DISCLAIMER: The following article addresses a powerful drug. Just because it’s easy to obtain legally, do not take it lightly if you decide to take it at all. I do not condone the use of methylphenidates or any drugs by anyone under 18 or anyone at any age for that matter. In fact, drugs are bad, you shouldn’t do drugs, MmmmmmKay?
The class of drugs known as methylphenidates include such brand names as Concerta, Tranquilin (European version), Focalin (dexmethylphenidate HCl ) and perhaps most famously: Ritalin (1,2,3). To make things easy, we’ll simply refer to this entire class of psychomotor stimulants as Ritalin. Otherwise known as “methyl, alpha-phenyl-2-piperidineacetate hydrochloride,” Ritalin is used primarily in the treatment of two (or three depending on how you look at it) medical disorders. For years Ritalin has been the “go-to” drug in the treatment of attention deficit disorder/ attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) –pretty self explanatory, and a secondary treatment (when other compounds aren’t efficacious) for narcolepsy: a neurological sleep-disorder that affects one’s ability to control sleep and wakefulness (2).
However I’m fairly confident that even if you or someone you know has either of these two medical afflictions, you could care less about how Ritalin is used to treat them. You’re thinking: “What can Ritalin do for me in terms of performance enhancement, body composition, or helping me w/ a neurological-boost?” As far as concentration and a “neurological-boost,” anyone who’s been on a college campus during midterms or finals can vouch for Ritalin’s effectiveness as a study and test taking aid.
Ritalin: Diet Coke?
The mechanisms by which Ritalin works its magic aren’t quite known. However structurally it’s quite similar to cocaine, which explains things a bit: Methylphenidate:
C14H19NO2; Cocaine: C17H21NO4(3,4). There are still distinct differences in the effects of both “Bolivian Marching Powder” and “Collegiate Studying Pills,” however signs of overdose, both lethal and non-lethal are strikingly similar: Increased heart rate and blood pressure with accompanying vasoconstriction, increased sweating, paranoid delusions, high body temperature (hyperthermia), and of course, addiction. However the list goes on (1,5). All of the above symptoms of overdose are also side effects of the drugs, to a much lesser degree of course. Many of these side effects are actually desired effects for many. Naturally, when experiencing any of the above effects to a small degree, you’re not going to be that hungry.
Over the last 20 years or so, Ritalin has gained popularity as a performance enhancer for everyone from computer programmers to power-lifters. Ritalin takes effect in about 40-60 minutes, and hits peak plasma levels roughly five hours after the initial dose. It is supplied in 5, 10, and 20 mg. tablets, as well as 20 mg, extended-release tablets. (1). The daily-dosing for adults ranges from as little as 10mg. a day, to 60mg. a day, depending entirely on other medications, drug sensitivity, age, and weight (5).
Clinically, Ritalin is only administered orally. One Canadian study showed successful responses in ADD/ADHD children using transdermal Ritalin (10), but unless you have access to methylphenidate powder, don’t expect any “Ritzy-Lipoderm-Ultra” anytime soon. Recreational use is another story. Ritalin has gained popularity with people crushing & snorting, shoving the pills up their ass, and even injecting it into their veins; a very bad idea due to the fillers and talc in the pills (don’t look for a reference on this one, just take my word for it). For the record, this advice isn’t akin to the “Well you shouldn’t do it but your 200 lb. animal can.” I’m dead serious: do not shoot Ritalin . ER doctors have seen too many cases of both lethal overdoses and stimulant-based psychosis from IV Ritalin use (5). Currently additives to prevent people from abusing the pills in this manner have been included in many companies’ formulations of both the regular and XR pills, including cornstarch, talc, and most effectively, Tragacanth: a dried, gummy, plant extract that “traps” the drug (1,5). However, gummy, waxy compounds melt, and then harden, and Ritalin is highly water-soluble and has a melting point of 224-226 ° Celsius.
If I may editorialize for a moment, it is a very, very bad idea to shoot Ritalin. Even if you have coffee filters and an assortment of Whatman® filtration accessories to remove every last additive and filler; (1), it’s highly addicting and can bring on a psychotic condition similar to “cocaine psychosis” much faster than oral or even intra-nasal use. Although hypothetically, if one were to use the drug intra-nasally, it would be a good idea to figure out some way of removing the above fillers, especially that pesky Tragacanth, which would just clog the sinus cavities and “trap” the full dose.
With all the warnings out of the way finally we can get down to brass tacks and what you really want to know: “How can Ritalin help me?” If you’d allow me a brief interlude, a little anecdote demonstrating that I know a good thing when I see it, perhaps we can clarify things a bit. About this time in 1994 I was a sophomore at some shit-bag high school in NJ. Baseball tryouts had just started. Another sophomore, John Doe we’ll call him, and I were the only two that were “enhanced” as far as I know. Being 16, I didn’t want to mess w/ AAS; turns out that was a good idea. My “Winnyfied” buddy had access to Ritalin, but didn’t want any because in his words, “If it doesn’t make you any bigger or stronger why take it?” –He wasn’t too bright.
Not only were he and I the only two sophomores to make the Varsity team, we were the only ones to do it in six years, and start from time to time. Needless to say the other players didn’t like us too much. In the locker room, John was exposed daily to the sounds of horse grunts: teammates mocking his obvious veterinary-steroid use. Me on the other hand, I flew under the radar. I only popped “da Ritz” during tryouts, before a game, and occasionally before practice just to turn the coaches’ heads. To conclude, I’ll just say I had an excellent high school baseball career, at least until I quit senior year; politics. OK, OK, by now you’re screaming: “Live out your sad-ass memories on someone else’s time, get to THE GOOD SHIT!” Well here it comes. I had a revelation after that first tryout on Ritalin. I was in the zone, heavily whenever it was racing through my veins. And no one had a clue. As it turns out, five years earlier a group of researchers had stumbled, quite deliberately onto the same thing.
Concentrate, Young Grasshopper…
In a double blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, 17 ADHD boys were studied during a baseball game while on methylphenidate therapy. The conclusion found that the drug had a beneficial effect during the game (4,). Keep in mind, this study was done on children, ages 7-9, with ADHD! Imagine the results if a similar study was conducted on amateur, college or even high-school ball players. There’s really no need, as plenty, especially amateur and pro competitors, already know about the little, yellow pill. I’d be willing to bet the ranch on it: McGuire, Sosa, Bonds and Co, all used and/or use some type of psychomotor stimulant, which I believe to be Ritalin. Why Ritalin and baseball, when it’s common knowledge that amphetamine is the king of performance enhancement. Not so for every sport. Most sprinters and distance runners would prefer modanafil (Provigil) to either Ritalin or any amphetamine. Why? Ritalin is a very sport-specific drug. A football player (maybe besides the kicker) would most likely prefer an amphetamine to Ritalin because of the aggression and ability to work through pain, not to mention the “jitters” wouldn’t be as much of a problem to them. An endurance-athlete would most likely prefer modanafil because of all the psychomotor or CNS stimulants, it raises heart rate and blood pressure the least.
Technically it’s not even considered a stimulant, but a “wakefulness aid” (1). Ritalin however, is almost tailor-made for sports that acquire only occasional or light physical exertion, such as: baseball or racing (any type of vehicular showdown). Hell I’d bet there are even a few golf pro’s and pool-sharks out there on Ritalin; not to mention professional gamblers. Ah yes, but this is a bodybuilding board, so: back to the question of the hour: What can Ritalin do for you?
Trying to Make Weight? Or Did You Just Forget To Eat?
Being as our brightest pharmaceutical minds aren’t quite sure how Ritalin works, and studies done on methylphenidates were never concerned about Ritalin’s fat-burning potential, so there’s no hard evidence of its ability to burn fat. However hard evidence of Ritalin’s ability to blunt the appetite is well documented (5,8,9). One study documented that a daily dose of 30mg. or more in adolescent children “significantly reduced caloric intake” (5), while a prominent book the American Psychological Association (APA) published on Clinical Psychology notes that therapy with Ritalin often helps overweight, hyperactive children reduce their appetites (9). The book did note however, the potential dangers of using CNS stimulants as weight-loss aids in overweight children. But lets face it, have you ever seen a clinically obese kid with ADH/ADHD?
Apparently, reduced caloric intake leading to stunted growth is such a problem in children and adolescents that many patients must adhere to special nutritional programs, and vitamin regimens using what is considered “pharmacologic doses” (8,9). The evidence of Ritalin’s appetite-blunting abilities, both clinical and anecdotal, exists in abundance on rats, mice, primates, and humans. To the untrained individual, be it a hyperactive child or a sedentary adult, Ritalin probably has the potential to eat away just as much (if not more) muscle as fat. However you are a trained athlete: knowledgeable in proper reduced-calorie nutrition and supplementation. Ritalin can be a valuable weapon to have in your arsenal. If you’re dieting down, Ritalin would most likely be best fitted for the beginning of a diet, when fat stores and appetite are high. Save the more potent drugs that actually burn fat or keep your hormones balanced for later. Of course Ritalin may burn fat on its own too. I haven’t seen it; I haven’t heard anyone raving on any message boards about it, and there’s been no specific studies on it either. Bulkers beware: although a low dose or Ritalin may help increase focus and eat a bit cleaner while still taking in a hypercaloric diet, it may not, and no evidence exists (as far as I can find), demonstrating any nutrient partitioning ability.
So What Have We Learned?
Ritalin will make you forget to eat: use this to your advantage, i.e. specifically timed, high-protein meals, and it can aid body composition (set an alarm if you have to). Disregard eating 5-6 small meals a day and you’ll be looking like an ugly Kate Moss in no time! Ritalin will increase focus in every sport/activity. However it will also jack up your cardiac output so all you tri-athletes may want to avoid it. I’ve heard of it being used in power-lifting, which I also think is a bad idea. If abused hard enough, it has the ability to make you certifiably insane for a day or two. There are also links to serious cardiovascular problems, including an increased risk of sudden death and heart attacks. In fact, an FDA panel is considering giving all methylphenidates the same “black box” warning that Adderall has carried since 2004; indicating a severe risk of potential health concerns (11). The key with Ritalin, as with every compound and even life in general, is moderation. I’ve talked to men in their late 40’s who still take Ritalin with no adverse effects, and I’ve talked to 21 year-old kids on message boards that have permanent heart damage from abusing the drug. The choice to use any substance, as well as the choice to abuse it, lies in your hands and no one else’s. Then again, so does the choice to pass on it altogether.
1. “Ritalin.” RxList. Online 21 February, 2006 Available: www.rxlist.com
2. “Sleep Disorders: Narcolepsy.” Web-Md . Online 21 February, 2006 Available: www.webmd.com
3. “Methylphenidate Vault” The Vaults of Erowid . Online 21 February, 2006 Available: http://www.erowid.org/pharms/methylphenidate/
4. “Cocaine Vault.” The Vaults of Erowid . Online 21 February, 2006 Available: http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/cocaine/cocaine_effects.shtml
5. “Personal Interview.” Dr. Jeffery Nahmias, Member, American Board of Sleep Medicine . Conducted by: Victor Lasato. 16 th February, 2002 .
6. Craig Rush, Et Al. “Behavioral Pharmacological Similarities Between Methylphenidate and Cocaine in Cocaine Abusers.” Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology . 9(1), Feb 2001, 59-73. O nline, 22 February, 2006 . Available: PsyINFO, www.apa.org
7. William E. Pellham, Et Al. “Methylphenidate and Baseball Playing In ADHD Children: Who’s On First.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 1990, Vol. 58, No. 1,130-133. O nline, 22 February, 2006 . Available: PsyINFO, www.apa.org
8. Sells, C.J. & B. Lucas. “Nutrient Intake and Stimulant Drugs in Hyperactive Children.” Journal of the American Dietary Situation . 1977 Apr;70(4):373-7. O nline, 22 February, 2006 . Available: PsyINFO, www.apa.org
9. Gathchel, Robert J.; Oordt, Mark S. “Obesity.” Clinical health psychology and primary care: Practical advice and clinical guidance for successful collaboration . 2003: American Psychological Association. Pp. 163. O nline, 22 February, 2006 . Available: PsyBOOKS, www.apa.org
10. Will iam E. Pellham, Et Al. “Transdermal Methylphenidate; Combined Treatment for Children With ADHD.” Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology 2005: American Psychological Association 2005, Vol. 13, No. 2, 111–126. O nline, 22 February, 2006 . Available: PsyINFO, www.apa.org
11. “FDA Panel: Put Special Warning Labels on Ritalin.” The Ocean County Observer . 10 February, 2004 . The Associated Press.