Is Methylphenidate Anything Like Cocaine?

2 min read · 3 sections

Methylphenidate Vs. Cocaine

Methylphenidate is the active ingredient in two major drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Ritalin and Concerta. Ritalin is the immediate-release form of methylphenidate, whereas Concerta is the extended-release form of the drug.

Methylphenidate is classified as a central nervous system stimulant or psychostimulant medication. It is a Schedule II controlled substance. Methylphenidate also has other medicinal uses that include treating narcolepsy and addressing other conditions, such as promoting wakefulness and helping with appetite control or weight loss.

Cocaine is a substance that is processed from the coca plant. It is also classified as a central nervous system stimulant drug and still has some medicinal uses, particularly as an anesthetic for dental surgery. Although cocaine is most often recognized as an illicit drug, it is actually a controlled substance in the same category as methylphenidate because of its potential medicinal uses. Unlike methylphenidate, cocaine is not prescribed to private individuals; instead, its use is limited to clinics and hospitals.

Are Methylphenidate and Cocaine Alike?

Drugs that are classified in the same category (psychostimulants or central nervous system stimulants) share numerous similarities, or they would not be classified in the same general category.

On a very basic level, all psychostimulants affect the functioning of the nervous system, such that they speed up its functioning. The general effects of these drugs include increasing attention, boosting awareness, amplifying energy, lessening appetite, and reducing the need for sleep. Other similarities include:

Is Methylphenidate Safer than Cocaine?

It appears that the effects of cocaine are experienced more rapidly in the brain than the effects of methylphenidate, although snorting methylphenidate in the manner that cocaine is snorted increases its onset of action. Despite the method of use, methylphenidate appears to be eliminated from the system a bit more slowly than cocaine, making it less likely to produce physiological dependence when compared with cocaine.

The level of euphoria that is obtained with medicinal doses of methylphenidate is negligible (comparable to the use of coffee). When misused in larger amounts and in a manner similar to cocaine, the drug produces similar effects, which is why methylphenidate is a controlled substance.

However, when used as prescribed, a substantial body of research indicates that when children are treated for ADHD with stimulant medications, the risk of them developing later substance use issues is significantly decreased as opposed to being increased.1

Prescription medications are designed to address specific disorders. Many prescription medications that have useful medicinal properties can be misused, and this is an unfortunate ramification of the development of pharmaceuticals for the treatment of serious disorders and diseases.

Even though methylphenidate and cocaine share similar properties, they are not the same drug. Methylphenidate and even cocaine can be useful medicinally, but when misused, they can produce serious, even dangerous effects.

If you or a loved one struggle with methylphenidate or cocaine addiction—or another substance—reach out to American Addiction Centers at . One of our knowledgeable and compassionate admissions navigators can listen to your story, explain your options, answer your questions, and help you begin your path to sustained recovery.

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