Methylphenidate (Ritalin/Concerta) is Schedule II in the United States. This means it is illegal to sell without a DEA license and illegal to buy or possess without a license or prescription.
Addictive Potential: Medium
Emergency Room Visits Yearly: Unknown
Mandatory Minimum Sentence: Not more than 20 years in prison
Mechanism of Action: Increases the Neurotransmitters Noreponephine and Dopamine
Methylphenidate (MPH) is the most commonly prescribed psychostimulant and is indicated in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and narcolepsy, although off-label uses include treating lethargy, depression, neural insult, and obesity. In North America it is most commonly known as the brand name Ritalin, which is an instant-release racemic mixture, although a variety of brand names and formulations exist. Methylphenidate is a potent central nervous system stimulant derived from amphetamine, and is thought to exert its effect by increasing dopaminergic stimulation in the brain.
Brand names of drugs that contain methylphenidate include Ritalin® (Ritalina®, Rilatine®, Ritalin LA® (Long Acting), Attenta®, Concerta® (a timed-release capsule), Metadate®, Methylin® and Rubifen®. Focalin® is a preparation containing only dextro-methylphenidate, rather than the usual racemic dextro- and levo-methylphenidate mixture of other formulations.
A newer way of taking methylphenidate is by using a transdermal patch (Daytrana®), similar to those used for birth control and nicotine release.
|Mandelin Reagent||Marquis Reagent||Simon’s Reagent|
|Methylphenidate HCl||Brilliant orange yellow||Moderate orange yellow||Pale violet|
(Info provided by DOJ, 2014)
Methylphenidate is a drug of abuse. Methylphenidate like other stimulants increases dopamine levels but at therapeutic doses the increase is slow and thus euphoria does not typically occur except in rare instances. The abuse potential is increased when methylphenidate is crushed and snorted or when it is injected producing effects almost identical to cocaine. Cocaine like effects can also occur with very large doses taken orally. The dose however, which produces euphoric effects varies between individuals. Methylphenidate is actually more potent than cocaine in its effect on dopamine transporters. Methylphenidate should not be viewed as a weak stimulant as has previously been hypothesised. The primary source for methylphenidate for abuse is diversion from legitimate prescriptions rather than illicit synthesis. Those who use to stay awake do so by taking it orally, while intranasal and intravenous are the preferred means for inducing euphoria. IV users tend to be adults whose use may cause panlobular pulmonary emphysema.
Methylphenidate has a high potential for drug dependence and addictive abuse due to its similarity pharmaologically to cocaine and amphetamines. Abuse of prescription stimulants is higher amongst college students than non-college attending young adults. College students misuse methylphenidate either as a study aid or to stay awake longer. The increased alcohol consumption due to stimulant misuse has additional negative effects on health.
Methylphenidate pharmacological effect on the central nervous system is almost identical to that of cocaine. Studies have shown that the two drugs are nearly indistinguishable when administered intravenously to cocaine addicts. However, cocaine has a slightly higher affinity for the dopamine receptor in comparison to methylphenidate, which is thought to be the mechanism of the euphoria associated with the relatively short-lived cocaine high. Controversy has surrounded whether methylphenidate is as commonly abused as other stimulants with many believing that its rate of abuse is much lower than other stimulants. However, the majority of studies assessing its abuse potential and drug liking scores have determined that it has a similar abuse potential as cocaine and amphetamine. Reports of users experimenting with mixing methylphenidate with caffeine and benzocaine to produce a powder for insufflation for an even more cocaine-like effect began to appear in the middle 1970s; this is apparently an incrementation upon a mixture known as Toot containing phenylpropanolamine, caffeine, and benzocaine in the search for legal highs. As moderate doses of cocaine have caffeine-like effects and benzocaine produces a slight stimulant effect of its own perhaps 5 per cent the strength of cocaine with a ceiling in that range, the mixture is reported to have at least some of the sought effects.
Effects of Long-term Ritalin Use (pdf) – K. Cole (2007)