Ritalin is a prescription stimulant used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but for those seeking an academic edge, it can just as easily be a performance-enhancing drug. The 2012 New York Times story “Raising the Ritalin Generation” called attention to the overly ambitious educators and parents who put pressure on children to take the drug. Fittingly, the highest-usage rates are clustered around universities, with nearly 16% of northeastern university students admitting to use in a 2006 Journal of American College Health study. Rural areas once had unequal access to the drug and less social pressure to use, but the gap between rural and suburban use has decreased significantly.
Rural Ritalin Abuse
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website lists prescription stimulant misuse rates according to different demographics. Using data from early last decade, the regional findings include the following:
- Small metropolitan areas had the highest rate at 1.7%
- Rural areas had the second highest rate at 1.3%
- Major metropolitan areas had the lowest rates at 1.1%
The rates among teens and young adults are much higher. In 2011, the “Adolescent Substance Abuse in Rural and Small Urban Communities” study in the Journal of Rural Community Psychology reported on lifetime prevalence rates among teens in grades 7 to 12. The findings included the following:
- 5.1% use in remote rural areas
- 4.8% use in rural areas
- 5.7% use in medium urban areas
- 5.3% use in small metropolitan areas
The rural rates are still lower than other areas but only marginally so.
Ritalin Abuse Dangers
Academic competition remains a major motivator for taking Ritalin, but there are other reasons for misuse, including the following:
- Euphoric high
- Athletic advantage
- Stay awake
- Lose weight
Ritalin abuse and long-term prescription use can both lead to an addiction with severe side effects and risks, including the following:
- Damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs, brain, and heart
- Spikes in body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate
- Abdominal pain, insomnia, nausea, and anxiety
- Sudden and aggressive shifts in temperament
Certain individuals will crush the Ritalin tablets so they can sniff, smoke, or inject the drug for a stronger high. This can damage the nasal passage and respiratory system or lead to an infectious disease.
Treatment for Ritalin Addiction
The 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that stimulants accounted for the second lowest number of treatment patients that year, just barely nudging past hallucinogens. By comparison, there were more than three times as many patients for marijuana abuse. Treatment rates can be even lower in rural areas for various reasons, including the following:
- Difficulties taking time off work from agricultural jobs
- Fewer local treatment centers and public transportation options
- Rural communities often attach a negative stigma to addiction
- Less anonymity in treatment for those in rural towns
While prescription stimulants account for fewer treatment patients, the government’s Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report shows the drug is increasingly present in medical emergencies. According to the 2012 report, emergency-room visits associated with ADHD-related drugs tripled between 2004 and 2010, marking the second highest rate increase after oxycodone.
Drug Abuse Helpline
Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak with our addiction counselors about warning signs, treatment options, faith-based programs, rehab centers, and even health insurance coverage. If you or a loved one has a Ritalin abuse problem, please call now.