Methylphenidate Drugs: Overview of Concerta, Daytrana, Methylin, Ritalin, and Aptensio
Concerta, Daytrana, Methylin, Ritalin and Aptensio are all examples of common methylphenidate drugs. You have most likely heard of at least some of these prescription drugs. But what do methylphenidates do, and how does this form of prescription drug work? These are the questions that we are here to answer.
Understanding the Basics of Methylphenidate Drugs
Methylphenidate is a class of prescription medication known as central nervous system stimulants. As a prescription stimulant, drugs within the methylphenidate class affect the individuals who take them by increasing dopamine and other substances found in the brain. Because the brain is part of the central nervous system, the changes in the brain brought on my stimulants like methylphenidate in turn affect the rest of the body.
The Major Questions About Methylphenidate Drugs
To help you get a better understanding of methylphenidate drugs and prescription stimulants, this post discusses both how this class of drug works and the specifics of each of the major brands of methylphenidate drugs. More specifically, we address the following questions:
- What are methylphenidate drugs?
- How are methylphenidate drugs and other prescription stimulants used?
- What are the major brands of methylphenidate?
- Can methylphenidate be abused?
- Are prescription stimulants like Concerta, Ritalin, and Daytrana addictive or habit-forming?
- What are the effects of methylphenidate abuse and addiction?
- Can you get treatment for prescription stimulant addiction?
What Are Methylphenidate Drugs?
Methylphenidate drugs are a type of prescription stimulant. Similar to amphetamines like Adderall, this class of drug is commonly used to treat both adolescents and adults that have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or narcolepsy. While there are other purposes for other forms of prescription stimulants, this is considered the only approved use of methylphenidate drugs. Individuals who have been diagnosed with these disorders typically have a hard time focusing on outside stimulation. This can make it difficult for those with ADHD or ADD to pay attention in school or to focus on projects at work. Those diagnosed with ADHD are also usually more impulsive or hyperactive. This is particularly pronounced when children with ADHD are compared to their classmates, or adults are compared to people of the same age.
How Do Methylphenidate Drugs Work?
Because of the major symptoms of both ADHD and ADD, methylphenidate drugs are aimed at affecting the central nervous system (including the brain) to help individuals with the disorder simultaneously focus and calm down. Many of the symptoms of ADHD first show at around the age of seven, so several types of methylphenidate have been developed for children. ADHD diagnoses are increasingly common in the United States. In fact, in 2011 over ten percent of adolescents and children in the United States had been diagnosed with ADHD. In conjunction with the rise of ADHD diagnoses, prescription stimulants have also been on the rise. The most common methylphenidate drugs include five main name brands: Concerta, Daytrana, Methylin, Ritalin, and Aptensio. You most likely recognize at least a few of these brands of methylphenidates. This is because methylphenidate treatment of ADHD and ADD is increasing every year. So what is this class of drug, and what are the differences between these brands of methylphenidate drugs?
How Are Prescription Stimulants Like Methylphenidates Used?
Prescription stimulants as a whole are designed to simultaneously calm an individual and focus them on the stimulation around them. Methylphenidates accomplish this by increasing the dopamine levels in the central nervous system. While dopamine is commonly associated with bringing about feelings of pleasure, it is also responsible for creating motivation in the brain. This approach in the prescription drug is based on the fact that one of the underlying causes of ADHD may be low levels of dopamine in the central nervous system (or in the brain, in other words). Methylphenidate essentially blocks the dopamine transporters in the brain, consequently raising the levels of dopamine in the brain. In turn, children are more likely to find interest in school and adults are better able to focus at work. When used as prescribed, methylphenidate is generally not considered to be addictive. This is because it takes at least an hour for the drug to reach the brain and for the dopamine levels to rise. In other words, it is more difficult to get high off of a prescription stimulant like methylphenidate because it is slow acting. Of course, there are ways that drugs like Ritalin and Daytrana can be abused and prove addictive. This is particularly true when methylphenidates are taken either without a prescription or in another method not approved by a doctor’s prescription.
The Five Major Brands of Methylphenidates
While there are many different types of methylphenidate drugs, it is worth breaking down the five most common brands prescribed by doctors in the United States. All of these prescription stimulants are for treating ADHD, ADD and narcolepsy – and sometimes for co-occurring disorders. However, they vary slightly in how they are taken and how they enter the central nervous system. Concerta: Most commonly prescribed as an extended-release tablet, Concerta is a form of methylphenidate that only needs to be taken once every day in the morning. You should never crush or chew these tablets, as this causes the drug to reach the brain too quickly. Concerta should not be taken more than once a day. Daytrana: This is type of methylphenidate takes the form of a patch. In other words, the prescription drug is placed on a patch, which in turn is placed on the patient’s skin for the duration of the day. The patch is typically kept in place for around nine hours. Because the effects take hold about two hours after placing the patch, it should be placed later in the day as it can cause sleeping problems. Methylin: Taken orally, Methylin is not as long lasting as Concerta or Daytrana. Because of this, this version of prescription methylphenidate is taken twice or three times each day. Methylin, like other forms of methylphenidate, does not work as a one-off pill. It must be taken regularly to see the desired effects on ADHD, ADD and narcolepsy. Ritalin: Like Methylin, Ritalin is taken more often – sometimes three times a day. This is because the effects are both faster acting and last a shorter amount of time than other forms of the prescription stimulant. To avoid the habit-forming effects of stimulants, Ritalin should never be taken outside of a prescription or by crushing/chewing the tablet. Aptensio: This form of the prescription stimulant is taken just once a day, like Concerta. The drug is then slowly released into the system over the course of the day. The medication should be taken every day (only in prescribed dosages) to see the most benefit in treating ADHD and ADD.
How Are Methylphenidate Drugs Abused?
More and more teenagers and college students are starting to abuse prescription stimulants like methylphenidate for one purpose: to give their studies a boost. The belief is that they can improve their grades in school simply by taking stimulants like Concerta or Ritalin. This could not be further from the truth.
“There is a widespread belief that these drugs can improve a person’s ability to learn. Prescription stimulants do promote wakefulness, but studies have found that they do not enhance learning or thinking ability when taken by people who do not actually have ADHD.” ~ National Institute on Drug Abuse
When taken as prescribed, many experts do not consider methylphenidate to be addictive. Drugs like Concerta and Daytrana increase dopamine levels in the brain, just like many other addictive drugs do – like alcohol and amphetamines. However, the difference is in how the drug reaches the brain.
What Methylphendiate Abuse Looks Like
Methylphenidate tends to be slower acting than its amphetamine counterpart. This means that the effects of the drug reach the brain slowly – usually over the course of an hour or more. This prevents an individual from experiencing the high that is produced by other prescription drugs that raise dopamine levels. When this form of prescription stimulant is abused, however, it can become habit-forming and addictive. Some of the ways that methylphenidate drugs are abused include:
- Taking the stimulant outside of a doctor’s prescription
- Taking the drug to improve study habits or grades in school
- Taking methylphenidates as an attempt to get high
- Taking the prescription drug more often than prescribed
- Taking the prescription drug in higher doses than prescribed
- Crushing or chewing methylphenidates like Concerta or Ritalin for faster effects
What Are the Effects of Methylphenidate Addiction and Abuse?
There is no question about it: methylphenidate and other prescription stimulants can be addictive when they are abused. As we mentioned above, this means taking the prescription drug in any other way than how it was prescribed. The results can be dangerous.
“Methylphenidate can be habit-forming. Do not take a larger dose, take it more often, take it for a longer time, or take it in a different way than prescribed by your doctor. If you take too much methylphenidate, you may find that the medication no longer controls your symptoms, you may feel a need to take large amounts of the medication, and you may experience unusual changes in your behavior.” ~ U.S. National Library of Medicine
The Side Effects of Methylphenidate Drug Abuse
When prescription stimulants like methylphenidate are abused, they create a host of negative health effects in the person abusing them. These can be dangerous, particularly over the long term. Some of the most common negative health effects of abusing methylphenidate drugs include:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Increased body temperature
- A change in sleep patterns, or experiencing sleep problems
- A loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Induced feelings of paranoia or irritability
- Cardiovascular problems
These side effects of methylphenidate addiction and abuse apply to Concerta, Daytrana, Ritalin and any other form of prescription stimulant. If this prescription drug is abused over time, it is likely to form an addiction.
How to Get Treatment for Addiction to Methylphenidate Drugs
While it is important to know that methylphenidate addiction is a very real possibility, it is equally crucial to understand that methylphenidate treatment is entirely possible. Becoming addicted to prescription stimulants does not have to be the end result of abusing Concerta or Ritalin. Treatment includes options like intensive outpatient rehab programs, which allow individuals to maintain their responsibilities in day to day life while getting the professional help that they need to overcome drug addiction or abuse. If you still have questions about methylphenidate drugs, or need help for drug abuse, do not hesitate to contact us today.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014, January). Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines. Retrieved from: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/stimulant-adhd-medications-methylphenidate-amphetamines National Institutes of Health. (2009, February). NIDA Study Shows That Methylphenidate (Ritalin) Causes Neuronal Changes in Brain Reward Areas. Retrieved from: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nida-study-shows-methylphenidate-ritalin-causes-neuronal-changes-brain-reward-areas U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016, February). Methylphenidate. Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682188.html