Methylphenidate is a central nervous system stimulant medication. It is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat symptoms of ADHD and narcolepsy. It changes the amount of some natural chemicals in the brain. Methylphenidate is the active ingredient in several ADHD medcations:
Types of Methylphendiate
These medications come in a variety of forms:
Immediate release - (Ritalin tablets and Methylin, both chewable tablets and liquid solution) release medication immediately after it is taken and last for approximately 3 to 4 hours. These medications are often taken 2 to 3 times per day, based on need. The National Institutes of Health recommend, especially for adults, the last dose be taken before 6:00 PM so it does not interfere with nighttime sleep. It is suggested this medication be taken 30-45 minutes before meals. When taking the chewable form, you should chew the medication and then drink a full glass of water to avoid the tablet swelling in your throat, possibly causing you to choke.
Intermediate-acting - (Ritalin SR, Metadate ER, Methylin ER) are usually taken once or twice a day. When taken twice, the second dose is often early afternoon. Medication is released immediately after taking the medication and then slowly released over the next few hours. It is suggested this medication be taken 30-45 minutes before meals. These capsules and tablets should be taken whole. Breaking or opening the capsules or tablets will interfere with the ability for the medication to work over an extended period of time.
Long-acting- (Cpmcerta. Ritalin LA) are usually taken one a day. These release medication immediately after taking it and then slowly throughout the day. This medication can be taken with or without food. These capsules and tablets should be taken whole. Breaking or opening the capsules or tablets will interfere with the ability for the medication to work over an extended period of time.
Missing a Dose
Because these medications do not need to build up in your system to work (as antidepressants do), missing a dose will not interfere with the long-term effects of the medication. You should, take the medication as soon as you remember, or, if it is close to the time to take a second dose, skip the dose and continue on your prescribed dosing. You should not take more than one dose in order to compensate for a missed dose.
As with all medications, methylphenidate can cause side-effects. Many people do not experience side-effects or have only mild discomfort. Often, these side-effects will disappear after the medication for a few weeks. Others will have side-effects severe enough to stop taking the medication. Some of the most common side effects include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Decreased appetite
This is not a full list of possible side effects. You should have received a patient information insert with your prescription that lists additional possible side-effects. If you did not receive this, ask your pharmacist for the patient insert which contains additional information and precautions about your medication.
If you experience side-effects severe enough to interfere with your daily activities or if they last more than a few weeks, you should speak with your doctor. For more information: Tips for Managing Side Effects of ADHD Medications
Methylphenidate and Weight Gain
According to the National Institutes of Health, this type of medication may slow your child’s growth or weight gain. Your child’s doctor should carefully monitor growth and weight gain in regular check-ups. If you are concerned or continue to see decreased appetite in your child, you may want to keep a daily log, writing down when your child is taking the medication, what dose of medication and everything your child eats during the day, including the time your child is eating. This information can help your child’s doctor evaluate any weight loss or slowing of growth.
For more information:
“Methylphenidate,” 2011, Staff Writer, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., U.S. National Library of Medicine
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.