Can Ritalin Treat Depression?

Can Ritalin treat depression?  It’s often a reported side-effect of Ritalin that depression is actually causedby the focus drug.  But Ritalin shares a lot in common with anti-depressants like Zoloft, mainly that they both fall in the category of stimulants. It can be that sometimes someone who wants to treat ADD is also using anti-depressants.

Zoloft is the most commonly prescribed anti-depressant in the US

But there are risks mixing drugs.  One of those is causing oneself a hypertensive reaction:

Hypertensive reaction is a serious and urgent condition of elevated blood pressure. Possible symptoms include severe headache, tachycardia, fever, disorientation, sweating, dilated pupils, , blurred vision, visual disturbances, difficulty thinking, stupor, coma, seizures, chest pain, unexplained nausea or vomiting, and symptoms of stroke.

But like it was said above, Ritalin is a stimulant that can work like anti-depressants.  Specificially, Ritalin’s effect on dopamine production makes it ideal for prescription:

Ritalin works differently than most prescribed antidepressants. Most antidepressants affect serotonin or norepinephrine levels. Ritalin increases dopamine in the brain, a naturally occurring chemical which is directly linked to pleasure and happiness.

Often times the Ritalin is used to augment the effects of anti-depressants.  It’s not just that doctors want the effects anti-depressants will have on serotonin, but also Ritalin’s impact on dopamine.

Ritalin significantly increases dopamine levels in the brain.

In certain situations its use is more warranted, but they tend to be more extreme than stressful combinations of depression and inability to concentrate:

Stimulants should be considered in the treatment of any patient with depression. This class of medications may be particularly useful, however, in situations in which rapid recovery is essential. Psychostimulant treatment may be especially warranted when depression has led to poor nutritional intake in medically fragile patients, limited participation in crucial rehabilitation activities (e.g., poststroke physical therapy and occupational therapy), and impaired decision-making capacity during times when key medical decisions need to be made.

More research is coming out on the subject.  The possibility that Ritalin might work on its own to combat depression is real and something worth asking doctors about.  But a quick transition off other medications for anyone interested is usually not possible – anti-depressants are usually stopped gradually, even if switching to another one.

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