Drug overdose deaths are on the rise over the past few year, most of which is due to the prevalence of opioids. However, there are a number of other substances that contribute to the 72,000 annual drug deaths in the United States. For example, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine were a few of the top drugs of abuse in 2017 that led to tens of thousands of drug deaths.
Methamphetamine specifically caused over 10,700 drug overdose deaths in 2017. The drug has seen a spike in its use and abuse in the last few years and has more than doubled in deadliness since 2014. And, while it may be less lethal than methamphetamine, methylphenidate is a prescription medication that can still have serious health risks. These two drugs are part of a group of substances called psychostimulants.
In some states, such as Nevada or Oklahoma, the problem with psychostimulants is more severe than others. Psychostimulants, like Ritalin or methamphetamine, can affect the dopamine levels in the body, incorrectly influencing the reward system in the body and brain, making it more likely to lead to addiction.
Methylphenidate is a stimulant most commonly used to treat attention-deficit disorders (ADD/ADHD) in children. It is also used for narcolepsy. Methylphenidate is most commonly referred to by its brand name, Ritalin. Methylphenidate blocks the dopamine uptake in the neurons by blocking dopamine transport and carrier proteins, essentially filling the brain with more dopamine. The drug acts at the brainstem and causes increased activity in the central nervous system.
One study of the drug published in the British Medical Journal, found that after an hour of being given the drug, patients saw the dopamine levels in their brains increase significantly.
“The drug seems to raise levels of the hormone by blocking the activity of dopamine transporters, which remove dopamine once it has been released,” the study said.
The reason the drug is effective for ADD is because those with the disorder may have too many dopamine transporters which results in low levels of dopamine in the brain. By blocking the transporters, methylphenidate seems to keep dopamine levels high. According to Drug Enforcement Agency information, methylphenidate is most closely related to cocaine, as it binds to the same receptor sites as cocaine in the brain and produces similar effects.
There are a number adverse and desired effects that come from using Ritalin, a lot of which are similar to other stimulants and amphetamines. There are a number of short-term effects that come from using Ritalin, some effects include:
- Appetite suppression
- Nausea and vomiting
- Irregular heartbeat
- Fever and sweating
Long-term effects of therapeutic doses are not fully known and need to be researched more, however, according to the University of Maryland, there are some studies that long-term use of the drug may suppress growth in height and weight.
According to the BMJ study, methylphenidate and Ritalin are not normally addictive when used as recommended. However, the drug has high potential for abuse due to the nature of the drug and its effect on people that have normal levels of dopamine in the brain.
Abusers of the drug will generally begin to develop a tolerance to the effects, and can soon start to use more to try to overcome the tolerance. Chronic heavy use of the drug can lead to a physical dependence that comes with withdrawal symptoms including exhaustion and emotional depression. Abusers who experience psychological dependency from the drug may experience cravings and feelings of panic if the drug is not readily available.
Besides addiction, there are also a number of ways that the drug is misused among the population that can eventually lead to addiction. One of the common ways the drug can be misused is by taking the medication more frequently or in higher doses than it was originally prescribed. Taking someone else’s medication is another way that people commonly abuse the drug, and other prescription drugs for that matter.
Repeated misuse of the drug, even in a short period of time can lead to health problems such as psychosis, anger, and paranoia.
It is possible to overdose on Ritalin and doing so can lead to disastrous health consequences and even death in some cases. Knowing what an overdose on methylphenidate looks like and what you should do if you see it is important.
Some common symptoms during an overdose include:
- Uncontrollable shaking of the body
- Irregular heartbeat
There are a few things that should be done if you are seeing someone experiencing an overdose on methylphenidate. The first, and most obvious, thing to do is contact emergency services to get help. While waiting for first responders to show up, you should be protecting the person against self-injury. If someone is experiencing an overdose, first responders will generally try to stabilize the patient, make sure that their airway is working properly and is protected, and, in some cases, work to maintain adequate circulation in the body.
History of Methylphenidate and Ritalin
First synthesized in 1944, the Ritalin formula was further improved in 1950. Eventually, in 1957, Ciba Pharmaceutical Company began marketing the drug as Ritalin.
Research on the therapeutic value of the drug began in the 1950s and in the 1960s began to focus more on how it can be used to help with ADD. The use of Ritalin as a form of treatment for the disorder steadily increased in the 1970s and 1980s, but the drug’s popularity would soon skyrocket.
Between 1991 and 1999, Ritalin sales increased in the United States by 500 percent. The United Nations estimates that the United States produces and consumes up to 85 percent of the world’s production of Ritalin.
Methamphetamine, like methylphenidate, is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system in the body. It is a highly addictive drug that user will smoke or inject for a brief and intense high or rush. Meanwhile, oral ingestion or snorting produces a longer-lasting high that can sometimes last for as long as half a day.
Methamphetamine has become one of the primary drugs that drug cartels below the border are manufacturing and distributing throughout the United States. According to DEA data, there are a number of other clandestine meth manufacturers in the country, however they are generally on a much smaller scale than the drug traffickers in Mexico.
Similar to methylphenidate, methamphetamine increases the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors.
Some common effects that methamphetamine has on the body include:
- Increased physical activity
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
- Irregular heartbeat
- Increased blood pressure
Chronic use of the drug can lead to other dangerous effects, including:
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug. Because the use of methamphetamine increases the amount of dopamine, and influences the reward system in the brain, it is easy to become addicted to this drug.
Chronic use of the drug can lead to an increased tolerance for methamphetamine and can cause users to take more of the drug in order to feel the sensations that they crave. Similarly, taking more of the drug can intensify the effects, which can cause users to change their dosage frequency and method of intake to seek the desired effects.
There are a number of withdrawal symptoms that can take effect when people stop using, some of them include:
- Severe Depression
Using methamphetamine is obviously already harmful to the body, but high doses of the drug can be deadly. Methamphetamine, when used in excess can cause the body to elevate to dangerous temperatures that can lead to convulsions, cardiovascular collapse, and, eventually, death. Overheating of the body can also lead to strokes, heart attacks, and multiple organ problems, such as kidney failure.
Because methamphetamine can often lead to serious health risks like stroke or heart attacks, first responders are trained to treat overdose by restoring blood flow to parts of the brain and heart.
History of Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine was first synthesized before the early 1900s and was used unregulated as a nasal decongestant, to enhance alertness, and for weight loss. It was used by the armed forces during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The United States first started experiencing a high abuse rate of the drug in the 1960s, and the southwestern and west coast states reported the highest prevalence of abuse from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Since then the popularity of the drug has fluctuated over the years but has been on the rise since 2011.
Case Study: Oklahoma
In March of 2018 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a study that looked at a number of states to see what drugs specifically had caused overdoses. The study examined drug overdose deaths between 2015 and 2016 and found that Oklahoma had the second highest overdose rates for a class of drugs known as psycho-stimulants. Psycho-stimulants is a blanket term that is used to refer to drugs like methamphetamine, ecstasy and Ritalin. The study found that psycho-stimulants killed 199 people in 2015 and 263 in 2016.
According to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, methamphetamine's specifically are one of the most deadly substances in the state, second only to oxycodone. From 2007 to 2016, methamphetamine's killed over 1300 people in the state, meaning that the drug was present in over 19 percent of all unintentional drug deaths during this period.
How Inpatient Rehab Can Help
While at times it may seem like there is no way to break free from the control that drugs can have on your life, treatment is always an option that is available. There are many treatment facilities across the country that can help with each specific case of drug or alcohol addiction.
Many rehabilitation facilities will offer patients drug and alcohol detoxification services to help them deal with the withdrawal symptoms that will inevitably come from their stopping drug or alcohol intake.
Following drug detox, many treatment facilities have an inpatient, or residential, care option available to patients to provide them with the motivation and support that they will need to maintain sobriety. During inpatient treatment, patients will generally be exposed to a number of individual and group therapy sessions designed specifically designed to help them overcome urges, educate them on the risks of drug and alcohol addiction, and help them build a network of support for them to use to
One common type of therapy that is used by many facilities is cognitive-based therapy (CBT). This is an individual therapy in which the patient and counselor try to identify some of the triggers that may cause feelings or urges to use again. After learning and understanding these triggers more, therapists will help patients learn coping methods and other tools that they can use to overcome these urges and, hopefully, avoid relapses.
Some other types of therapy that patients may be exposed to include:
- Support groups
- Family therapy
- SMART Recovery
During residential treatment, patients will also have time to socialize regularly with other patients and support staff during meals and activities that are available to them.
Oklahoma is one of the many states across the nation that has become a victim to the drug epidemic that has had such a severe effect on the United States in recent years. Psycho-stimulants are one class of drug specifically that have contributed to hundreds of drug overdoses in the state. At Landmark Recovery, we can offer patients a path forward to help them overcome their addictions. If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from some type of substance abuse problem, please reach out to the Landmark admissions team today to learn about specific drug and alcohol rehab treatment plans.