Teen Adderall Addiction & Ritalin - Treatment Options and Help

Table of Contents

This Article Discusses the Following Topics: 

  • Short and long-term effects of Adderall and Ritalin use
  • Teen drug use statistics on Adderall and Ritalin
  • Signs of teen Adderall and Ritalin use
  • Effects of Adderall and Ritalin use on teenagers
  • Treatment options for teen Adderall addiction and Ritalin Abuse
  • Helps for teens addicted to Adderall and Ritalin
  • How to prevent teen Adderall addiction and Ritalin abuse
  • Alternative ADHD treatment options

Prescription drug misuse is on the rise, causing several teenagers to get addicted to medications such as Adderall and Ritalin. Parents need to cultivate an understanding of the risks and consequences of prescription drugs to help addicted teenagers get the right treatment and help. We will take an in-depth look at Adderall addiction and Ritalin abuse to help parents of teenagers addicted to them find the right drug treatment for adolescents. Let’s get started.

Understanding Teen Adderall Addiction and Ritalin Use

What are Adderall and Ritalin

Adderall (generically known as amphetamine or dextroamphetamine) and Ritalin (generic name, methylphenidate) are common ADHD drugs. Both prescription stimulants help people focus and concentrate when handling tasks. However, they differ in duration of effectiveness and how fast they work.

Side Effects of Adderall and Ritalin Use

The short-term side effects of Adderall include decreased appetite, weight loss, sleeping difficulties, headache, fever, stomach pain/upset, dry mouth, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, nervousness, and dizziness. Ritalin can cause increased heart rate, anxiety, confusion, agitation, insomnia, fatigue, decreased appetite, headaches, paranoia, chest pain, respiratory depression, and low/high blood pressure. Your teenage child should speak to a doctor if they notice such side effects from regular or prescribed usage.

Long-Term Effects of Adderall and Ritalin Use

The long-term effects of snorting Adderall include psychosis, seizures, stroke, nerve cell damage, and abnormal heart rhythms. In contrast, prolonged Ritalin use can cause apathy, disorientation, anorexia (due to excessive weight loss), suicidal ideation, alternative manic and depressive episodes, and signs of psychotic disorder such as delusions and hallucinations.

Risks Associated With Adderall and Ritalin Abuse

Ritalin and Adderall abuse can lead to addiction and fatal health complications such as heart and mental health problems. Teens can also overdose or suffer from a sudden cardiac arrest resulting in death.

Statistics on Adderall and Ritalin Use Among Teens

It is estimated that as of 2021, 1.8% of 12th-grade teenagers ( roughly 17-18 years) had already tried Adderall, with the number steadily decreasing from 2012, which had the highest reported usage. Another study done to estimate the annual prevalence of Ritalin use within grades 8,10, and 12 in the United States discovered that .5 percent of respondents had already used Ritalin within 2021 alone.

How Do Teens Obtain Adderall and Ritalin?

Here are some of the ways teenagers access these two prescription drugs:

  • Buying from friends
  • Buying from online stores
  • Obtaining from friends and family members

Causes of Teen Adderall Addiction and Ritalin Abuse

  • Family history of prescription drugs abuse
  • Negative peer pressure
  • Parental misuse or abuse of prescription drugs
  • Exposure to drug-infested environments
  • Social media pressure
  • Cultural and societal influences
  • Curiosity

Signs of Teen Adderall Addiction and Ritalin Abuse

Look out for the following signs if you suspect that your child is addicted to or abusing these two common prescription drugs:

  • Behavioral changes, such as extreme mood swings, irritability, changes in sleeping and eating habits, increased secretiveness, aggression, unusual excitability, and over-concentration
  • Physical symptoms and health issues, such as poor personal hygiene, excessive weight loss, dry mouth, skin problems, and frequent seizures
  • Neglecting responsibilities and relationships
  • Academic and financial problems like poor grades, unreasonable lack of money, truancy in school, and lack of participation in class and school activities

Effects of Adderall and Ritalin on the Teen Brain

Dopamine and Norepinephrine Release

These two prescription drugs can increase the dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain, given that Adderall is an amphetamine and Ritalin is methylphenidate. Dopamine creates a feeling of motivation as it controls the brain’s pleasure and reward centers.

On the other hand, norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that increases alertness and arousal, promotes vigilance, and helps form and retrieve memories. It can, however, raise blood pressure and increase heart rate.

Effects on Brain Development and Function

By increasing the dopamine levels in the striatum, both drugs improve the teen brain‘s motivation, action, and cognition functions. Studies have also shown that certain ADHD medications can positively affect the development of white matter in children or teenagers.

Relationship Between Drug Abuse and Mental Health Disorders

Most teens with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety tend to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, hoping to bear their symptoms and disorders. However, symptoms may worsen over time with increased drug use.

Some disorders can also cause brain changes that enhance the reward effects of drugs and substances, leading to frequent, prolonged use and subsequent addiction.

Long-Term Consequences for the Teen Brain

Prolonged usage of Adderall and Ritalin can negatively affect a teenager’s brain leading to disorders such as emotional changes/instability, anxiety, low/irritable mood, and panic.

Treatment Options for Adderall Addiction and Ritalin Abuse

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Types of Medications Used in Treatment

Common Medications used in addiction treatment include:

Detox Medications

  • Benzodiazepines- Reduce irritability and anxiety symptoms prevalent during detox.
  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone)- Reduces the severity of a range of symptoms
  • Clonidine- An anti-hypertensive medication that helps reduce cramps, anxiety, aches, sweating, and flu-like symptoms witnessed during detox.
  • Methadone- Helps manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings

Mental Health Medications

Co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety are prevalent in people with substance abuse disorders. Here are common medications used to treat such disorders :

  • Antidepressants such as Zoloft (for depressive disorders)
  • Mood stabilizers (for bipolar disorders)
  • Anxiolytics such as Buspirone( for anxiety disorders)
  • Stimulants such as Vyvanse (for ADHD)

How Medication-Assisted Treatment Works

Medication-assisted treatments use FDA-approved medications, counseling, and behavioral therapies to treat patients addicted to drugs and substances. It is highly effective in treating teen opioid addiction and can help sustain recovery.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Medication-Assisted Treatment


  • Decreases the potential dangers and legal consequences of illegal drug use
  • It helps relieve symptoms and manage cravings for safer withdrawals
  • Its counseling and behavioral therapy aspects help prevent relapse
  • Uses safe and controlled medications for increased treatment retention
  • Reduces death risk occasioned by overdose


  • The medications used can be abused or misused
  • Patients can overcome their addiction and pick up a new one
  • Patients may witness undesirable side effects owing to the powerful effects of the medications
  • It is quite expensive as it must be done in a certified specialized facility
  • It requires close medical supervision

Behavioral Therapies

Types of Behavioral Therapies Used in Treatment

Common behavioral therapies used to treat adolescent substance abuse include:

How Behavioral Therapies Work

In behavioral therapy, a mental health professional works closely with patients to help identify and change unhealthy and potentially-destructive behavior patterns. The different types of therapy under this umbrella focus on the patient’s current problems and how they can be changed.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Behavioral Therapy


  • It can positively impact brain physiology by transforming the neural pathway associations
  • Results are seen relatively faster
  • It gives the patient an esteem boost, making them feel more confident and comfortable in their skin


  • Finding a qualified cognitive therapist can be quite difficult. Fortunately, Key Healthcare facilities have licensed professional cognitive therapists and other mental health professionals ready to help your teenager overcome their prescription medication use disorder.
  • Patients must be fully invested and ready to do the work.
  • Modifying behavior and replacing negative thoughts and actions with new positive ones can take time.

Success Rates of Behavioral Therapies

It is estimated that around 75 percent of people who undergo cognitive behavioral therapy experience positive effects. A 2012 study on the efficacy of CBT discovered that it is most effective when treating disorders such as depression, substance abuse, somatoform, bulimia, general stress, anxiety, and anger-related disorder.

Support Groups

Types of Support Groups Available

Support groups available for teens with a substance use disorder include:

  • Community peer support groups
  • Psychoeducational groups
  • Skills development groups
  • Relapse prevention treatment groups
  • Expressive groups
  • Interpersonal processing groups
  • Cognitive-behavioral groups
  • Problem-solving groups
  • Culturally and community-specific groups

You can also encourage your teenage son or daughter in recovery to join the following support groups:

  • 12-step support groups like Pills Anonymous. Others include heroin anonymous, cocaine anonymous, marijuana anonymous, and crystal meth anonymous.
  • Non-12-step support groups like SMART Recovery, which focuses on self-empowerment; Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS), which takes a secular approach to recovery and Celebrate Recovery, a Christian-based support group.

Support groups available for family members include NarAnon Family Groups.

How Support Groups Work

Support groups hold regular empowerment and social support meetings, which can be done physically or online. Your teenage son or daughter will meet other teens in recovery who can hold them accountable.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Support Groups


  • They offer social support during difficult emotional times
  • People in recovery get to meet others like them
  • They promote accountability
  • They teach the requisite skills for conquering cravings
  • They help people in recovery develop a sense of purpose
  • They offer a safe space and community


  • Less confidentiality since they operate on a trust basis
  • Sharing one’s private challenges, such as a drug use disorder, can be intimidating for several people
  • Peer support group leaders are not required by law to undergo training or certification
  • Varying membership participation

Success Rates of Support Groups

It is estimated that 90% of people in recovery who regularly participate in peer support groups make it to two years without relapse and up to ten years without abusing substances. Here are additional statistics:

  • 75%+ of patients who attend addiction support groups report feeling an improved sense of community and connection
  • Participation in peer support groups reduces the chances of relapse by up to 25%
  • 85% of people in recovery who participate in peer support groups report feeling a sense of improved personal value
  • Most people who actively participate in support groups have higher chances of completing their entire treatment program

Help for Teen Adderall Addiction and Ritalin Abuse

Finding a Treatment Provider

How to Find a Reputable Treatment Provider

Before settling on a treatment provider, consider factors such as the types of teen treatment programs offered, available treatment and therapy options, location of the facility, available amenities, treatment cost, and the length of the program.

Key Healthcare offers teen partial hospitalization, residential treatment for teens, teen extended care, and residential therapy programs. We also use evidence-based treatment approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and dialectical behavior therapy to help your teenager overcome their Adderall and Ritalin addiction.

Lastly, we have top-notch amenities, such as well-equipped sober facilities for successful long-term recovery. Contact us by filling out our contact form or calling us at (800) 421-4364.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Treatment Provider

  • What is included in the initial assessment?
  • What programs does the treatment center offer?
  • Does the center have a detox component?
  • Are there personalized treatment plans?
  • Which payment options are available?
  • Are the staff members adequately staffed?
  • Are there aftercare support programs?
  • Does the center offer an extended care program?

Insurance Coverage for Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment can be costly, especially if your teen needs treatment center therapy or extended care. Confirm with your insurance company whether your plan covers mental health services and the types of mental health professionals you can see. Other important questions include:

  • The number of sessions covered
  • Whether you have to copay
  • The number of deductibles

We allow you to pay for up to 100% of your teen’s treatment costs using insurance in our facility. Kindly verify your insurance with us here.

Supporting a Teen in Recovery

Here is howa family can support a teen in recovery:

  • Help them keep their necessary appointments
  • Help them establish healthy habits such as good sleeping and eating routines
  • Create an environment that supports open dialogue
  • Safely storing prescription medications to reduce triggers
  • Establish boundaries and stay firm
  • Keep them accountable
  • Help them stick to their discharge plan

Preventing Teen Adderall Addiction and Ritalin Abuse

Education and Awareness Programs

Types of Programs Available

  • School education and awareness programs that sensitize students to the negative effects of drug and substance abuse.
  • Community awareness programs that target community members, including teenagers
  • College education and awareness programs

Effectiveness of Education and Awareness Programs

Studies have shown that teen drug abuse education and awareness programs have short and long-term effects. A 15-month follow-up study on a drug abuse prevention program focusing on social influences among high school teens reported a long-term effect on drug use knowledge immediately after the program, a short-term effect on drug abuse attitudes immediately after the program, and up to three months and a long-term effect on high-risk students positively opinionated about drugs after the program.

Safe Medication Storage and Disposal

Importance of Safe Storage and Disposal

Safe storage and disposal of prescription medications help keep your teenage child safe from accidental ingestions or medicine misuse, which can lead to addiction.

Best Practices for Safe Storage and Disposal

  • Store medication in secure drawers, cabinets, safes, or boxes. Ensure they remain locked at all times
  • Keep medicines in their original containers. Do not remove labels
  • Ensure that refrigerated medications are stored in a lockable box away from drinks and foodstuffs
  • Track the number of pills in pill packets and bottles
  • Safely eliminate drugs you no longer use through disposal kiosks, drug take-back day participation, and DisposeRx, among other safe options.

Risks Associated With Improper Storage and Disposal

Improper drug storage and disposal can lead to accidental ingestion or medicine misuse, which should be avoided, especially with teenagers and children around.

Alternative Treatment for Teen ADHD

Non-Stimulant Medication Options

Types of Non-Stimulant Medications Available

Non-stimulant ADHD medications are categorized based on their effects on the brain, For example, alpha agonists, like Clonidine and Guanfacine versus norepinephrine modulators like Viloxazine and Atomoxetine.

How Non-Stimulant Medications Work

Non-stimulant medications for teen ADHD do not include amphetamine or methylphenidate in their ingredients. Instead, they use different active ingredients that evoke similar effects on ADHD symptoms.

Atomoxetine, one of the most common non-stimulant medications, boosts the amount of norepinephrine secretion in the brain by blocking a norepinephrine-removal mechanism, leading to better signaling between different areas of the brain and nerves.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Non-Stimulant Medications


  • Non-stimulant medications such as Atomoxetine can work round the clock
  • They help reduce social and behavioral problems
  • They offer better treatment for motor tics in Tourette syndrome
  • They help reduce ADHD symptoms such as aggression and teenage impulsive behaviour
  • They act as an alternative for teenagers who do not respond well to stimulant medications or cannot tolerate their side effects


  • They take a longer duration to reach maximum effectiveness. For example, Atomoxetine may take up to six weeks
  • They may cause side effects such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and serious heart problems for people with heart diseases.

Success Rates of Non-Stimulant Medication Treatment

While prescription stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall have shown positive results in 70-80 percent of cases, the success rate of non-stimulant medications is roughly 50%

Natural and Alternative Remedies

Types of Natural and Alternative Remedies Used for ADHD

Possible natural and alternative remedies for ADHD include:

  • Zinc, magnesium, Iron, L-theanine, L-tyrosine, and fish oil supplements owing to their potential ADHD-combating benefits such as better brain function, enhanced focus, improved sleep quality, better emotional regulation, increased attention span, and improved memory
  • A dietary change for potential enhancement of gut and brain function, leading to the ultimate improvement of ADHD symptoms
  • Avoiding allergens that can worsen ADHD symptoms, such as certain food colorings
  • Increased physical exercise. According to a 2015 study, the benefits of regular exercise include better management of ADHD symptoms such as impulsivity, anxiety, hyperactivity, and social disorders in children. Adults also enhance their focus, relieve stress and improve impulse control through regular exercise, which helps in ADHD management.
  • Mindful exercises such as meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises
  • Therapy to understand how the brain works for better ADHD symptoms management. Recommended therapy options include cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies

Benefits and Drawbacks of Natural and Alternative Remedies


  • There are no dependence risks
  • There are no potential side effects
  • They have other health benefits
  • Most options require no or limited financial input


  • Lower success rates
  • Options such as therapy can be more expensive in the long run

Also, read: Basic tips for managing ADHD symptoms in teens


Parents need to recognize the warning signs of Adderall and Ritalin addiction in teenagers and help them find help. Addiction is a treatable condition, and with the right treatment and support, your teenager can still lead a healthy, productive, and long life. Please do not give up on your son or daughter when they need you the most.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Long Does Treatment for Teen Adderall and Ritalin Addiction Typically Last?

Treatment for teen Adderall and Ritalin addiction can last for 4-12 weeks, depending on the severity of the disorder and the treatment options used.

What Should Parents and Caregivers Do If They Suspect Their Teen Is Struggling with Adderall and Ritalin Addiction?

Look out for the signs of Adderall and Ritalin addictions discussed in this article if you suspect your teenager is addicted to them. If you are convinced, talk to them about it or send someone they feel comfortable around, and then reach out to our professionals for help through our contact form. We have several programs and services to help your teenager overcome their addiction.

What are Some of the Common Triggers for Teen Adderall and Ritalin Use?

Most teens turn to Adderall and Ritalin to get high and overcome the pressure to perform in school and due to peer pressure. Trauma, easy access, and parents who abuse prescription drugs can also push them into Adderall and Ritalin use.

What Are Some Common Co-Occurring Disorders Associated With Teen Adderall and Ritalin Addiction?

Common co-occurring disorders associated with teen Adderall and Ritalin addiction include anxiety and depression.

Is It Okay for Teens to Quit Ritalin and Adderall Cold Turkey?

Even though some people believe in the possibility of quitting drugs cold turkey, it’s not advisable since relapse rates are high. Allow your teenage son or daughter to get the necessary drug support and treatment to recover successfully.