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Generic names: methylphenidate (METH il FEN i date) or dexmethylphenidate (DEX meth il FEN i date)
All FDA black box warnings are at the end of this fact sheet. Please review before taking this medication.
Methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate are prescription medications that are used to treat children over 6 years old, adolescents, and adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Methylphenidate and dexmethylphenidate are also known as stimulants.
Symptoms of ADHD interfere with an individual’s ability to function at school or work or in social settings and include:
Hyperactivity is less common in adults. A person may have severe inattention without hyperactivity or impulsivity.
Methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate are used in addition to non-medication treatments to manage ADHD symptoms.
Although some symptoms may improve within days of starting methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate, it may take several weeks before you notice the full benefits of the medication.
If you are planning on becoming pregnant, notify your health care provider so that he/she can best manage your medications. People living with ADHD who wish to become pregnant face important decisions, each with risks and benefits as they relate to how the illness, medications, and risks to the fetus may interact. This is a complex decision as untreated ADHD has risks to the fetus as well as the mother. Therefore, it is important to discuss this with your doctor and caregivers.
Regarding breastfeeding, caution is advised since there is limited information available about the safety of methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate while breastfeeding.
Methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate is usually taken one to three times per day with or without food.
While the dose usually varies, your health care provider will determine the dose that is right for you based upon your response.
Use a calendar, pillbox, alarm clock, or cell phone alert to help you remember to take your medication. You may also ask a family member or a friend to remind you or check in with you to be sure you are taking your medication.
If you miss a dose of methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate, take it as soon as you remember it, if it is not too close to when your next dose is due—discuss this with your health care provider. Do not double your next dose or take more than what is prescribed. Do not take a missed dose after 5:00 PM, as this may interfere with sleep.
Avoid drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs while you are taking methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate. The beneficial effects of the medication may be decreased and adverse effects may be increased.
If an overdose occurs, whether intentional or accidental, immediate medical attention may be necessary. Call your doctor or emergency medical service (911). You may also contact the poison control center (1-800-222-1222).
Overdosing with methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate may lead to nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, abnormal heart rhythms, paranoia, hallucinations and seizures.
Common side effects
Rare side effects
Contact your healthcare provider if any of the following occur while taking methylphenidate:
Serious side effects
Medications like methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate should be avoided in individuals who have a heart defect (structural abnormalities), uncontrolled high blood pressure, or a disorder of the heart or blood vessels.
Both methylphenidate and dexmethylphenidate are rarely associated with clinically significant increases in blood pressure or heart rate. Blood pressure and heart rate should be monitored before starting medication, and then weekly while adjusting the dose and then every 1 to 3 months or when side effects like “racing heart”, shortness of breath or exercise fatigue becomes problematic.
Both methylphenidate and dexmethylphenidate are Schedule II controlled substances, similar to other stimulant medications, such as amphetamine, amphetamine sulfate, mixed amphetamine salts, dextroamphetamine and lisdexamfetamine. There is a risk of physical and/or emotional dependence (addiction) when it is taken for long periods of time.
Although treatment with these medications can slow growth, many studies have shown that these changes are small, and children may catch-up with growth over time, therefore should not be a concern for most children. Height, weight, and eating habits should be discussed before treatment starts and regularly during treatment. If you are concerned about a child's growth, discuss other possible treatments with your child's doctor.
Medications used to treat depression such as tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors can interact with these medications resulting in serious reactions, including high body temperature, high blood pressure, and seizures (convulsions). Tell your health care provider if you are beginning or have recently discontinued any of these medications.
MAOIs, including phenelzine (Nardil®), Tranylcypromine (Parnate®), and selegiline (Emsam®), should not be taken with or within 2 weeks of taking these medications. Using these medications together can be fatal.
The following medications may increase the levels and/or effects of methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate:
Methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate may increase the levels and effects of: some seizure medications such as phenobarbital or phenytoin, coumadin, and tricyclic antidepressants such as desipramine or clomipramine.
Methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate may decrease the levels and effects of: some blood pressure medications such as clonidine, guanfacine, guanethidine and guanadrel.
Although you may experience beneficial effects from methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate within a few days of starting the medication, it often takes several weeks to get the full effect of the medication. Your healthcare provider may also need to adjust gradually the dose to find the dose that works best for you.
Medications like methylphenidate or dexmethylphenidate should be given cautiously to patients with a history of drug dependence or alcoholism. Chronic abusive use can lead to marked tolerance and psychological dependence. Psychotic episodes can occur, especially when injected. Careful supervision is required during withdrawal from abusive use, since severe depression may occur. Withdrawal following chronic therapeutic use may unmask symptoms of the underlying disorder that may require follow-up.
©2021 The American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists (AAPP) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). AAPP and NAMI make this document available under the Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives 4.0 International License. Last Updated: January 2016.
This information is being provided as a community outreach effort of the American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists. This information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical advice. This information contains a summary of important points and is not an exhaustive review of information about the medication. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified medical professional with any questions you may have regarding medications or medical conditions. Never delay seeking professional medical advice or disregard medical professional advice as a result of any information provided herein. The American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists disclaims any and all liability alleged as a result of the information provided herein.