What Is Methylphenidate?

Methylphenidate is a generic drug for the brand-name prescription Ritalin. Another brand-name version of methylphenidate is Concerta. Methylphenidate is used primarily for the treatment of symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s a medication that can help control impulsive behavior, improve focus, and help people stay still and concentrate for longer periods of time. Methylphenidate can be prescribed to children aged six years and above, as well as adults. In less common instances, methylphenidate may be used as a narcolepsy treatment. Methylphenidate is classified as a central nervous system stimulant. It works by changing the concentration of certain brain chemicals, including dopamine and norepinephrine. Some of the common side effects of methylphenidate can include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, sleep disturbances and headache. Severe side effects of this medication can include chest pain, changes in the heart rate, paranoia, hallucinations and depression.

There is a risk of sudden death that can occur with the use of central nervous system (CNS) stimulants like methylphenidate. This is especially true for children or teens with pre-existing heart defects or heart problems. The use of methylphenidate can also cause sudden death, stroke or heart attack in adults, especially when they have a history of heart problems. Along with Ritalin and Concerta, other brand names of methylphenidate include Metadate and Methylin.

What Does Methylphenidate Look Like?

Methylphenidate is also called methylphenidate hydrochloride. There are various strengths of this generic drug available. Versions of the drug include:

  • Methylphenidate hydrochloride 5 mg – a round yellow tablet that is imprinted with “MD” on one side and “531” on the other
  • Methylphenidate hydrochloride 10 mg – a round, blue pill that is imprinted with “MD” on one side and “530” on the other
  • Methylphenidate hydrochloride 20 mg – a light orange, round pill that is imprinted with “MD” on one side and “532” on the other

Is Methylphenidate Addictive?

Methylphenidate can be addictive. When someone is prescribed this medication, their doctor will likely go over their health history, including any history they may have of substance abuse. Since methylphenidate can be habit-forming, it’s important to use the drug only as prescribed. Methylphenidate is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance in the U.S. This means that, according to the DEA, it has accepted medical uses but also a high risk for severe psychological and physical dependence. The reason methylphenidate is addictive is because it affects neurotransmitters like dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for controlling pleasure, and people who use methylphenidate may experience euphoria, as a result. That can trigger a reward response that can lead to the development of an addiction.

When someone is prescribed methylphenidate and they use it only as prescribed, the risk of an addiction developing is low. When someone abuses it – either without a prescription or by taking it in ways other than as it is prescribed – the risk of methylphenidate addiction is significantly higher. Along with euphoria, other effects include appetite suppression, increased sociability and self-confidence, and performance improvement. Stimulant drugs like methylphenidate can speed up mental processing and physical responses.

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.