Ritalin comes in small pills, about the size and shape of aspirin tablets, with the word “Ciba” (the manufacturer’s name) stamped on it. The 5 mg tablets are pale yellow, 10 mg tablets are pale green, and the 20 mg tablets are both white and pale yellow.

It is described as a central nervous system stimulant. However, even its manufacturer, in the drug’s package insert, admits that no one really knows how it affects the human body: “The mode of action in man is not completely understood.”

Abusers grind the tablets into a powder and snort it. The drug is water-soluble, making it easy to convert into a liquid which can be injected.

As noted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, “pharmaceutical products diverted from legitimate channels are the only sources of methylphenidate available for abuse.” In other words, every tablet of the drug that is abused, either in its original form or ground into a powder or dissolved with water, originated from the manufacturer. None of it is manufactured on the streets.

“Now I have built up a tolerance to taking two to three 20 mg pills to get the high. I recognize my dependence....I have become ‘cracked-out’ or zombie-like." —Alex


RITALIN: Diet Coke Kiddie Cocaine Kiddie Coke Poor man’s cocaine R-ball Rids Skittles Smarties Vitamin R


  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