It was 10:30 pm on a Sunday, and the phone rang. I hear crying and am on high alert. I recognise the voice; they’re panicked and need some help. This person had scored some cocaine, taken a key, and all went wrong. They had thrown up all over themselves. Their head was spinning. They were confused and hallucinating.

I managed to get them to a safe space, into clean clothes and gave them a sugary drink and some calming words.

When they felt better, they showed me what they had taken – it did not look or smell like Cocaine. This person is not a new user, has used for many years and has increased tolerance levels for Cocaine and alcohol. They told me their lips were numb, and it felt OK when rubbed on the lips, so they had no reason to think it was anything sinister.

I tested the last bits of the discarded bag with our Ketamine test. I was initially concerned that they may have been sold ketamine due to its presentation, but it wasn’t. There was no ketamine in the sample.

It turned out it was Ritalin.

What is Ritalin?

The test was a bright yellow. You’d think that Ritalin would be OK – that’s just medicine.

Ritalin, pharmacological name Methylphenidate, is a drug that acts on the Central Nervous System (CNS). But it is not Cocaine. And it can be perilous.

Like Cocaine, it’s classed as a stimulant. It has similar effects to amphetamines (Speed) and Cocaine. 

Ritalin (Methylphenidate) is prescribed for attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. It can help you to stay focused and can help to control behaviour problems.

Ritalin has been, and is, a drug that can be abused. Research has shown that exhausted college students have favoured Ritalin for its ability to help them stay focused when studying for their final exams. Previous studies have shown that 14% to 38% of US college students use stimulants without a prescription. In a recent study, the authors hypothesised that stimuli might change brain chemistry in profound and problematic ways, more evident in female subjects than in males.

Why Is Cocaine Cut with Ritalin (methylphenidate)? 

As with any drug cutting, it is done to increase your profit margins and sell a product that is not Cocaine but still charged at a premium. You can take people’s money for a premium product and sell them trash product.

Both methylphenidate and Cocaine work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain: they block the ability of the CNS to reabsorb dopamine once it is released.

Because they both work on the CNS, the user’s feeling is broadly the same, although when methylphenidate is used with Cocaine, it will increase the intensity and the length of the high. Good thing, right?

Not at all - by increasing the intensity and the high, you are also exponentially increasing the risks associated with using Cocaine. Methylphenidate, when used with Cocaine, can also increase the addictiveness of Cocaine.

The risks, dangers and side effects of Methylphenidate and Cocaine

Ultimately, death by a heart attack or stroke, but before you get there, you could have seizures, panic attacks, nausea and vomiting, dizziness and dry mouth, erratic behaviour, hallucinations and heart palpitations. Long term, if you don’t succumb to a stroke straight away, you increase your risk of a stroke or heart attack, risk severe clinical depression and anxiety, physical and psychological dependence, poor circulation and extreme weight loss.

Methylphenidate and Alcohol Use

We are all aware that excessive use of alcohol is risky by itself, can affect your mental health, and damage parts of the brain. Drinking alcohol whilst taking any stimulants can cause the body to absorb the stimulants a lot faster than usual, meaning that you are more likely to experience adverse side effects. 

The increased amount of stimulants in the body can increase your heart rate and palpitations. Using stimuli whilst drinking alcohol can make you feel less drunk, meaning you can keep drinking and drinking. Whilst this may be good for your bragging rights with your mates, this can lead to alcohol poisoning and, ultimately, death. Can I Drink Alcohol with Adderall, Vyvanse, and Other ADHD Medications? - GoodRx

Using methylphenidate and alcohol can increase impulsiveness and risk-taking behaviour. Due to the way Methylphenidate and alcohol work on our brain’s reward system. , we are willing to accept an amount of risk for a perceived reward. (for example, we are often willing to look like a prat to ask out someone we find attractive). When we take methylphenidate and alcohol, our Norepinephrine and dopamine levels alter.

This skews our risk/reward perception and causes an increase in risky behaviour – we are willing to take more significant risks for less reward. Another issue that needs to be examined is the difference between the sexes. There is a difference in the effects when men and women mix stimulants with alcohol. Women are typically at a higher risk due to lower body water levels than men. The alcohol will have a more powerful and long-lasting effect.

Staying Safe on Cocaine

Presumptive testing will help and support you in making a decision. Presumptive testing will show you if your coke is cocaine or has any adulterants like ritalin in it. They can tell you the purity and strength, and most importantly, they give you the information you need to choose if it’s safe for you to take. 

You have already chosen to take drugs. You’re not going to be convinced to stop by a horror story. There are plenty of those, and you are still game. So, choose to use a presumptive test; to stay safe, not to impact your mental health more than you need to, and above all, to help ensure that you wake up in the morning. 

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