Productivity Drugs: Methylphenidate Abuse

Productivity Drugs: Methylphenidate Abuse


Methylphenidate, sold by the trade names Ritalin®, Methylin®, Concerta®, has been a valuable tool in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well narcolepsy, depression, brain injury, cancer, pain, cognitive disorders and to treat patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection.1 A new trend has emerged with methylphenidate as it has found its way into the hands of individuals who neither suffer from ADHD nor any of the other issues it’s intended to be used for. From students to the person sitting in the next cubicle, you may even collaborate on projects together with one difference-they are working with an edge.

Methylphenidate is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant and works by increasing the amount of CNS dopamine. The increase not only stimulates, but also activates the motor inhibition system of the orbital-frontal-limbic axis thus resulting in the inhibition of impulsiveness. Abuse of methylphenidate has the pharmacologic properties and abuse potential similar to that of amphetamines and crack-cocaine.2 Individuals facing deadlines (i.e. students, professionals) use the drug to maintain concentration and wakefulness.

The question is why an individual would choose to abuse methylphenidate which carries some significant risks including: depression, suicidal ideations, aggressiveness, panic states, addiction, and toxicity.2,3 Abusers who regularly inject high doses of methylphenidate may experience a toxic state resembling acute paranoid schizophrenia and toxicity similar to other CNS stimulants.2 Consuming alcohol with methylphenidate can be a contributing factor in toxicity2. Practitioner, patient, parent, and consumer education is extremely important as is controlling prescription medications that carry such high abuse potential and risk.

Interested in reading more about other “productivity drug” abuse? Check out “Productivity Drugs: Adderall Abuse”


1. Challman TD, Lipsky JJ. Methylphenidate: Its Pharmacology and Uses. Mayo Clin Proc. 2000;75:711–721.

2. Morten, W.A., Stockton, G. G. “Methylphenidate Abuse and Psychiatric Side Effects. Prim Care Companion. 2000 October; 2(5): 159-164

3. McCormick RA, Smith M. Aggression and Hostility in Substance Abusers. Addict Behav. 1995;20:555–562.


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