What is Ritalin?

Ritalin is a stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It affects the parts of the brain and central nervous system that control hyperactivity and impulses. Ritalin is one of the trade names for the drug known as methylphenidate. Other brand names can include Concerta, Methylin, and Metadate. 

When did the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve Ritalin in the United States?

Methylphenidate was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1955 for treating what was then referred to as hyperactivity.

Is there a generic version of Ritalin available?

Yes, the generic name for Ritalin is methylphenidate and is for purchase in the United States. Some users have argued that the generic version may be weaker than the brand name version.

Are there any major differences between Ritalin and Adderall?

There are a lot of similarities between the two medications. Both drugs are stimulants used to treat ADHD, and both are habit-forming and classified as Schedule II controlled substances.  Therefore, if you have a history of substance use problems, you should talk to your doctor about this before taking either medication. As far as differences, Ritalin comes in three formats: instant release (lasting 3-4 hours), sustained release (lasting 6-8 hours), and long-acting (lasting 8 hours). Adderall comes in two formats: instant release (lasting 4-6 hours) and extended release (lasting 12 hours).

Can children take Ritalin?

Children over the age of 6 may be prescribed Ritalin for ADHD. They should take the medication in the exact amount prescribed by their doctor. It’s also important to tell your child’s doctor about other medication complications or past substance use history.

Article continues below

Concerned about ADHD?

Take our 2-minute Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder quiz to see if you may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.

Take ADHD Quiz

How do you initiate Ritalin therapy?

Talk to your doctor about whether you are a good fit for the medication. Also, always take medication in the exact amount prescribed by your doctor. There are many different dosage strengths, depending on whether you are taking immediate release tablets, sustained release tablets, or extended release capsules.

Are there potential interaction issues for people taking Ritalin and any other drugs? 

Do not take Ritalin if you have taken an MAO inhibitor in the past two weeks, as a dangerous interaction effect could occur. There are also hundreds of drugs which are known to interact with Ritalin in major, moderate, or mild ways, so let your doctor know what other medications you are taking before you begin Ritalin therapy.

Are there any other medical conditions that would make someone ineligible for Ritalin therapy?

You should not take Ritalin if you are allergic to the medication. Also if you have glaucoma, Tourette’s symptoms, a history of muscle tics, you should not take Ritalin. The drug can also make symptoms of severe anxiety or agitation even worse. Also talk to your doctor if you have heart problems, high blood pressure, seizures, circulation problems, a history of mental illness such as depression or bipolar disorder, or a history of substance use problems.

What is the typical dose that would be prescribed to someone taking Ritalin?

Dosage varies depending on the type of tablet (instant, sustained, or long-acting) as well as the age of the recipient and the condition being treated (ADHD or narcolepsy).

How long does it usually take for Ritalin to work?

Timing of effects depends on the type of tablet (instant, sustained, or long-acting) as well as the dosage. The quick release version takes typically 30 to 45 minutes for the effects to begin, and effects can last for up to eight hours.

What do I do if I miss a dose?

If it’s later than 6 p.m., skip the dose. If it’s before 6 p.m., take the dose when you remember. However, you should never take extra doses of the medication to make up for missed doses.

What are Ritalin’s side effects?

These are the most common side effects reported by people who take Ritalin:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • insomnia
  • decreased appetite
  • dry mouth.

Major side effects should be reported to your doctor immediately, and can include fast heartbeat, joint pain, rash, fever, black stool, blood in urine, blurred vision, muscle cramps, vocal outbursts, unusual bruising, or flaking of the skin. You can also report them to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or online.

Are there any psychiatric side effects that come from taking Ritalin?

People who take Ritalin may experience anxiety and irritability.

Is it safe for a woman who is pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or nursing, to take Ritalin?

There are no controlled studies on human pregnancy and Ritalin, and the drug is only recommended during pregnancy when the benefits outweigh the risks. The drug can also be transferred via breast milk in small amounts. Therefore talk to your doctor if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are nursing before you take Ritalin.

Can symptoms occur if Ritalin is discontinued?

Ritalin withdrawal symptoms can start a few hours after stopping the medication and last for up to several months. Symptoms can include changes in heart rate, depressed mood, fatigue, nausea, nervousness, nightmares, and agitation. Talk to your doctor if symptoms persist.

If taken in overdose, is Ritalin toxic?

An overdose of Ritalin could be fatal, so seek immediately help or call the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 if you overdose. Overdose symptoms can include vomiting, muscle twitches, flushing, dry mouth, fever, seizures, wide pupils, uncontrollable shaking, confusion, agitation, sweating, hallucinating, headaches, toxic psychosis, and loss of consciousness,

Is Ritalin habit-forming?

Ritalin can be habit-forming as users may develop a tolerance to the drug over time. Sometimes the drug is abused by students to concentrate for longer periods of time. Make sure that you keep track of the medication and never take more than prescribed. It is illegal to give or sell the medication to others. Talk to your doctor if you have a past history of substance dependence before you begin Ritalin Therapy.

 How much does Ritalin cost?

According to drugs.com, one hundred 5 mg Ritalin tablets costs approximately $76.

Are there any disadvantages to Ritalin?

Disadvantages include the observation that 25% of people who take the mediation may respond to the drug. Also, because the drug is habit-forming, there is risk for abuse and overdose.


DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein should NOT be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or other health care provider.  This article mentions drugs that were FDA-approved and available at the time of publication and may not include all possible drug interactions or all FDA warnings or alerts. The author of this page explicitly does not endorse this drug or any specific treatment method. If you have health questions or concerns about interactions, please check with your physician or go to the FDA site for a comprehensive list of warnings.


Last Updated: Feb 21, 2018