ADHD Medication and Treatment Reviews

Ritalin: ADHD Medication

Ritalin (Methylphenidate hydrochloride) is the most commonly prescribed stimulant ADHD medication used to treat symptoms of ADD in children, adolescents, and adults.

What Is Ritalin? What Does Ritalin Do?


Ritalin is the brand name formulation of methylphenidate that is most associated with the medication treatment of ADHD. It’s generic name is methylphenidate hydrochloride. It is a central nervous system < href=”https://www.additudemag.com/stimulant-medications-for-adhd/”>stimulant ADHD medication FDA approved to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) in children ages 6-12, adolescents, and adults up to age 65.

Ritalin may improve focus, and decrease impulsivity and hyperactive behavior, three hallmark ADHD symptoms. It contains the same active ingredient as ADHD medications like Concerta and Daytrana. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Ritalin is a federally controlled substance (“Schedule II Stimulant”) because it can be abused or lead to dependence.

Ritalin is also FDA-approved for the treatment of narcolepsy.

Ritalin vs Adderall: Is Ritalin Better Than Adderall?

Ritalin and Adderall (a common delivery system for a different ADHD medication called amphetamine) are both central nervous system stimulant medications used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. There is no intrinsic property of either medication that would make it automatically better or more preferred for the treatment of ADHD.

  • Ritalin and Adderall both have the same level of effectiveness
  • Ritalin and Adderall both have the same positive response rate of about 70% of people
  • Ritalin and Adderall both have the same number and severity of side effects
  • Ritalin and Adderall are very short in their duration of benefits in their immediate released formations (about 4 hours for either one). Both need some sort of extended release delivery system.
  • Ritalin and Adderall both cost about the same

That said, just about every person will have a clear preference for one molecule — amphetamine (AMPH) or methylphenidate (MPH) — over the other. No known factor predicts who will do best with MPH and who will do better with AMPH. As far as can be determined this preference for one molecule over the other does not run in families

What is the Best Dosage of Ritalin to Treat ADHD Symptoms?

Like other ADHD medications, the optimal dosage of Ritalin varies patient by patient. It is not determined by age, weight, or height, but rather by the interplay of three factors

  • How efficiently the molecule is absorbed into the body
  • How efficiently the molecule is removed from the body by either metabolism or excretion
  • But mostly by how efficiently the molecule cross the blood-brain-barrier as the molecule goes from the blood into a nerve cell

Since these three factors are very difficult to measure, the dose is usually determined by trial and error on the basis of how well it relieves the impairments from ADHD balanced with how tolerable it is. Your doctor may adjust your daily dosage until you or your child experiences the optimal response — that is, the lowest dosage at which you experience the greatest improvement in symptoms without side effects.

Ritalin is available in several formulations:

  • Short-Acting Tablet: Taken two to three times daily, 30 to 45 minutes before a meal. Available in 5mg, 10mg, and 20mg dosages. Each tablet lasts for approximately three to four hours. Tablets should be swallowed whole with water or other liquids. Dosage should not exceed 60mg daily.
  • Sustained-Release Tablet (Ritalin SR): Taken 30 to 45 minutes before a meal. Each tablet lasts for approximately 8 hours. Available in only one dosage strength of 20mg. Tablets should be swallowed whole with water or other liquids. Tablets should never by crushed or chewed.
  • Extended-Release Capsule (Ritalin LA): Taken orally, with or without food, once daily. The first dose is typically taken first thing in the morning; it should be taken at the same time each day for the best results. If your child is unable to swallow the capsule, it can be opened and sprinkled over a spoonful of applesauce. Taken this way, the mixture should be swallowed whole without chewing, followed by a drink of water or other liquid. Capsules should never by crushed or chewed because this destroys the timed-release mechanism. Capsules are available in 10mg, 20mg, 30mg, and 40mg dosages. The time-release formulation is designed to maintain a steady level of medication in your body throughout the day, or for approximately 8 to 10 hours. Dosage should not exceed 60 mg daily.

Do not drink alcohol while taking this medication, as it can cause the medicine to be released too quickly.

As with all medications, follow your Ritalin prescription instructions exactly. If a patient experiences upset stomach as a side effect, this medication can be taken with food. Taking Ritalin late in the day can disrupt sleep.

Some patients report developing a tolerance to Ritalin after long-term use. If you notice that your dosage is no longer controlling your symptoms, talk to your doctor to plan a course of action.

What are the Side Effects of Ritalin?

Most people taking Ritalin do not experience any side effects. That said, the most common side effects associated with Ritalin are as follows:

  • headache
  • decreased appetite
  • stomachache
  • nervousness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • irritability
  • sweating
  • shaking
  • increased heart rate
  • weight loss
  • dizziness

Other possible side effects include that some people believe that the stimulant medications slowed growth in some children, priapism (a penis erection that does not resolve after more than four hours), and eyesight changes or blurred vision.

If side effects are bothersome, or do not go away in a day or two, talk to your doctor. Most people taking this medication do not experience any of these side effects.

Ritalin and Heart or Blood Pressure Related Problems

Report to your doctor any heart-related problems or a family history of heart and blood pressure problems. Patients with structural cardiac abnormalities and other serious heart problems have experienced sudden death, stroke, heart attack, and increased blood pressure while taking Ritalin, though a casual relationship has never been found. Stimulants can increase blood pressure and heart rate. Physicians should monitor these vital signs closely during treatment. Call your doctor immediately if you or your child experiences warning signs such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting while taking Ritalin.

Ritalin and Mental Illness

Disclose to your physician all mental health issues including any family history of suicide, bipolar illness, tics, or depression. Ritalin may create new or exacerbate existing behavior problems, bipolar illness, or Tourette’s syndrome. The FDA recommends evaluating patients for bipolar disorder, tics, and Tourette’s syndrome prior to stimulant administration. It can cause psychotic or manic symptoms in children and teenagers. Call your doctor immediately if you or your child experiences new or worsening mental health symptoms including hallucinations or sudden suspicions.

Ritalin and Circulation Problems

Discuss circulation problems with your doctor before taking Ritalin, which has been known to cause numbness, coolness, or pain in fingers or toes, including Raynaud’s phenomenon. Report to your doctor any new blood-flow problems, pain, skin color changes, or sensitivities to temperature while taking Ritalin.

Ritalin and Substance Abuse

Stimulants like Ritalin have a potential for abuse and addiction, especially among people who do not have ADHD. It is a “Schedule II Stimulant,” a designation that the Drug Enforcement Agency uses for drugs with a high potential for abuse. Other Schedule II drugs include Dexedrine, Adderall, and cocaine. People with a history of drug abuse should use caution when trying this medication. Taking the medication exactly as prescribed can reduce potential for abuse.

The above is not a complete list of potential side effects. If you notice any health changes not listed above, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

Who Can Take Ritalin? Medication Precautions

You should not take Ritalin if you have any of the following conditions:

  • allergy or hypersensitivity to Ritalin or any of the ingredients in Ritalin medications
  • unmanaged glaucoma
  • tics
  • history of Tourette’s syndrome
  • or if you are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)


Use caution while taking Ritalin if you have a history of heart or mental problems, abnormal brain wave tests, circulation problems, or esophagus/stomach/intestine problems.

If you’re thinking of becoming pregnant, discuss the use of Ritalin with your doctor. Animal studies indicate a potential risk of fetal harm. Nonetheless, the FDA lists methylphenidate in Pregnancy Category C, which means that no risk has ever been established but it cannot be ruled out either. Ritalin is passed through breastmilk, so it is recommended that mothers do not nurse while taking it.

The safety of Ritalin for children under age six has not been established by the FDA but it has been studied many times in government-funded studies and found to be both safe and effective for ADHD down to 3 years of age.

Store Ritalin in a secure place out of the reach of children, and at room temperature. Do not share your Ritalin prescription with anyone, even another person with ADHD. Sharing prescription medication is illegal, and can cause harm.

What Interactions Are Associated with Ritalin?

Before taking Ritalin, discuss all other active prescription medications with your doctor. Ritalin can have a dangerous, possibly fatal, interaction with MAOI antidepressants.

Tell your doctor if you are taking seizure medications, blood thinners, blood pressure medication, or any medication containing a decongestant.

Share a list of all vitamin or herbal supplements, and prescription and non-prescription medications you take with the pharmacist when you fill your prescription, and let all doctors and physicians know you are taking Ritalin before having any surgery or laboratory tests. Ritalin can have a dangerous interaction with certain anesthetics. The above is not a complete list of all possible drug interactions.

Sources

Ritalin methylphenidate hydrochloride tablet. Dailymed https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=cd83fc91-47a3-4be4-9727-caf9ec0371e8

Ritalin. (2019) https://www.pharma.us.novartis.com/sites/www.pharma.us.novartis.com/files/ritalin_ritalin-sr.pdf

More Information on Ritalin and Other ADHD Medications:

Free Download: The Complete Guide to ADHD Medications
A Parent’s Guide to ADHD Medications/a>
How Does ADHD Medication Work? Your First Questions Answered.

29 Ritalin: ADHD Medication Comments & Reviews

  1. We started our 5 year old son on Ritalin about a month ago as he was not doing well in kindergarten at all. He has responded well on this medication and is doing great in school but now, a month later, when he comes down from the medication he is almost psychotic. He lashes out in anger, has no impulse control, is negative and down right mean to everyone and everything around him.

  2. My 14 year old daughter just started on 10 mg of Ritalin twice a day and today I had to pick her up at school because she fainted in the library.

  3. My 11 year old son has been taking Vyvanse for about 4 years and it worked for him. Lately he’s been having issues with anger and impulsivity when the med wears off. The doctor prescribed Ritalin LA, 10 mg(the lowest dose)The first day he took the Ritalin was Saturday so I observed him all day. It was like he had taken nothing! I couldn’t imagine sending him to school like that. On Sunday I gave him 2 pills, for the equivalent of 20mg and didn’t see much of an improvement.

  4. My son takes 30mg of Ritalin LA each morning and for the past week I have also been giving him the Claritin chewable tablets for children. The Ritalin seems to be wearing off quicker than it had in the weeks prior to starting the allergy medication.

  5. My daughter takes 10mg of extended pill at 7am. By 4pm we have extreme mood swings, so doctor prescribed adding regular Ritalin pill to last next 4hrs.

  6. I am now on 20mg instant release Ritalin. I can take up to five doses a day and find that 3 hours between doses is optimal. I need to be careful that if I do take a fifth dose that it is before 7pm otherwise I can be awake all night.

  7. I presently take one 36mg Concerta XR capsule every morning, and it’s been very effective in helping me stay focused and on task at work. I noticed that when I got home from work I was struggling with keeping things organized. My doctor added a 10mg tablet of Ritalin, which I take at 4:00 in the afternoon. The extra dose has really helped with organization at home.

  8. I’ve been taking 20 mg of Ritalin SR for 3 months now. I first started with the generic Ritalin SR, however it gave me horrible side effects when it was wearing off. I then began taking the brand name for Ritalin SR and also started taking 5 mg of Ritalin IR around 5pm, since the SR would wear off 6-7 hours later. The first two days of taking 20 mg Ritalin SR at 8:00 am and 5 mg Ritalin IR at 5:00 PM worked really well, I was able to focus. However after two days the positive effects decreased and now I feel tired and less motivated to do things.

  9. I had been on Adderal for 20 years. I’m 71 years old. I got off of Adderal (with about three weeks of mild withdrawal symptoms) and my sex life has improved 100%.

  10. I’m a 46 year old male. I was finally diagnosed with inattentive ADHD so I lacked the hyperactive element. I was put on 5mg IR 3 times a day and I am astounded by the difference. I do, however, notice that after about 4 or so hours I get a slump.

  11. I take a daily dosage of 40mg Ritalin LA in morning. The initial effect peaks at 1.5hrs, the second peak at 4hrs, and then it’s all out of my system by 6 hrs.

  12. I am 28 and was just diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive). I have a prescription for Ritalin 10 mg 2-3x per day. I have used it for 5 days now and have experienced major crashes when the drug wears off. It seems to last 2-3 hours. When I crash after the med wears off I get headaches, mind racing, inability to focus and mood swings (depressive thoughts).

  13. Around 5 months ago I started drug therapy for adult ADHD. In the past 1.5 months my hair loss has increased and I’m beginning to notice it feeling thinner when I make a ponytail.

  14. I’m 39 years old male and my doctor started me on Ritalin 5mg in the morning and another 5mg around 2pm. This is my first week and can’t really feel anything in the day but I can’t sleep.

  15. I have been taking Ritalin for a few years now. I started on 5mg found it quite strong at first. I would fall asleep. Notice my speech slowing down and generally quite relaxed. In a few weeks this subsided. After 4 to 6 months I couldn’t feel it at all and increased the dose to 10mg. I stay off the Ritalin on the weekend to maintain my sensitivity.

  16. I’m a 37 year old female that was diagnosed with ADHD. I was tried on Ritalin and was soon taken off of it as I was experiencing stroke-like symptoms. I then started on 5mg dose x2 a day and was fine on that dose and it helped! Once I was bumped up to 10mg x2 a day on the 2nd dose, my tongue felt like it was swelling and the left side of my face felt numb.

  17. At 53 years I was started out on 5 mg. I had loss of appetite for couple months. Lost a few pounds, around 10 lbs. After 6 months, I went up to 10mg. I am very sensitive to meds. My heart also raced at first. I don’t have either problem anymore.

  18. I went on Ritalin a few months ago and it was working great – until I started a new job a couple of months ago. It’s not working as well as it did when I first started it. I have been taking 30 mg twice per day.

  19. I was diagnosed with ADD – Inattentive 16 years ago and started on 5 mg of Ritalin once a day. I also went through heavy training how to deal with the ADD. For 15 years the training the therapist gave me worked wonders. A year ago I noticed I was not at my best, time management and organization skills were being lost. Went to the VA, was assigned to a really great psychiatrist and started on Ritalin 5 mg twice a day. The only thing I noticed is I dropped a couple of pounds. She upped it to 10 mgs and I noticed that sleepiness after lunch had decreased. I am starting to improve in time management and organization again but not where I should be. In two week I see my doctor again and will probably go to 20 mg in the morning and 10 in the afternoon. I am just waiting for the moment I can say “So this is what it is like to be neurotypical again.”

  20. We trialed my 8 year old son on Ritalin twice on the doctor’s recommendation. For us, Ritalin was a total disaster. We saw zero positive effects, but the negative side-effects were horrendous. He became a wildcat.

    Like one other reviewer put it so eloquently “he is almost psychotic. He lashes out in anger, has no impulse control, is negative and down right mean to everyone and everything around him.”. My son suffered the same symptoms on Ritalin.

    When the doctor wouldn’t listen, we took him off and gave up the idea of meds for another 2 years (he’s now 10). We recently saw another doctor as the poor little guy was struggling so much in school I felt I had to give it one last try. He’s now been on Vyvanse for 3 months and it is working really well for him. He is able to concentrate, focus on tasks and his schoolwork is improving. There are very little side-effects for him on Vyvanse and, provided we take it early enough in the morning, he has no problems sleeping.

    As a parent, you know when your child is right or not right and I would urge everyone to find a good doctor who is willing to listen and work with you. The right medication can make a world of difference.

  21. We just started our 10 year old on Ritalin La and we are seeing amazing results in the classroom.
    Our son says that he is quote”not bored in class anymore”.
    Lets hope that this will continue. This was a hard decision for me and my wife but seeing is believing.

  22. My son took Ritalin as a child several years ago. It worked wonders for him. But, it went through his system too quickly, so he had to take another dose at 11 a.m. at school and another at 2 p.m. Although gifted, he was in a special class at school because of behavioural problems. When a new assistant in that class asked the teacher why he was there because she didn’t believe he needed to be, the teacher said “Just wait ’til they forget his Ritalin one morning.” I also have ADD and since my son didn’t like taking it, it was bound to happen. This business about Ritalin being a gateway drug was bogus. My son is in his 30s now. He rarely smoked pot and hardly even drinks. He doesn’t like not being in control of his mind.

    My own experience with Ritalin has been positive. I’ve been on and off it over the past 20 years and have had much success with the regular release version. It improves my concentration immeasurably. Unfortunately, I also process it quickly and would often forget to take my mid-day dosage because it would be completely out of my system by then. It was my secretary who would remind me when I’d show up at her desk and forget why I was there. I couldn’t tolerate the Sustained Release version of Ritalin because my system would process it too quickly and release too much into my body at one time, causing such side effects as blurred vision and fatigue. So when I worked at home I’d have to set an alarm to remind myself to take my next dose. (It took me a few days too stop wondering why an alarm was going off at noon!) The only problem I found with Ritalin is that my ADD, which is the inattentive variety, seemed much worse after the med wore off. But that could be just a false perception. Oh and I also preferred driving without Ritalin in my system, because I could pay more attention to EVERYTHING that was going on around me. If I’d taken Ritalin, I found that I was concentrating too much on one section of the road at a time, I wasn’t looking everywhere as I normally would. Strange, eh?

  23. I was diagnosed with ADHD four months ago aged 24.
    I was initially put on Ritalin which I reacted very badly to, I became very lethargic and cried for four days straight and became very erratic which is rare for me as I am not an emotional person. On day four I developed a tick which quickly escalated into a involuntary and continuous head motion and I became very confused. I work in a Hospital so luckily I had medical assistance on hand.

    I am now on Strattera and cannot believe the difference in my mood and concentration..

    Simulants are not for everyone and are very strong I would just like to reassure readers that alternative and effective medication is available… 🙂

  24. Ritaline 10 mg for all day long. 1 pill : accentuation of my ADHD/ 2 :better control on my emotions and my mother told me she can follow me through when I speak/ 3: feeling that I have too many things to do and becomes irritated.
    I still can’t work on my tasks

  25. My ADD (cocurrent anxiety) lay hidden under the trauma of child abuse and later PTSD for 61 years. When I did start treatment Ritalin super charged my rumination and in response my doctor raised my SSRI medication.

    That combo ended badly.

    Mirtazapine replaced Zoloft and I spent the next year titrating Ritalin downward toward doses of 2.5mg four times a day. While concentration and focuss improved the benefit was lost to rumination on past trauma which continued to spiral out of control.

    Then in March this year I tried 50mg of Modafinil. Within 12 hours the mind bending rumination ceased. Yes it was almost that cut and dry. 

    Go figure!

    Over the following months including with professional help I gradually began to re establish trust in myself and others. Soon after I started and maintain a regular exercise regime. Next I put a list in my pocket of words associated with joy which I refer to regularly. Soon I discovered that the agony of writing had turned on its head into a joyful and coherent pursuit. More recently expressing gratitude has become another healthy habit along a return to church where I express that gratitude with like minded others. All this culminated last week in a game changer decision that altered how my mind reacts to Ritalin.

    I resolutely resolved that it is NOT the ‘boogey man’ waiting behind the next life event – but God. Now if you grew up with monsters you’ll appreciate how one might fall into a fearful mind set – I certainly had and it impacted my life in many negative ways.

    On a hunch I tried Ritalin again. I tried it for three days – more than enough to trigger fear. Other than my back feeling like it was on fire I found myself fear free and focussed. That said, for me modafinil is a smooth shiraz whereas ritalin is more like rot gut whisky – both can chill me but one leaves a monster hang over!

    Satisfied that how I think can alter how medication helps or hinders I have returned to my daily 50mg of Modafinil. 

    Or as I affectionately call it – MOD

  26. As an adult patient, I have taken Ritalin for ADHD.

    I had positive results with it–I had a longer attention span, more energy, and found myself motivated more often to do little tasks that I usually put off. It definitely improved my quality of life.

    I metabolize drugs quickly. My biggest issue with Ritalin was that it never seemed to affect me too strongly. When it did, it was unpredictable. Besides keeping me alert, I might not notice any improvement with my ADHD symptoms for 13 days straight… but on the 14th day, I might be extra-alert and productive, so I kept taking it. I started off on a smaller dose but was taking two doses of 20mg each with a third dose as-needed. Even then, it didn’t always necessarily work.

    This was the generic Methylphenidate.

    I didn’t tend to experience any side effects except that it would sometimes make me jittery/make my heart race, but only as much as a shot of espresso might, and this was rare. I only went off of Ritalin to try something more potent (focalin).

    There were also issues being able to refill my prescription. My pharmacy sometimes wouldn’t have enough Ritalin to fill my script, but the electronic prescription couldn’t be transferred to another store due to it being a Schedule IIN substance. This also means that every time I filled the prescription, I was cutting things close, since I couldn’t pick it up more than a day or two early.

    My doctor also made a typo on the prescription once, and it couldn’t be filled until her office sent over a correction. In the meantime, everybody I talked to at my pharmacy and at my doctor’s office was treating me like an addict lying to get a fix. It was humiliating.

    That’s not the fault of the drug itself, but I think it’s a relevant experience if you’re going to be prescribed Ritalin in the United States.

  27. I am 23 and was diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive) about 4 months ago. I had a trial period of taking 10mg Ritalin twice a day, but found it made me really sluggish all the time. I also had bouts of blurry vision. I’ve since switched to Dexamphetamine and have seen much better results.

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