Ritalin (Methylphenidate or MPH) is a psycho-stimulant drug used as treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (a sleep disorder which causes an uncontrollable need to sleep).
History of Ritalin (Methylphenidate)
Ritalin was first synthesized in 1944. After going through many changes and improvements, MPH was marketed as “Ritalin” by the Ciba Pharmaceutical Company in 1957 to treat depression, mental disorders caused by depression, chronic fatigue and narcolepsy.
The development of Ritalin was the result of an experiment using natural stimulants involving caffeine and ephedrine.
After much laboratory testing they found that it improved the subjects’ focus and ease of management of tasks. Originally, it was introduced as treatment for Mohr’s Syndrome, but eventually, its calming and stabilizing effects were deemed suitable for ADHD and ADD. It was also used to offset the sedating effects of other medications.
In the 1960s, Ritalin was used as an attempt to counteract the symptoms of barbiturate overdose. But it was during the 1950s that the therapeutic value of Ritalin started to gain interest. By the 1960s, interest became focused on the treatment of “hyper kinetic syndrome”, which eventually came to be known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
By the 1970s and early 1980s, the use of Ritalin to treat ADHD steadily increased in the United States. This increase reached up to a 500 percent increase during the 1990s.
United Nations reported that up to 85 percent of the world’s Ritalin production and consumption was by the United States.
Ritalin (Methylphenidate) is not used alone but always as part of a complete treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Other measures may include various psychological, educational and social counseling or therapies.
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Ritalin Dosage (Methylphenidate)
Overall, the effects of Ritalin, both the favorable and detrimental, resemble the effects of amphetamines. Just like many other stimulant substances, the effects of Ritalin are relative to the amount of Ritalin dosage taken.
Dopamine levels (naturally produced by the brain) are low in individuals who have ADD or ADHD. What this natural brain chemical dopamine does is that it helps one concentrate and focus.
Essentially it allows the person to have better control over their own behavior.
When dopamine levels are normalized (with the use of Ritalin) one can make better decisions, becomes less distracted by outside factors and is able to better complete the task at hand.
The usual starting dose for Ritalin begins at 5 to 10 mg, one to three times a day. It is not recommended to exceed 60 mg daily.
The dose of Ritalin is individualized based on these conditions of the person taking the medication. It is usually started with a low dose and gradually increased to the dose that works best for the person.
Therefore, it is vital that this medication is taken exactly as prescribed by the doctor and not taken in smaller or larger amounts or for any longer than recommended.
When taking this medicine, it is important that the directions on the prescription label be followed. Ritalin is taken orally with a glass of water 30 to 45 minutes before meals and at regular intervals.
When taking the sustained release Ritalin tablets (Ritalin SR), the tablets should be swallowed whole without crushing or splitting the tablets to avoid too much of the drug to be released at one time.
The last dose for the day is taken at least 4 to 6 hours before going to sleep to avoid sleep disturbance.
Upon missing a dose, it should be taken as soon as possible; however, extra doses should not be taken.
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If an overdose is suspected a doctor or a poison control center should be contacted immediately.
Ritalin Side Effects / Methylphenidate Side Effects
Side Effects Include:
- Allergic Reactions
- Chest Pain
- High Blood Pressure
- Increase In Body Temperature
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Uncontrollable Movements
- Trouble Sleeping
- Stomach Upset
- Weight Loss
Loss of appetite is common, and small, frequent intake of food can help; however, if this continues, a doctor has to be informed.
This medicine may affect concentration and conceal tiredness; therefore, individuals taking this should not do anything that requires alertness such as driving, riding a bicycle and using machinery.
Because it can be abused as a stimulant or “upper” that increases alertness, attention and energy or as a weight loss drug, it should be kept in a safe place, and thrown away if unused after the expiration date.
This medicine should not be taken with MAOIs, atomoxetine, procarbazine, lithium and stimulant medicines like amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, dexmethylphenidate and modafinil.
It may also interact with caffeine, clonididin, warfarin and medicines for weight loss, blood pressure, seizures, depression, anxiety and psychiatric disorders. The doctor should always be informed of all substances being taken to avoid harmful interactions.
While on this medication, regular visits to the doctor should be done. A new written prescription is needed for every refill and changes in the dosage should be made only upon advice by a doctor.
Before taking this medicine, the doctor needs to be informed if the person has certain conditions such as difficulty swallowing, esophageal problems, high blood pressure, liver disease, overactive thyroid, motor tics, seizures, glaucoma, heart conditions and allergic reactions.
Medical history such as history of heart attack, blockage of the stomach or intestines and drug or alcohol abuse should also be considered. Psychological or mental disorders such as family history of suicide, Tourette’s syndrome, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and mania should be noted as well.
The doctor should also be informed of pregnancy and breast-feeding and medications such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) like Carbex, Eldepryl, Marplan, Nardil or Parnate taken in the last 14 days.
Methylphenidate Should NOT Be Taken By People:
- Who are under age of six
- Who are allergic to methylphenidate or any ingredients in the medication
- Who are taking a MAO inhibitor such as rasagiline (Azilect), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsan), furazolidone (Furozone), isocarboxazid (Marplan), Phenelzine (Nardil) or tranylcypromine (Parnate) within the past 14 days.To avoid any severe side effects, Ritalin should only be used after MAO inhibitor is cleared from the body
- Who have congenital heart defects or serious heart problems such as arteriosclerosis, heart failure, rhythmic heart disorder, angina or has recently suffered from a heart attack
- Who have severe agitation, anxiety or tension
- Who have hereditary conditions such as hereditary fructose intolerance (HFI) or fructose poisoning, glucose galactose malabsorption (GGM) or congenital sucrase – isomaltase deficiency
- Who have severe high blood pressure
- Who have personal or family history of motor tics or Tourette’s syndrome
- Who have an overactive thyroid gland
- Who have Glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye)
- Who have Pheochromocytoma (a condition that causes excess production of Epinephrine and Norepinephrine hormones)
Possible Ritalin Overdose
On the hand, high doses of Ritalin or a ritalin overdose can cause agitation, anxiety and restlessness, confusion, delirium, hallucinations and paranoia, dilation of pupils, dry mouth, repetition of movements including muscle twitching, increased blood pressure and pulse rate, vomiting, fever and sweating, seizures that are followed by coma and formication (Formication is having the sensation of bugs / worms crawling under the skin).
Ritalin for children or even adults should be taken with careful consideration to avoid the occurrence of an overdose. Besides a ritalin overdose overdose, improper intake of Ritalin can cause serious Ritalin side effects which can lead to life threatening health problems.
It is crucial to proceed with caution when planning to take this medication.