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Medical News & Perspectives
August 22/29, 2001

Pay Attention: Ritalin Acts Much Like Cocaine

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JAMA. 2001;286(8):905-906. doi:10.1001/jama.286.8.905

Washington—Advanced imaging research has answered a 40-year-old question about methylphenidate (Ritalin), which is taken daily by 4 million to 6 million children in the United States: how does it work? The answer may unsettle many parents, because the drug acts much like cocaine, albeit cocaine dripped through molasses (J Neurosci. 2001;21:RC121).

Taken orally in pill form, methylphenidate rarely produces a high and has not been reported to be addictive. However, injected as a liquid it sends a jolt that "addicts like very much," said Nora Volkow, MD, psychiatrist and imaging expert at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY. "They say it's like cocaine."

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