by on April 24, 2012
Brand Names:Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, Methylin
Generic name:methylphenidate
Pregnancy Category:C
Half-life:4 hours

What Is Ritalin?

Ritalin (Methylphenidate) is a controlled drug used to treat a number of disorders. It has had a profound impact on modern society and has helped many people live healthier, well-adjusted and happy lives.  Ritalin is a mild stimulant that increases the neurotransmitter levels in the central nervous system.  This rise in chemical activity generally results in improved alertness and enhanced focus, and can fight tiredness and fatigue.

First developed in 1944, and later perfected and used for human treatment and studies through the 1950’s, Ritalin saw an increase in use through the 1970’s and continues to be of great value for treatment of ADD and ADHD. Today, it is manufactured and distributed by Novartis Pharmaceuticals. The treatment is used by both adults and children who have been diagnosed with attention disorders. The demographic of users skews more to boys, as they are 8 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls.

ritalinPatients typically react differently to Ritalin, depending on their genetic makeup and their symptoms. Because of this, the most effective dosage is determined on a case by case basis and is often adjusted over time.  In its most common form, Ritalin is an immediate-release tablet that should be taken at approximately the same time each day. It is best to take the pill about half an hour before a meal. Extended-release versions are also available in capsules and tablets. This form of Ritalin doesn’t have to be taken with food, but the extended-release capsules may be broken and sprinkled over pudding or applesauce to make it easier to swallow. Tablets and immediate- release forms should never be crushed, chewed, or broken.

Ritalin Uses

  • Ritalin is approved by the FDA for the treatment of attention disorders including ADD and ADHD in both children and adults. ADD and ADHD are disorders characterized by an inability to focus and pay attention, sometimes accompanied by impulsivity and hyperactivity.
  • Many narcolepsy patients have seen improvements after taking Ritalin as well.  Narcolepsy isa sleep disorder where people have an unusually strong urge or need to sleep, even in inappropriate settings and inopportune moments.
  • More controversial applications or off label uses include treatment for cocaine or methamphetamine addiction.  It is also occasionally prescribed for depression.
  • Recent studies are exploring the use of Ritalin to treat the symptoms of autism in children. Side effects are minimized when the medication is used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that also includes counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy.

How does it Work?

Methylphenidate is a central nervous system stimulant that affects areas of the brain that are usually responsible for activity and impulse control. It increases the neurotransmitter dopamine and noradrenaline in sections of the brain that are thought to be responsible for attention and behavior. It is hypothesized that children who have ADHD are likely underdeveloped in these areas of the brain and the increase in neurotransmitters helps regulate thought patterns. For adults, it helps their brains to process signals and decide which are important, allowing them to focus on the task at hand.

Tips and Precautions for Use

  • Ritalin is a controlled drug and should only be taken exactly as directed by the prescribing physician and only by the individual it is intended for.
  • Patients should follow the dosage exactly as prescribed and contact their doctors should any unusual side effects appear.
  • Ritalin should be taken a half hour before mealtime, unless patients find that it upsets their stomachs.
  • Patients should discuss with their doctors any other medications to ensure there are no interactions that may be harmful to their health.
  • For best results, treatments should be accompanied by other therapeutic techniques, such as psychotherapy.

As Ritalin is a stimulant, there is an underground market for its use. If taken incorrectly, it can provide a sort of high for those who ingest it, allowing them to feel very good while also being able to focus. As it allows many people who are abusing it to function normally, even optimally in some cases, abuse can be seen frequently among students, and can often go undetected. When prescribed, it is very important that patients take the drug as prescribed and talk to their doctor if they fear any dependency has developed.

Ritalin has been an invaluable tool in combating ADD and ADHD for many decades. Its proven effectiveness and relative safety has helped many patients to live in ways that decrease symptoms of their disorders and helping them to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.