Withdrawing from Ritalin is a horrifying and painful experience. Advice needed!

In this thread I mention my Sister in law is staying with my wife and I, sort of on vacation after being laid off. Anyway described how she had a panic attack last week, and how that ended her up in the Hospital. Well, we soon found that she is detoxing from being on Ritalin for the past ten years. As an adult with ADD I understand her pain, but she is experiencing some traumatic side effects from her withdrawl.
Severe Fatigue, Dizziness, light-headedness, and disturbed sleep. According to online stats she is experiencing everything quite normally, however that doesn’t make it any easier…She is seeing her own psychiatrist next week, and she knows she should not have quit the ritalin cold turkey…but she never knew she would actually go through such an emotional withdrawl.

Does anyone have any advice or anecdotes that may help in this matter? I feel so helpless, and my wife does as well. She is not having any of the more severe symtoms like psychosis or anything like that, she is just very lethargic during the day…She flies home next week…Any advice would be helpful, feel free to email if that is appropriate… Thanks all.

I’ve stopped taking Ritalin a number of times, all cold-turkey. I have no idea what you are talking about. If I’m in a position where I won’t be needing to concentrate well for a while, why waste money on taking the pills? I’ve never had an adverse reaction. Sorry.

Maybe you can tell her that you’ve misread the labelling and there aren’t withdrawl symptoms, and she probably has a bug she picked up from moving to a new location. The cold will pass over in a few days.

See how that works.

I also quit Ritalin cold Turkey with no adverse affects. And the reason I quit was because I started to abuse the drug, which is disturbingly like a mild form of coke.

Of course, every one’s physiology is different, but I also wonder if her symptoms aren’t from something else whose timing with ritalin withdrawl was coincidental.

Usual Caveats: IANAMD, YMMV, etc. etc.

Oh, and my sympathies with your situation I realize my post may not have been that helpful, but I think you should consider other factors, since two people now have quit Rit without symptoms

Best of Luck,

Well she had an anxiety attack a week ago, so much of this may be stress related. Also, I do not know how long either of you took the med, but she had been on it since she was 16, she’s now 27, no real gaps in taking it for 11 years. I had her see a psychiatrist friend of mine who corraborated with the withdrawl…he said many people taking ritalin or dexedrine etc…etc…for more than a decade or 5 years for that matter will get withdrawl symptoms. Those who take it intermittently should have little to no symptoms of withdrawl. Doc thinks she should have titrated herself off it, I tend to agree.

While withdrawals are often quite terrifying and traumatic experiences, they are also usually short-lasting. Most withdrawals, if I understand correctly, only last a few days to a few weeks. These problems should be transient; presumably, the biggest danger would be the urge to relapse.

Oh, and, yes, she should have titrated her dose off gradually. But what’s done is done.

Actually, she might still be able to do it; go back on it for a couple weeks just to ease back off of it. That’s a possibility. Have her discuss her options with her psychiatrist.

I agree with going back on for a bit. Never took it before, but hey, it is a stimulant. Lets just say, ALL stimulants are bad, bad, bad for kicking the habit. Well anyway, withdrawl symptoms are different for everyone. I’m not a doctor, but I think going on half a dosage for like 3 days, and then half of that for like 3 days, and if you can, break it in half again for 3 days. This would fix her emotional, and/or motivation problems. *Again, not a doctor.

IANAPsychiatrist, but I am an MD with ADHD, on Ritalin.

It’s hard to be “continuously” on Ritalin, since the regular form of the drug is in and out of the body in about 4-5 hours. Even if you’re taking it 3 times a day, there are about 12 completely Ritalin-free hours in there. So I have a hard time imagining that the body would react so disfavorably to not having Ritalin around.

Then again, I don’t have any experience with patients who have been on the drug for that long, nor have I myself. The bottom line, as usual, is to talk with your psychiatrist.

I remember Ritalin.

My stepfather (who is an asshat of the highest order, as well as a pathological liar) had been seeing a psychiatrist for a number of months for anxiety attacks. During this time, I had been having difficulty concentrating in my seventh hour math class.

Well, I don’t know what stepdad told his doc about me, but one day he came home with a bottle of Ritalin for me,* said the shrink said it would help with my concentration probs. It didn’t, but apparently it did tweak my brain in such a way that my parents saw a change they liked. Personally, I didn’t notice any changes in myself, I think that my parents simply expected improvement and started noticing my positive behavior more.

One day, I forgot to take it, (I was taking it once a day, go figure), took the usual dose the next morning, and during my fourth hour class, I started getting shakes and sweats, and generally the symptoms of a panic attack. Parents had to be called to take me home. Didn’t feel good the whole rest of the day. Parents decided, despite my protestations to the contrary, that I had taken a double dose to make up for the missed dose (anything bad that happened to me, they would make up a little story to make it my fault, especially if it wasn’t) I was on Ritalin until the end of the school year, then went off of it, and never looked back. Don’t remember any withdrawals, but then it was summer vacation, which meant that I didn’t have school-related stress factors to deal with on top of going off the drug.

I eventually traced my concentration problems to the fact that I had been trying to lose weight during that period of time, was not eating lunch, and therefore my blood sugar levels were too low for truly effective brain functioning.
*That is correct. My stepfather’s psychiatrist prescribed a powerful stimulant without ever having met, much less examined, me.

I’m with Dr J in that it seems very weird that she is suffering from a withdrawal from a med which works like ritalin.

You haven’t said why she can’t titrate down in any case. Is there concern that the ritalin played a role in the panic attack? Seems very unlikely after 11 stable years on ritalin. Why is she coming off the med in the first place? Can her psychiatrist prescribe something else?

She was told initially that simply stopping was fine, and that she had no reason to titrate off of it. The reason for getting off the drug was that she simply wanted to be a chemical free as she could. She is planning on getting pregnant in the next few years and she wanted to be off the stimulant.

I agree the sudden withdrawl symptoms are weird, I’m thinking she may be having some generalized anxiety going on which is behaving a lot like withdrawl symptoms. The general sympotoms of each are very similar