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Methylphenidate (meth-il-FEN-i-dayt)

Drug Class: Amphetamine-like Drugs

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Ritalin (Methylphenidate) is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It may help to stay focused on activities, increase ability to pay attention, and control behavior problems. It may also help to improve listening skills as well as organize tasks. Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant. It is also used to treat narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. Your doctor may prescribe this medicine for other conditions as well.

This medicine increases the amount of a chemical in your brain (dopamine). It also stimulates the cortex similar to amphetamines.

This information is for educational purposes only. Not every known side effect, adverse effect, or drug interaction is in this database. If you have questions about your medicines, talk to your health care provider.

How to Take It

Follow the directions that your doctor has given you. This medicine is taken orally and may be taken with or without food. Do not abruptly stop taking this medicine before talking to your doctor. Do not break, crush, or chew sustained-release forms. This medicine may cause a patient to have difficulty sleeping. It is recommended that this medicine be taken several hours before going to sleep or in the morning. Talk to your doctor about the best time to take this medicine.

Side Effects

Side effects that may occur while taking this medicine include:

  • nervousness
  • headache
  • fast heartbeat
  • excitement
  • fever
  • insomnia
  • stuffy nose
  • stomach ache
  • reduced appetite

Contact your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • growth suppression in children
  • chest pain
  • numbness or pain in fingers or toes
  • yellow skin or eyes
  • trouble breathing
  • sudden outbursts of words that are difficult to control
  • tarry, black stools
  • stroke or heart attack symptoms
  • fainting
  • mental or mood changes
  • depression
  • involuntary movements
  • seizures

Warnings & Precautions

  • Talk to your doctor before taking this medicine if you have a history of high blood pressure, seizures, or substance abuse issues.
  • Avoid certain foods¬†for about an hour before or after taking Ritalin that contain vitamin C, including fruits, juices, broccoli, strawberries, potatoes, and tomatoes. They can interact with Ritalin and make it less effective.
  • DO NOT share this medication with anyone. Methylphenidate may be habit forming.
  • Do not do any activity that requires alertness until it is clear you can perform these activities safely. This includes driving or operating machinery.
  • Older adults may experience certain side effects of this drug, especially weight loss, trouble sleeping, or chest pain.
  • DO NOT take this medicine if you have severe depression.
  • DO NOT take this medicine if you have Tourette’s syndrome, glaucoma, or severe tension, anxiety, or agitation.
  • Avoid alcohol while taking Ritalin. Alcohol can lead to harmful interactions and decrease the effectiveness of this drug.
  • For an overdose, seek medical attention immediately. For non emergencies, contact your local or regional poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Drug Interactions

Do not take this medicine if you have taken MAO inhibitors within the last 14 days. Ritalin may also interact with blood thinners and blood pressure medications, siezure drugs, and cold or allergy medications that contain decongestants.

Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new prescription or over-the-counter medicines.

Dosage & Missed Dose

Ritalin dosage depends on individual needs and responses. They should be adjusted by your health care provider.


Tablets: Typically taken 2-3x/ daily, 30 to 45 minutes before meals. The average dose is 20 to 30 milligrams a day. Some patients may require 40 to 60 milligrams, while others only need 15 milligrams per day.

SR Tablets: Last about 8 hours and may be prescribed in place of tablets. Must be swallowed whole.

Children (6 years and over)

Tablets: Typically start with 5 mgs, 2x/ daily (before breakfast and lunch) with gradual increments of 5 to 10 mgs weekly. It is not recommended to go higher than 60 mgs / day.

SR Tablets:  Last about 8 hours. Must be swallowed whole.

If you skip a dose, take your next dose as soon as you remember. If it is time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular schedule. Do not double doses or take extra medicine to make up for the missed dose.


Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (preferably not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed.


If you are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor about the risks versus the benefits of taking this medicine during your pregnancy. Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding. It is not known whether methylphenidate passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby.

More Information

For more information, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider, or you can visit this website, for additional information from the manufacturer of this drug.



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APA Reference
Psych Central. (2018). Ritalin. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018
Last reviewed: By Christine Traxler, M.D.
Published on All rights reserved.