How Does Ritalin Work in the Brain?

Stimulants are the most common type of medicine used to treat ADHD. They work by increasing the availability of certain chemicals in the brain, thus making the pathways in the brain work more effectively. It is reported that stimulants lessen ADHD symptoms in 70% to 80% of people who take them. Some examples of stimulants used in treating ADHD are:

  • Amphetamine (Evekeo)
  • Dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Adderall XR, Dexedrine, ProCentra, Zenzedi)
  • Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin, Focalin XR)
  • Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
  • Methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate, Methylin, Ritalin, Quillivant)

These drugs are said to ease ADHD symptoms in about 70% of adults and 70% to 80% of children. They tend to cut down on hyperactivity, interrupting and fidgeting. They can also help a person finish tasks and improve relationships.

As long as the medication is taken, people have a better attention span and better behavior. Even though there is some debate about whether social skills or performance at school gets better, there are many people who benefit from them.

How Does Ritalin Work in the Brain?

What is Ritalin?

Ritalin (methylphenidate) is one of the many popular nervous system stimulants that are commonly used to treat ADHD in adults and children. It’s a brand-name prescription medication that targets dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain to reduce common ADHD symptoms. Though Ritalin is a stimulant, when used in ADHD treatment, it may help with concentration, fidgeting, attention, and listening skills.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Trusted Source, about 6.1 million U.S. children ages 2 to 17 (or 9.4 percent of children) were diagnosed with ADHD as of 2016.

How Does Ritalin Function?

It’s hard to imagine a stimulant could help one concentrate. Exactly how is this possible? How does Ritalin work in the brain? It works because Ritalin influences both dopamine and norepinephrine activity in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects pleasure, movement, and attention span. Norepinephrine is a stimulant. Ritalin increases the action of these neurotransmitters by blocking their reabsorption into your brain’s neurons.

How Does Ritalin Help with ADHD?

Ritalin may make it easier for you to concentrate, be less fidgety, and gain control of your actions. You may also find it easier to listen and focus at your job or in school, but If you’re already prone to anxiety or agitation, or have an existing psychotic disorder, Ritalin may worsen these symptoms. If you have a history of seizures, this medication may cause more seizures, Also if you don’t have ADHD you will feel the stimulant working, it will get you high.

What Are Symptoms of Ritalin Withdrawal?

Ritalin, like other central nervous system stimulants, may be habit-forming. If you take a large dose, the quick rise in dopamine can produce a temporary feeling of euphoria. Taking Ritalin in high doses or for a long time can be habit-forming. If you stop taking it abruptly, you may experience withdrawal.

Symptoms of withdrawal include sleep problems, fatigue, and depression. It’s better to taper off slowly and under a doctor’s care. When misused, stimulants like Ritalin can cause feelings of paranoia and hostility.

Very high Ritalin doses used by addicted individuals can lead to:

  • Shakiness or severe twitching
  • Mood changes
  • Confusion
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Seizures

Treatment for Ritalin Abuse and Addiction

If you or a loved one are addicted to Ritalin or any other prescription stimulant, Garden State Treatment Center can help you get back on track. You’ve taken the all-important first step toward relief, and that’s what we want for you and your family.

We are a Joint Commission (JCAHO) accredited facility, which shows our commitment to continue elevating our standards and providing superior treatment for substance abuse.


  • How does Ritalin work in the Brain?
  • How does Ritalin help with ADHD?