Methylphenidate is a medication sold under the brand name Ritalin. It’s used mainly to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and it’s considered a first-line medication, which means it’s often a doctor’s first choice when considering an ADHD prescription medication. The drug is safe and well-tolerated by most people. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its fair share of adverse effects. Methylphenidate is a central nervous system stimulant, which means it works by increasing excitatory effects in the nervous system.
Common Side Effects
There are a few common side effects that anyone who’s taking methylphenidate should be aware of. When you start taking a prescription medication, it is important to keep track of your reaction to it. Speak to your doctor about any new, persisting, or uncomfortable symptoms. Stimulants commonly cause symptoms of anxiety and insomnia in people that take them, especially in higher doses. Agitation and irritability may also be common.
Physical symptoms may include dry mouth, nausea, and appetite loss. If your lack of appetite affects your calorie intake, you may experience weight loss. If you continue to feel uncomfortable symptoms or if they worsen, your doctor may adjust the dose or switch medications to mitigate discomfort.
Fewer Common Side Effects
Stimulants like methylphenidate may cause symptoms that affect your cardiovascular system. In people with other heart conditions or complications, these symptoms may be severe.
Changes in blood pressure, heart rate, tachycardia, and cold hands and feet. In rare cases, people may have chest pains. If you feel chest pains along with sweating, nausea, headache, dizziness, or blurred vision, seek medical attention immediately.
People sometimes report hypersensitivity to methylphenidate that causes skin rash, hives, and fever. Transdermal patches containing the drug are more likely to cause skin irritation than drugs taken by mouth.
People with disorders that cause psychosis-like schizophrenia should avoid stimulants like methylphenidate.
The drug can worsen existing psychotic symptoms, and a few rare cases have been reported where new psychotic symptoms emerged when taking the drug.
Methylphenidate is safe when taken as prescribed. When it is taken in very high doses, it could lead to uncomfortable overdose symptoms. In some cases, these symptoms can be deadly without medical intervention. The stimulant can lead to dangerous overdose symptoms as a result of overstimulation of the nervous system.
Symptoms may include physical and psychological signs. Physical symptoms often involve overheating, fast heart rate, and tremors. You may feel general discomfort, fidgety, and shaky. Psychological symptoms may include agitation, nervousness, hallucinations, and panic. Other symptoms may include:
- High body temperature
- Tachycardia (a rapid heart rate)
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pains
Overdose can be deadly when overstimulation leads to heart-related complications. High blood pressure and heart rate with palpitations can lead to heart failure. Severe overdose can also lead to rapid muscle breakdown. A very severe overdose would require much higher doses than are typically prescribed. An overdose may be more likely if you combine the drug with other stimulants. It’s also dangerous to combine methylphenidate with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), which are used in some antidepressants.