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How is Ritalin different from cocaine?

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In large doses -- greater than what is typically prescribed for ADHD -- Ritalin does have effects similar to those of cocaine. However, researchers have found marked differences between the two drugs. One of the factors that leads to addiction and drug abuse is how quickly a drug raises dopamine levels. The faster dopamine levels go up, the greater the potential for abuse. One researcher found that Ritalin takes about an hour to raise dopamine levels in the brain, compared to only seconds with inhaled cocaine. The doses of Ritalin and other stimulants used to treat ADHD tend to be lower and longer-acting, which reduces the risk of addiction.

From: ADHD and Substance Abuse WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES: Molina, B. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, April 2007. Marshal, M. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2007. Goldman, L. Journal of the American Medical Association, April 8, 1998. Biederman, J. American Journal of Psychiatry, published online, March 2008. Biederman, J. Pediatrics, August 1999. Volkow, N. Arch Gen Psychiatry, June 1995. Volkow, N. American Journal of Psychiatry, November 2003. Johann, M. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, October 2003. Greydanus, D. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder across the lifespan: the child, adolescent, and adult. Disease-a-Month, February 2007. Levin, F. Alcohol & Drug Abuse: practical guidelines for the treatment of substance abusers with adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Psychiatric Services, August 1999. Mannuzza, S. American Journal of Psychiatry, April 1, 2008, published online. 










Smith, B. National Institutes of Health, 2002.

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari on May 20, 2018

SOURCES: Molina, B. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, April 2007. Marshal, M. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2007. Goldman, L. Journal of the American Medical Association, April 8, 1998. Biederman, J. American Journal of Psychiatry, published online, March 2008. Biederman, J. Pediatrics, August 1999. Volkow, N. Arch Gen Psychiatry, June 1995. Volkow, N. American Journal of Psychiatry, November 2003. Johann, M. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, October 2003. Greydanus, D. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder across the lifespan: the child, adolescent, and adult. Disease-a-Month, February 2007. Levin, F. Alcohol & Drug Abuse: practical guidelines for the treatment of substance abusers with adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Psychiatric Services, August 1999. Mannuzza, S. American Journal of Psychiatry, April 1, 2008, published online. 










Smith, B. National Institutes of Health, 2002.

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari on May 20, 2018

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What happens if someone develops a tolerance to ADHD medication?

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