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Ritalin Side Effects

Man taking medication

Ritalin side effects are more serious than people may realize.

About Ritalin

Ritalin is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults and children, and it is also prescribed for narcolepsy.

Ritalin's generic name is methylphenidate. It works as a mild stimulant to the central nervous system. Most people do not become addicted when using Ritalin properly, but the potential is there. People who abuse the drug do so for its stimulant effects. These include:

  • Appetite suppression
  • Alertness
  • Increased attentiveness
  • Feeling of euphoria

However, there are unwanted effects when the medication is taken long-term or when it's abused.

Common Ritalin Side Effects

Short term side effects of this medication include:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, and/or vomiting
  • Slow weight gain/growth
  • Heart palpitations
  • Skin rashes and itching
  • Depression

In children, Ritalin has a calming effect and makes them more focused. This is the reason it is prescribed. However, it has also been shown to cause growth suppression in children.

Long term and/or more serious effects of methylphenidate include:

  • Allergic reaction (Hives, swelling of throat)
  • Irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Chest pains or high blood pressure
  • Strange behavior or confusion
  • Liver damage (Yellowing of skin and eyes, unusual bleeding and bruising)
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Repetitive/compulsive movements
  • Formication (Feeling of bugs crawling under skin)

Anyone who experiences the more serious Ritalin side effects should speak to his or her doctor as soon as possible. In severe cases, seek emergency medical attention.

Recent studies have shown that the active drug methylphenidate also boosts levels of serotonin in the brain. This finding could lead to more research for a better understanding of how the drug works. It may also lead to an improved drug with fewer side effects.


People who use methylphenidate may experience unwanted side effects if they ignore the warnings regarding dosage instructions and drug interactions. Pregnant or breast-feeding women should talk to their doctor before using this drug. Additionally, do not use Ritalin if you have taken a MAO inhibitor in the past two weeks. Operating machinery, driving or taking part in other hazardous activities should be avoided when using Ritalin.

Before beginning Ritalin use, some side effects can be reduced if doctors know about the following conditions:

  • Allergy to methylphenidate
  • Motor tics or Tourette's syndrome
  • Depression
  • Psychotic conditions (Such as schizophrenia)
  • Epilepsy or a seizure disorder
  • High blood pressure
  • History of alcohol or drug abuse
  • Narrow or partially blocked esophagus, stomach or intestines

If a dose is missed, take it as soon as remembered. Otherwise, wait until the next time to dose. Do not double dose. In the case of an overdose, seek emergency treatment.

Overdose signs include:

  • Agitation
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Sweating
  • Flushing
  • Headache
  • Dilated pupils

Drug interaction is also something to consider before beginning Ritalin treatment. People who use any of the following medications may require special dosage and close monitoring to reduce unwanted side effects.

  • Warfarin
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Phenytoin
  • Phenobarbital
  • Primidone
  • Clonidine
  • Guanethidine


It is possible to become addicted to Ritalin, and addiction may cause side effects to become more pronounced or serious. However, when used in the dosage and form prescribed by doctors, there is little chance for addiction. The initial prescription is typically a low dose that is gradually increased until it reaches the optimum level for that patient. Addiction occurs when the dosage is increased rapidly and/or in large doses. Addiction causes dopamine increases in the brain. In fact, Ritalin side effects are similar to amphetamines, a widely abused family of drugs. Addicts often swallow, crush, snort or dissolve and inject Ritalin.

Ritalin Side Effects