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Article Summary

Ritalin Side Effects

What is Ritalin?

Ritalin also known as Methylphenidate hydrochloride is a mild stimulant of the central nervous system used to treat a disorder known as attention deficit hyperactivity common in children. Ritalin is also used to treat narcolepsy which is the uncontrollable desire to sleep. When Ritalin is used to treat attention deficit disorder, it should be used be administered alongside a treatment program that included; social, psychological and educational measures. Some of the attention deficit disorder symptoms cured by Ritalin include; hyperactivity, impulsiveness, short attention span and emotional changeability.

Common Ritalin side effects

Drug dependence/addiction

This is one of the most common Ritalin side effects. Taking excessive dosages of Ritalin over a prolonged period of time can result in addiction. It is also possible for a person to develop tolerance towards Ritalin after a long period of time. Such individuals usually need larger doses of the drug to experience the original effects. Because of risks of addiction and drug dependence, Ritalin should be prescribed by a doctor. Also, changes in dosage and withdrawal of the drug should be done under doctor's supervision.


Ritalin also causes hypersensitivity which is also a common adverse side effect. Ritalin hypersensitivity includes; skin rash, fever, urticaria, arthralgia, erythema multiforme, thrombocytopenic purpura, nausea, anorexia; dizziness; headache; palpitations; dyskinesia; drowsiness, pulse and blood pressure changes, cardiac arrhythmia, weight loss and abdominal pain. Tourette's syndrome and toxic psychosis have also been reported as adverse Ritalin side effects. Ritalin has also been reported to cause anaemia and/or leukopenia in patients taking Ritalin although there is no definite cause relationship between the two. Other hypersensitivity side effects of Ritalin include scalp hair loss however in few instances.

Nervousness and insomnia

These are other common adverse side effects of Ritalin. It is important to note that both nervousness and insomnia can be controlled by altering the dosage i.e. reducing the dosage or by missing the dosage during the afternoon or evening.

Common Ritalin side effects in children

The most common Ritalin side effects in children include; abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss during therapy, tachycardia and insomnia. It is important to note that any other adverse reactions/side effects mentioned above can also occur in children taking Ritalin.

Rare Ritalin side effects

Rare Ritalin side effects include; abnormal heartbeat, abdominal pain, abnormal muscular movements, chest pain, blood pressure changes, drowsiness, dizziness, fever, hair loss, hives joint pain, headache, jerking, loss of appetite, palpitations, nausea, rapid heartbeat, pulse changes, purplish or reddish skin spots, skin rash, skin reddening, skin inflammation and peeling, severe twitching and weight loss especially during long treatment.

It is important to note that Ritalin should only be used by persons/children over the age of six because the efficacy and safety of children under the age of six has not yet been established. There is no adequate information on the efficacy and safety of prolonged Ritalin use by children. It is also important to note that prolonged use of Ritalin by children can suppress growth i.e. hinder growth in height or body size. Children using Ritalin especially in the long-term should therefore be monitored closely to ensure that such risks are identified early and eliminated.

It is important to note that Ritalin has no set dosage requirements. Ritalin should therefore be taken according to doctors directions. Ritalin should never be taken without consulting a doctor first. Ritalin should be taken before meals i.e. 30 to 50 minutes before taking meals. If Ritalin administration happens to interfere with sleep, the last daily dosage should be administered before 6 p.m.

Ritalin drugs such as Ritalin SR, Metadate CD, Ritalin LA, Concerta and Methylin ER are forms of long acting Ritalin thus they should be taken less frequently. Such Ritalin forms should be swallowed whole as opposed to chewing or crushing them. It is important to note that Metadate CD and Ritalin LA can be administered by sprinkling contents of capsules on a tea or tablespoon of applesauce and then administering immediately using water.

In case a dose of Ritalin is missed, it is advisable to administer it as soon as you remember and then continue with the rest of the dosage at spaced intervals. You should never administer two doses at the same time.

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