Ritalin Side Effects

by on March 10, 2012


As one of the most commonly prescribed psychostimulant drugs, immediate side effects of Ritalin typically include nervousness, sleeplessness, and often irritability. A number of more serious side effects are associated with long-term use of Ritalin and may include dependency or psychotic symptoms. The side effects of Ritalin can be even more harmful to individuals who were not prescribed the drug by their physician.

Common Ritalin Side Effects

The Ritalin side effects most frequently experienced when the medication is taken may include:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability
  • Dry mouth

These side effects generally appear within the first few days of using the medication and will usually subside with continued use.

If any of these symptoms persist or interfere with daily activities, the patient should consult their physician to discuss their dosage. In rare cases, side effects can include drowsiness. Be sure you know how your body reacts to Ritalin before driving or operating machinery.

Serious Ritalin Side Effects

A small number of users have allergic reactions to Ritalin. If the following side effects occur, seek medical attention immediately and discontinue use of the medication:

  • Severe dizziness
  • Unexplained skin rashes
  • Uncontrollable itching
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Swelling, particularly of the face, tongue, or throat

Patients should also contact a medical professional if any of the following rare, but serious side effects occur:

  • Motor tics or tremors
  • Verbal tics such as those experienced with Tourette’s Syndrome
  • Extreme mood swings, including aggressive behavior, severe depression, or unusual thoughts
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Abnormally high or low blood pressure
  • Increased tendency to bruise or bleed
  • Seizures
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Left arm pain

Ritalin and Heart Disorders

Serious Ritalin side effects are often associated with heart concerns and can be fatal. Patients suffering from high blood pressure, angina, or irregular heart rhythms should not take Ritalin.

The medication is not recommended for recent heart attack victims and those with a family history of heart disease should be closely monitored by their physician. Individuals with congenital heart defects, especially children and teens, should discuss the risks of taking Ritalin with their doctor before beginning treatment.

Ritalin and Children

Because of its effectiveness as part of a total treatment plan for ADD and ADHD, Ritalin is prescribed to children under the age of 18 more than any other population group. Significant studies on the long-term side effects of Ritalin on the developing brain have still not been conducted. Therefore Ritalin is not approved for children under the age of 6 and behavior or physical changes should be closely monitored in any underage users.

Long Term Ritalin Side Effects

It may take up to 2 weeks before an improvement in symptoms is noticed in patients who are prescribed Ritalin. Prolonged use of the medication, however, can have extremely adverse effects. Ritalin is a habit-forming drug and may easily result in dependency. The body’s tolerance to Ritalin also increases over time, making higher doses necessary to maintain the desired effects. Long term Ritalin side effects in children, particularly its influence on behavior, are not fully understood. Stunted growth has also been noticed in some children so it is essential for any child taking Ritalin to be closely monitored by their primary care physician.

Ritalin Withdrawal

Like other controlled substances, patients may experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop taking Ritalin. Not everyone experiences these symptoms; it is more likely among long term users, but rebound effects occur in more than 30% of childhood users. In some children, this can happen in between doses if the medication has time to completely leave their system.

To prevent withdrawal symptoms, individuals should take the recommended dosage in regular intervals. If treatment is ended, it should be done gradually over the course of weeks or even months. Slowly decreasing the dosage will keep side effects like depression, psychosis, and irritability to a minimum; although it is not uncommon for the original symptoms to briefly return.

Because of the many different risks associated with the use of Ritalin, its use in treatment should be a decision made by both you and your doctor. Be sure to discuss your medical history, as well as any other medications you may be taking, with your physician before starting the treatment. Patients, especially children, should be monitored throughout the length of treatment to prevent potential side effects that may be serious.