adult adhd ritalin

By Tammy Preston, MS

Brand Names: Concerta, Metadate CD, Metadate ER, Methylin ER, Ritalin, Ritalin LA, Ritalin-SR, Daytrana

Generic Names: Methylphenidate (meth-ill-FEN-eh-date), Methylin (METH-ill-in)

Manufacturer: The various brand name formulations of the drug methylphindate are produced by several different manufacturers.

What Is Ritalin?

Marketed under numerous brand names, the best known of which is Ritalin, methylphenidate and other amphetamines function as central nervous system (CNS) stimulants, and have been FDA approved for the treatment of both childhood and adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as narcolepsy in adults.

How Does Ritalin for Adults Work?

Although it is not known exactly how Ritalin works, it is believed to increase the flow of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, chemicals that carry the signal between neurons (cells of the nervous system). This can result in an increase in a person’s ability to focus over extended periods of time.

How Do I Take Methylphenidate?

There are several brand named drugs that contain methylphenidate, including instant release (IR) formulations and sustained release (SR), also known as extended release (ER) and controlled release (CR), formulations. There is also a methylphenidate trans-dermal patch, which delivers a sustained dose of drug over a long period of time, making it easier to ensure you get the right dose without having to constantly remember to take an oral pill.

Research has shown that the SR formulations of methylphenidate are just as effective, if not more effective, than IR formulas [1-4]. These time-release medications are also less prone to be misused and abused.

Methylphenidate Formulations

Instant Release (IR) Tablets
· Ritalin: 5, 10 or 20mg
· Attenta: 10mg
· Methylin: 5, 10 or 20mg
· Equasym: 5, 10, 20 or 30mg
· Rubifen: 5, 10 or 20mg

Sustained, Controlled or Extended Release (SR, CR or ER) Tablets
· Ritalin SR: 20mg
· Methylin ER: 10 and 20mg
· Metadate ER: 10 and 20mg
· Concerta: 18, 27, 36 and 54mg

Controlled-release Capsules
· Ritalin LA: 10, 20, 30 or 40mg
· Metadate CD: 10, 20, 30, 40 or 60mg

Trans-dermal Patch
· Daytrana 10, 15, 20 or 30mg

Is Ritalin Effective for Adult ADHD?

Methylphenidate was the first drug to be used in the treatment of ADHD, originally to treat children in the 1960’s. Since its discovery, methylphenidate has been used to treat ADHD in both children and adults for many years. Recent research has demonstrated the efficacy of this classic ADHD treatment in adults with the disorder [5].

Ritalin Minor Side Effects

Common side effects are similar to those typically associated with the use of stimulants, and include:
· Dry mouth
· Upset Stomach
· Diarrhea or Constipation
· Irritability and Restlessness
· Loss of appetite
· Difficulty falling asleep
· Weight loss
Most minor side effects of ritalin resolve over the first week or two, as your body adjusts to the medication.

Ritalin Precautions

Addiction & Abuse
Studies have been done to address concern that use of stimulant medications may lead to later drug dependency and abuse. Although, untreated ADHD has been linked to an increased risk of substance abuse later in life [6], the likelihood of future drug abuse disorder is actually decreased when ADHD is properly treated [7].

Still, because methylphenidate is an amphetamine and stimulant, there is the potential for increasing tolerance to the medication over long-term use as well as the danger of abuse. And this medication is not recommended for people who have a history of drug abuse.

Cardiac Precautions
Methylphenidate and other amphetamines may not be right for you if you have a history of heart problems, such as hardened arteries (arteriosclerosis), heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), or any other pre-existing cardiac condition.

Other Precautions
The drug is also not recommended for people with overactive thyroid, glaucoma, epilepsy and seizure disorders, severe anxiety or agitation and those who have taken MAO inhibitors within the past two weeks. Before taking methylphenidate, be sure to tell your doctor if you have any of these problems.

Pregnancy Category C
As a category C medication, methylphenidate may be harmful to an unborn baby. This drug can also pass into breast milk and may be harmful to your baby if you nurse. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while you are being treated for ADHD.

Ritalin Withdrawal
If you stop taking Ritalin too quickly, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. The most common of these include fatigue, agitation, depression, and hunger.


1. Steele, M., et al. (2006). “A randomized, controlled effectiveness trial of OROS-methylphenidate compared to usual care with immediate-release methylphenidate in Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder“. Can J Clin Pharmacol. 2006 Winter;13(1):e50-62.
2. Pelham, W.E., et al. (2001). “Once-a-day Concerta methylphenidate versus three-times-daily methylphenidate in laboratory and natural settings“. Pediatrics. 2001 Jun;107(6):E105.
3. Keating, G.M., McClellan, K., Jarvis, B. (2001). “Methylphenidate (OROS formulation)“. CNS Drugs. 2001;15(6):495-500; discussion 501-3.
4. Hoare, P., et al. (2005). “12-month efficacy and safety of OROS methylphenidate in children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder switched from MPHPDF“. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2005 Sep;14(6):305-9.
5. MedScape (2006) New Findings Expand Understanding of Adult ADHD.
6. Richardson. (2005) When Too Much Isn’t Enough, Ending The Destructive Cycle of AD/HD and Addictive Behavior, Pinon Press
7. Wilens, et al. (2003) Does Stimulant Therapy of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Beget Later Substance Abuse? A Meta-analytic Review of the Literature, Pediatrics Vol. 111 (1).
8. http://www.drugs.com/MTM/methylphenidate.html


  1. I was wondering if anyone knows of or if the manufactor of ritalin ir, generic even has a care program as other companies like lilly cares,….as i am on cymbalta too and i am on their program where they send you 3 months at a time do to we have -0- mental health coverage, and do to many medical probelms there is no way we can afford it out of pocket,….especially the Cymbalta very high and there is no generic form,….anyone if you can help with imformation please do,….thanks

  2. @TexasAngel – that’s not something I know a lot about. Here are some resources that may be helpful:
    * Partnership for Prescription Assistance – http://www.pparx.org/
    * Needy Meds – http://www.needymeds.org/
    * RX Assist – http://www.rxassist.org/
    Good luck and keep us updated as to how thing go.

  3. Sharon Hildebrandt says

    I am on short acting ritalin 2 doses 6am 30mg and noon 30mg and it dosnt last but 2 hours. im getting a different pyschiatris and going to try for Adderal. hoprfully yhat will work better. i was on 72mg Concerta and it worked great but my insuranc did away with all long acting stimulants.

  4. HELP My doctor (an internist) has decided that I no longer should take ritalin which I have been on since I was 50 because I am 77. What studies are out there that I can beg her with. Does anybody know any doctors in central New Jersey (somerville Area) that know how to treat adult adhd. I only take 5 to 10 mg 3 times a day depending on the situation. Thanks

  5. Sandra June says

    I am 77 and want to start taking Ritalin. Why has your doctor stopped your prescription. I am going to buy some on line

  6. Richard stroker says

    I’m 86 been on Ritalin since I was 34 never any problems.

  7. Woody Jensen says

    I’m 50 and relatively new to ritalin. About 4 months. Very effective. I take first dose around 9 am. I wake up at 6:30 am though and starting to think that I should take it a few minutes after I wake up to get focused early. Seems like I procrastinate until I take it then get focused. Does anyone else do that? Thoughts

  8. I’ve been taking it for just a few weeks, but other meds before. I take 2,2,1 during the day. I take the first set about 8:00 and it finally kicks in about 9:00, then lasts about 4 hours. I take another set about 1-2 when I feel it wearing down and it picks me back up. I take my last one about 5 so it doesn’t affect my sleep to much.

    It defiantly suppresses my hunger and I can almost take it and not need to eat while it’s active.
    I also noticed that I’m a lot happier and feel like I can do a bunch more while I’m on it.

    Hope this help someone.

  9. I am 37Male, nonsmoker and non-drinker basically a very nice guy (just felt like I am posting my profile on a dating site ? ).I have been reading about it and doing my research before going to doc. I am not able to express my thoughts verbally. I am not able to communicate effectively. I constantly forget things, not able to focus on one task, delay important tasks over less important stuff in other words not able to prioritize my day. I have all the symptoms mentioned for adult ADHD. Not able to think ahead or plan ahead. Does anyone else had similar conditions cured by Ritalin?

  10. 46, male, non-smoker, like my drinks…(wondering if a little too much). Anyways, a lot of the same issues as Brad. My dad likes to keep things ‘just in case’, his office at home has piles of papers everywhere, and is very big on lists to stay organized. I have piles of paper everywhere, hard to verbalize my feelings and get super anxious during stressful situations, hard to make and stick to goals, suffer from moods. My son diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, more of the aspergers type. I used to take Ritalin for a couple years, then stopped as I was concerned if there were long term health effects and there seemed to be diminishing returns for the disease I was taking. Still, when I was on it, life did seem better. You got more done, you could concentrate.

    But, looking back on my life, the school struggles, work difficulties, relationships, choosing a career path, I wish I had discovered Ritalin or its equivalent years ago and I’m considering going back on it again.

  11. Brad, the symptoms you describe are consistent with ADHD. You should see a specialist and consider medication. If you do have ADHD, Ritalin is one common treatment, but there are a few others, including Wellbutrin and Adderall. The medicines will not “cure” your ADHD, however. They just allow your brain to have better focus. They are like a better coffee, but they don’t work miracles. Some of the behaviors you describe have become habits, which you’ll have to retrain. Being on treatment will make it possible for you to retrain your habits. It’s sort of like getting knee surgery, you’ll still need the physical therapy to make a full recovery.

    John, no treatment is perfect. You have to pick between the side effects of the treatment and the consequences of no treatment. Ritalin is one of the safest drugs ever discovered by mankind, however. It’s been in widespread use since the 60s, and no serious problems have been uncovered. You may want to do some research to convince yourself about how safe it is. You’re a grownup and only you can decide what’s best for you, and what wellness means for you.

  12. OK I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1999. I’ve been on several and I do mean several medication NONE have helped my real issues focussing on any task longer than 2 or 3 mins. Being seated for longer than 5 mins without having to get up now I’m in college at 42 yes old and find it almost impossible to stay seated for a hour feels like I’ll explode if I don’t get up and move and I find myself losing focus to the point of daydreaming and this semester has been very hard I hate math I’ve procrastinated a lot I’ve avoided it period at home and delay in class cuz its hard so I get to finish it next semester which stinks but I can’t sit down for sometimes 2 hours trying to work a algebra problem I forget the first part by the time I get to the last part making the next problem hard. My professor told me that she would swear I have ADHD well last week my son he’s 7 his school called me for a sit down meeting the school wanted me to have him tested for ADHD I do have an appt with a trained psychologist as I go for counseling every month myself I don’t think I’m bipolar I couldn’t focus as a child or stay quiet or seated and I can’t now..

  13. So I have an appt with my mental care provider no doctor where I live seems to be able to diagnose anything like adhd where I live so I also have an appt on DEC first and I’m going to outright explain my issues and ask for ritalan becuz they have put me on over 80 different media since 1999 and not one has helped me. I feel they have either diagnosed me wrong or don’t realize my symptoms could also be ADHD I’m going to tell them they have tried everything else please try this cuz I can not stay focussed and more often then not the meds they have tried cause me more problems instead of helping me. I’ve read every post on here I’ve done tons of research the past 2 wks and I believe I have ADHD my middle child now 11 was diagnosed with it 4 yes ago ridalan has helped him tremendously any suggestions how I should approach this with the doctor?

  14. Johhny Bravo says

    Hello 🙂

  15. I am 30 year old I have been taking Ritalin for maybe a week. The medicine works but not for long. My arms feel funny I can’t describe it like shakey but on the inside if that makes sence. My head feels a bit dizzie. Is this just me getting use to the medication? Will it go away?

  16. I’ve been taking 5 mg in morning and at noon. I noticed a huge improvement in mental focus and clarity. I wasn’t flitting around the house from one thing to another, everything three minutes. This was making me crazy and feel incredibly anxious because I couldn’t control my thinking.
    I had experienced some numbness/pin and needles in my right hand after waking which lasted 2-3 hours. I have HBP, so dr told me to stop.
    Now, I’ve noticed an increase in fidgetyness. I’m always squirming. Now this is making me crazy.
    I’m trying to make sense of using Ritalin or not. I just changed over to Strattera today; I’m going to see if this helps. I know…there’s side effects that come with each drug.

  17. Danielle says

    I have tried Ritalin and Adderal for a couple of years now. I am 57 diagnosed with AD and Depression in my late 30’s. Tried many antidepressants. Hysterectomy 2 yrs ago – removal of ovaries caused major depression symthoms. New Doc puts me on stimulants to get me off of the couch and working again – no antidepressants would do the job anymore. Ritalin did. Tried Adderal but makes me angry and belligerent. Ritalin is milder but, because it works, I tend to take more mg when the effects wears off and later in the day. That causes insomnia. After a week or two, I became exsausted and sleep for 2 days in a row. Also my right hand’s fingers feel numb. I try not to exceed 60mg per day – is this too much for a 57 yrs old?
    Also, I find it works great to get house work, office work done but it hinders my creativity. Not so good for getting “creative work” accomplished. Has anybody noticed that?

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