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Methylphenidate better known in the UK at Ritalin is a psychostimulant drug approved for treatment of and other disorder.

Ritalin increases the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain through reuptake inhibition of the monoamine transporters. Ritalin has similarities to amphetamine, and though it is less potent, its pharmacological effects are even more closely related to those of cocaine.

Ritalin was first synthesized in 1944, and was identified as a stimulant in 1954.

Beginning in the 1960s, it was used to treat children with ADHD or ADD, known at the time as hyperactivity or minimal brain dysfunction (MBD). Today Ritalin is the most commonly prescribed medication to treat ADHD around the world.

Ritalin can be used for drug abuse. Like other stimulants Ritalin increases dopamine levels but at therapeutic doses the increase is slow and thus euphoria does not typically occur except in rare instances. The abuse potential is increased when Ritalin is crushed and snorted or when it is injected producing effects almost identical to cocaine.

Cocaine-like effects can also occur with very large doses taken orally. The dose however, which produces euphoric effects varies between individuals. Methylphenidate is actually more potent than cocaine in its effect on dopamine transporters. Ritalin should not be viewed as a weak stimulant as has previously been hypothesised.

The primary source of Ritalin for abuse is diversion from legitimate prescriptions rather than illicit synthesis. Those who use it to stay awake do so by taking it orally, while intranasal and intravenous are the preferred means for inducing euphoria. Ritalin has a high potential for drug dependence and addictive abuse due to its similarity pharmaologically to cocaine and amphetamines.

Ritalin's pharmacological effect on the central nervous system is almost identical to that of cocaine. However, cocaine has a slightly higher affinity for the dopamine receptor in comparison to Ritalin, which is thought to be the mechanism of the euphoria associated with the relatively short-lived cocaine high. Reports of users experimenting with mixing methylphenidate with caffeine and benzocaine to produce a powder for insufflation for an even more cocaine-like effect began to appear in the middle 1970s.

In the United Kingdom, Ritalin is a controlled 'Class B' substance (the same category as Cannabis), and possession without prescription is illegal, with a maximum sentence of prison.

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