results of studies on both animals and humans who were given cocaine and Ritalin. The test subjects could not tell the difference. The DEA concluded that, “They produce effects that are nearly identical.”

Scope of Ritalin abuse

Abuse of prescription drugs such as Ritalin is increasing.

By 2006, nearly 7 million Americans abused prescription drugs, including Ritalin—more than the number who abused cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, Ecstasy and inhalants combined. That 7 million was just 3.8 million in 2000—an 80% increase in only six years.

In 2007, 3.8% of twelfth graders reported having used Ritalin without a prescription at least once in the past year.

A major factor contributing to the abuse is the huge increase in the number of prescriptions written for Ritalin and other stimulants.
In the US, the number of stimulant prescriptions soared from around 5 million in 1991 to nearly 35 million in 2007.

In 2004, methylphenidate (Ritalin) was involved in an estimated 3,601 hospital emergency department visits, compared to 271 in 1990.

From 1990 to 2000, 186 deaths in the US were linked to Ritalin. The risk is highest for those who snort large amounts of the drug.

Since 1995, it has ranked on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of “most-stolen” medications.


 

REFERENCES


  1. Drug Enforcement Administration Fact Sheet on Prescription Drug Abuse
  2. Monitoring the Future–National Results on Adolescent Drug Use, Overview of Findings 2007, National Institute on Drug Abuse
  3. U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services, Testimony by Nora D. Volkow, MD, before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, 12 Mar 2008
  4. Emergency Department Visits Involving ADHD Stimulant Medications, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 2006
  5. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
  6. “Millions Have Misused ADHD Stimulant Drugs, Study Says,” Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post, 25 Feb 2006
  7. “NIDA InfoFacts: Stimulant ADHD Medications—Methylphenidate and Amphetamines,” National Institute on Drug Abuse
  8. Vanderbilt University Psychology Dept.
  9. The Harvard Crimson
  10. Center for Substance Abuse Research
  11. Novartis (Ritalin description)
  12. University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston
  13. University of Indiana Prevention Resource Center
  14. Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  15. New York University Health Center