Methylphenidate Side Effects

Medically Reviewed

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number of children and teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is 6.1 million, of which the data was derived from the 2016 National Parent Survey.

The survey provided additional information about children and teens with ADHD:

  • 64 percent had another mental, emotional or behavioral disorder
  • 52 percent had a behavioral or conduct problem
  • 33 percent had anxiety
  • 17 percent had depression
  • 14 percent were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder
  • 1 percent were diagnosed with Tourette syndrome

ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorders, and methylphenidate is one of the most common medications prescribed worldwide for ADHD. Studies have shown that it is effective in decreasing the symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Methylphenidate (trade name Ritalin, among others) is a medicine that has been commonly prescribed to treat the symptoms of ADHD. It is an effective drug and one that is known to be less addictive than its competitor Adderall. However, methylphenidate also has side effects, which people should be aware of should they occur.

What Is Methylphenidate?

Methylphenidate is a stimulant that works in the central nervous system (CNS) of people with ADHD. It affects chemicals

in the brain and nerves that partially contribute to impulse control, hyperactivity, and poor focus.

The neurotransmitters in the brain, dopamine, and norepinephrine, are affected by methylphenidate.  Dopamine influences pleasure, attention span and movement, and norepinephrine is a stimulant. Methylphenidate boosts action of these two by blocking the reabsorption in the neurons in the brain.

Chemicals in these two transmitters increase slowly, which is why physicians typically start a patient on the lowest dose possible and increase it in small amounts if needed.

Methylphenidate might make it easier for people with ADHD to better control their actions, listen better to instructions, focus better at school or work, and be less fidgety.

Side Effects

Methylphenidate can produce some short-term side effects, which may or may not manifest for every person taking the medication.  The most commonly reported are:

  • Decreased appetite with possible weight loss
  • Jitteriness
  • Irritability
  • Stomach upset
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Constipation
  • Trouble falling asleep

It is essential to know that the higher the dose, the more likely someone will feel side effects from the medicine. If someone takes a high dose, they may experience these side effects:

  • Mood changes
  • Confusion
  • Shakiness or twitching
  • Seizure

Uncommon Side Effects

Uncommon side effects may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Talking, feeling and acting with excitement
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Hair loss

If you are worried that you or someone you care about is struggling with the side effects of methylphenidate, please contact the prescribing doctor to seek assistance in managing the symptoms. If methylphenidate is being abused for any reason, seek guidance from an addiction specialist or health care provider.

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