Generic Name: Methylphenidate

  • What is this medication and its most common uses?

    Ritalin is a medicine used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Ritalin is also used to treat a condition known as narcolepsy (a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness). Ritalin is also available as Ritalin SR, which is an extended release tablet (a type of tablet that releases medicine into your body throughout the day).

    Ritalin is a federally controlled substance because it has abuse potential.

  • What should I know when beginning and continuing on this medication?

    Ritalin works by changing the amount of certain chemicals in your brain, thereby improving symptoms of ADHD and narcolepsy.

    What are the beneficial effects of this medication and when should I begin to have results?

    What: Ritalin is an important part of a total treatment program for people with ADHD that may include counseling or other therapies. Ritalin may help increase attention and decrease impulsiveness and hyperactivity in people with ADHD.

    When: Everyone responds differently to treatment, so try to be patient and follow your healthcare provider's directions. It is important that you take Ritalin exactly as your healthcare provider has prescribed.

    How do I know it is working?

    You may start to notice an improvement in your symptoms. This is a good indicator that your medication is working. Your healthcare provider may ask you questions from time to time to assess how well your medicine is working and to check for improvement of your condition.

  • What are the possible side effects of this medication?

    The following is not a full list of side effects. Side effects cannot be anticipated. If any develop or change in intensity, tell your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Only your healthcare provider can determine if it is safe for you to continue taking this medication.

    Ritalin is a federally controlled substance because it can be abused or lead to dependence. Keep Ritalin in a safe place to prevent misuse and abuse. Selling or giving away Ritalin may harm others, and is against the law.

    More common side effects may include: nervousness, sleeplessness.

    Less common side effects may include:

    Sudden death in patients who have heart problems or heart defects; stroke and heart attack in adults; increased blood pressure and heart rate with symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting.

    Mental problems with symptoms such as new or worsening behavior and thought problems, bipolar illness, aggressive behavior, or hostility. Children and teenagers may also begin to hear voices, believe in things that are not true, or become suspicious.

    Slowing of growth (height and weight) in children.

    Seizures, mainly in people with a history of seizures.

    Eyesight changes or blurred vision.

    Circulation problems in your fingers or toes, with symptoms such as feeling numb, cool, or painful, or changing color (such as from pale to blue to red).

  • Who should not take this medication?

    Do not take Ritalin if you are allergic to it or any of its ingredients.

    Do not take Ritalin if you are very anxious, tense, or agitated.

    Do not take Ritalin if you have glaucoma (high pressure in the eye), tics (repeated movements or sounds that cannot be controlled), Tourette's syndrome (a brain disorder characterized by tics), or a family history of Tourette's syndrome.

    Do not take Ritalin if you are taking an antidepressant medication called a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) (such as phenelzine or selegiline) or have taken any within the past 14 days.

  • What should I tell my healthcare provider before I take the first dose of this medication?

    Tell your healthcare provider about all prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medications you are taking before beginning treatment with Ritalin. Also, talk to your healthcare provider about your complete medical history, including if you have heart problems, heart defects, high blood pressure, mental problems (such as psychosis, mania, bipolar disorder, or depression), or a family history of these problems; tics or Tourette's syndrome; seizures; circulation problems in your fingers or toes; or have ever abused or been dependent on alcohol, prescription medicines, or street drugs.

  • What is the usual dosage?

    The information below is based on the dosage guidelines your healthcare provider uses. Depending on your condition and medical history, your healthcare provider may prescribe a different regimen. Do not change the dosage or stop taking your medication without your healthcare provider's approval.

    ADHD and Narcolepsy


    Adults: The average dose is 20 to 30 milligrams (mg) divided 2 or 3 times a day and taken 30 to 45 minutes before meals.

    Children ≥6 years: The usual starting dose is 5 mg twice a day (before breakfast and lunch).

    Ritalin SR

    Adults and children ≥6 years: Your healthcare provider will prescribe the appropriate dose for you or your child, based on your previous ADHD or narcolepsy medication.

  • How should I take this medication?

    Take Ritalin exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Do not change your dose or stop taking Ritalin without first talking to your healthcare provider.

    Swallow Ritalin SR tablets whole with water or other liquids. Do not chew or crush them.

  • What should I avoid while taking this medication?

    Do not start any new medicine while you are taking Ritalin without first talking to your healthcare provider.

  • What are the possible food and drug interactions associated with this medication?

    If Ritalin is taken with certain other drugs, the effects of either could be increased, decreased, or altered. It is especially important to check with your healthcare provider before combining Ritalin with the following: antidepressants known as tricyclic antidepressants (such as clomipramine, desipramine, or imipramine), blood pressure medications, blood thinners (such as warfarin), or seizure medications (such as phenobarbital, phenytoin, or primidone).

  • May I receive this medication if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

    The effects of Ritalin during pregnancy and breastfeeding are unknown. Tell your healthcare provider immediately if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

  • What should I do if I miss a dose of this medication?

    If you miss a dose of Ritalin, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the one you missed and return to your regular dosing schedule. Do not take two doses at once.

  • How should I store this medication?

    Store at room temperature.

Starting an Antidepressant?

Our 10-week newsletter series, written by a pharmacist, will help you learn about your medication.
Sign Up

Ritalin Related Drugs