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Supportive Care

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What is methylphenidate?

Methylphenidate (also known as Ritalin® or Concerta®) is a medicine used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used to treat a type of sleep disturbance called narcolepsy. Methylphenidate is available in immediate-release form as a 5 mg, 10 mg, and 20 mg tablet. Methylphenidate is also available as a sustained-release 20-mg white tablet known as Ritalin SR® and as a sustained release capsule known as Ritalin LA® in 20 mg, 30 mg, and 40 mgs. In addition, Methylphenidate is available as an extended-release tablet (called Concerta®) in the following strengths:

  • 18-mg yellow tablet
  • 27-mg gray tablet
  • 36-mg white tablet
  • 54 mg brown-red tablet
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Possible side effects

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Allergic reaction: including rash, itching, swelling in the face or hands, tightness in the chest, or trouble breathing

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include: rash, hives, itching, chills, fever, headache, muscle ache, shortness of breath, coughing, tightness in the throat, swelling of the face or neck.

Not all patients who take methylphenidate will experience these side effects. Common side effects are bolded, but there may be others. Please report all suspected side effects to your doctor or pharmacist.

Find more information on side effects.

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Possible late effects

  • Headache
  • Decreased appetite, weight loss
  • Slower than normal growth
  • Stomach pain
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Blurred vision
  • Nervousness
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Uncontrollable muscle movements or twitching
  • Mood or mental changes

These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor or nurse.

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Tips for patients and families

Be sure to discuss all questions and instructions with your doctor or pharmacist. 

  • Tell the doctor before you take methylphenidate if you:
    • Are being treated for depression, anxiety, tension, or agitation
    • Have repeated twitching of any part of your body
    • Have repeating of sounds or words
    • Have been diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome or a family member has
    • Have abnormal thoughts or visions, hear abnormal sounds, or have been diagnosed with psychosis
    • Have glaucoma
    • Have seizure disorder
    • Have high blood pressure
    • Have a narrowing or blockage of your esophagus, stomach, or small or large intestine
    • Have taken an monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor, such as phenelzine, isocarboxazid, or tranylcypromine, within the past 14 days
  • Methylphenidate may be taken with or without food.
  • If you forget to take a dose of methylphenidate, take the dose as soon as you can. If you miss a dose, do not take extra medicine to make up for the missed dose.
  • Your height, weight, and nutrition status will be monitored every 3 months while you are taking methylphenidate.
  • For children taking methylphenidate, a responsible adult should administer the medicine.
  • Store methylphenidate at room temperature in a safe place.
  • Tell the doctor right away if you take more methylphenidate than prescribed by the doctor.
  • Methylphenidate may interact with other medicines, including:
    • phenytoin
    • phenobarbital
    • carbamazepine
    • primidone
    • MAO inhibitors
    • warfarin
    • clonidine
    • fluoxetine
    • paroxetine
    • sertraline
    • imipramine
    • desipramine
    • amytriptiline
  • Concerta® tablets should be:
    • Swallowed whole and should not be chewed, crushed or cut
    • Taken with a full glass of liquid, such as water, milk, or juice
    • Taken once each day in the morning
  • Concerta® tablets do not dissolve completely after you take them. You may notice Concerta® tablets in your stool. This is normal.
  • Ritalin SR® tablets should be swallowed whole and should not be chewed, crushed, or cut.