Ritalin is a branded pharmaceutical that was brought to market by the company, Novartis. The active component in Ritalin is methylphenidate, which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders, as well as narcolepsy, as cited by Drugs.com. DrugLib.com explains that methylphenidate excites the central nervous system, despite being prescribed to calm down millions of American children. Ritalin is abused by both children and adults, which leads to characteristic long-term effects.
Ritalin is considered a stimulant and classified as a schedule II drug, which is a controlled substance with strong potential for abuse. In molecular structure, biochemical reaction and clinical effects, methylphenidate is analogous to amphetamines and cocaine. A 2001 study published in the journal, "Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology," demonstrated that the physiological effects of cocaine and methylphenidate in Ritalin closely parallel one another. Essentially, Ritalin is a cheaper alternative to cocaine and abused for purposes of "getting high." And like cocaine, long-term use of Ritalin creates dependency and addiction.
The United States Drug Enforcement Agency has issued warnings about methylphenidate over the years and claim that it has a high potential for abuse and may lead to severe psychological and physical dependence. As Ritalin prescriptions have risen in recent years, 14.8 million in the U.S in 2008, so have the numbers of those addicted to it. Ritalin abusers usually prefer to snort it or inject it intravenously, although the body builds up a tolerance to methylphenidate with time, so larger doses must be taken to attain the same effects.
Ritalin is also prescribed to children and adults who suffer from narcolepsy, which is sudden episodes of dozing off, because it stimulates the brain much like amphetamines. Consequently, when Ritalin is abused by children or adults, sleep disturbance is a common long-term effect, according to DrugLib.com. The sleep cycle can become so disrupted by Ritalin abuse that insomnia develops, which partially accounts for the "zombie-like" behavior of the addicted.
According to "PDR Guide to Drug Interactions, Side Effects, and Indications," another long-term effect of Ritalin is experiencing negative feelings that can bring about personality changes. Feelings commonly experienced include nervousness, agitation, anxiety, irritability, aggression, depression and restlessness.
Less common, but more life-threatening long-term effects of Ritalin abuse include the cardiovascular system. Drugs.com notes that myocardial infarctions leading to death have been reported in connection with central nervous system stimulants, such as methylphenidate. Heart palpitations, increased heart rate and high blood pressure have also been noted. An increased risk of stroke and heart attack is associated with chronic hypertension.