Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a central nervous system stimulant. It affects chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control.
Ritalin is used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Ritalin is also used in the treatment of a sleep disorder called narcolepsy (an uncontrollable desire to sleep). When given for attention deficit disorders, Ritalin should be an integral part of a total treatment program that may include counseling or other therapies.
Ritalin may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.
Do not take Ritalin if you have used an MAO inhibitor such as furazolidone (Furoxone), isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), rasagiline (Azilect), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam), or tranylcypromine (Parnate) within the past 14 days. Serious, life-threatening side effects can occur if you use Ritalin before the MAO inhibitor has cleared from your body.
Do not use Ritalin if you are allergic to methylphenidate or if you have:
- overactive thyroid;
- severe high blood pressure;
- angina (chest pain), heart failure, heart rhythm disorder, or recent heart attack;
- a personal or family history of tics (muscle twitches) or Tourette’s syndrome;
- severe anxiety, tension, or agitation (methylphenidate can make these symptoms worse); or
- a hereditary condition such as fructose intolerance, glucose-galactose malabsorption, or sucrase-isomaltase insufficiency.
Some stimulants have caused sudden death in children and adolescents with serious heart problems or congenital heart defects. Tell your doctor if you have a congenital heart defect.
If you have any of these other conditions, your doctor may need to adjust the dose of Ritalin or order special tests:
- a congenital heart defect;
- a personal or family history of mental illness, psychotic disorder, bipolar illness, depression, or suicide attempt;
- epilepsy or other seizure disorder; or
- a history of drug or alcohol addiction.
FDA pregnancy category C. It is not known whether Ritalin will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medication. It is not known whether methylphenidate passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use Ritalin without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.
Long-term use of Ritalin can slow a child’s growth. Tell your doctor if the child using this medication is not growing or gaining weight properly.
Do not give Ritalin to a child younger than 6 years old without the advice of a doctor.
Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction to Ritalin: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Stop taking Ritalin and call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:
- fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeats;
- feeling like you might pass out;
- fever, sore throat, and headache with a severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash;
- aggression, restlessness, hallucinations, unusual behavior, or motor tics (muscle twitches);
- easy bruising, purple spots on your skin; or
- dangerously high blood pressure (severe headache, blurred vision, buzzing in your ears, anxiety, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, uneven heartbeats, seizure).
Less serious Ritalin side effects may include:
- stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite;
- vision problems, dizziness, mild headache;
- sweating, mild skin rash;
- numbness, tingling, or cold feeling in your hands or feet;
- nervous feeling, sleep problems (insomnia); or
- weight loss.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.