Ritalin is a potent stimulant of the central nervous system (CNS). Chemically, it is also known as methylphenidate (MPD), which belongs to the phenethylamine group.1 Inside the brain it influences chemicals and nerves that affect the hyperactivity and impulse control. This is the main reason why Ritalin has become the most commonly prescribed medication for the treatment of the attention deficit disorder (ADD) and the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).1
Children affected by these symptoms can particularly benefit from this drug. In fact, it is reported to be effective in approximately 70% of cases. Ritalin is also used to help individuals with sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy (an uncontrollable need to sleep). Medical practitioners have been using Ritalin since the 1950s. In 1961, depression, fatigue, narcolepsy, ADD and ADHD were among the conditions approved to be treated with Ritalin.
Ritalin works by affecting dopaminergic and noradrenergic neurotransmitter systems. Specifically, it blocks the transporters that reuptake those neurotransmitters thereby increasing the levels and longevity of them.
Primary target of Ritalin in the brain is a dopamine neurotransmitter. Patients who are prescribed Ritalin tend to have abnormally low levels of this powerful chemical. Dopamine directly influences human mood and behaviour, therefore replenishing the neurotransmitter to appropriate levels is crucially important. Ritalin helps to do that by blocking a protein responsible for dopamine’s transmission. It blocks the re-absorption of dopamine, which results in higher levels of it in the brain.
In addition, Ritalin helps to fine tune the functioning of neurons in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This area is mostly responsible for attention, decision making and impulse control. Ritalin appears to affect exclusively this area while avoiding the brain centres involved with over-arousal and addiction.
Benefits of Ritalin:
By far the most important benefit of Ritalin is the ability to treat the ADD and ADHD. It helps to improve attention span, concentration and focus in both children and adults. Reportedly, the drug helps with behavioural control, tasks organisation and even listening skills.
More recently Ritalin has become a popular cognitive enhancer with the reported effects on attention, intellectual capacity and memory.1 In fact, there are many surveys suggesting wide spread of Ritalin use among healthy college students.1, 2
As mentioned before, narcolepsy is another condition treated by Ritalin. The neurotransmitters, increased by the action of Ritalin, can help reduce the fatigue and lethargy, while increasing general awareness. Simply speaking, Ritalin helps the brain to stay awake by providing an effect similar to exciting or rewarding stimuli. So, effectively, the reward system of the brain is modulated by this drug.
“Apart from the effectiveness in treating conditions like ADD, ADHD and narcolepsy, Ritalin has also gained popularity as a “smart drug”, improving general cognitive functions.”
In fact, many of the prescription users will often find this as a positive side effect. In addition to to boosting levels of dopamine, Ritalin is understood to increase the levels of norepinephrine. This neurotransmitter functions alongside dopamine in increasing motivation and improving attention.
Ritalin also has the ability to act as a weight loss supplement. However, this benefit has only been observed in serious cases of obesity. As Ritalin is a stimulant, it increases heart rate and basal metabolic rate (BMR) as well as suppresses appetite. Effectively it works as a natural fat burner. Norepinephrine plays a very important role in this area by speeding up the metabolic rate, which can be compared to adrenaline. Obviously, maximal results of weight loss cannot be achieved without appropriate healthy diet plan and adequate levels of physical activity and exercising. Therefore, only a combination of three elements will lead to the best results.
Legal status of Ritalin in the UK:
Ritalin is a very powerful and effective drug. However, there have been a number of reports on its potential side effects (i.e., anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite etc.). Although some users obtain this drug without a prescription, it should only be used under direct supervision of a qualified medical professional. In fact, even if you have a prescription, it is a good idea to seek for alternative substances that do not exhibit as many negative side effects.
If not prescribed, Ritalin is a class B drug in the UK. Although, possession is not illegal police are allowed to search individuals who are suspected of making, supplying or importing it.
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Dosage of Ritalin:
Various doses of Ritalin have been used for different treatments throughout the years. At this time, the recommended dosage of Ritalin should be around 1 mg for 1 kg of body weight. So, if you are an average person weighing about 70 kg, it means that appropriate for you is 70 mg per day. Take it 30 to 45 minutes prior to a meal, so your body can absorb it effectively.
Side Effects of Ritalin:
Unlike true nootropic supplements, the use of Ritalin has been associated with a relatively large variety of side effects. The most common one is increased heart rate, which is attributed to its effects as a central nervous system stimulant. Other users have reported chest pain, fever, joint aches, skin rashes, hives and other problems.
Addictive nature of this substance possesses other potential health issues. It goes without saying that if you develop any sort of abnormal and/or painful side effects, you should immediately discontinue this drug and seek medical attention. It is recommended to speak to a qualified healthcare professional before taking Ritalin.
To those users who use Ritalin as a way to boost their concentration and energy, it is a good idea to look into the variety of alternatives among the nootropic supplements. A number of nootropics are proven to improve your focus, concentration and wakefulness, while avoiding the side effects of Ritalin and similar drugs.
- Busardò F.P. et al. 2016. From clinical application to cognitive enhancement: the example of methylphenidate, Curr Neuropharmacol, 14 (1), 17-27.
- Weyandt L.L. et al. 2016. Prescription stimulant medication misuse: where are we and where do we go from here?, Exp Clin Psychopharmacol, 24 (5), 400-414.
- Maier L.J. et al. 2015. Pharmacological cognitive enhancement in healthy individuals: a compensation for cognitive deficits or a question of personality, PLoS One, 10 (6): e0129805