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Ritalin Review – Is it Effective?

By Sasha de Beausset Aparicio, MSc

Reviewed by Rebecca Williams, MD, MA, MB, BChir

Last Updated:

Evidence Based | Synopsis | Nutrition Facts | Claims | Safetiness | Cautions | Cost | Buying Options | Dosing | Bottom Line

Every year, approximately 11%[1] of children between the ages of 3 and 17 years in the United States are diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). ADHD isn’t just for kids, though. Based on a study published by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 60% of children with ADHD will retain some of the symptoms as adults.[2]

Two standard options in the treatment of ADHD are Ritalin and Adderall. Both prescription medications can help individuals focus and concentrate on tasks properly. They also decrease impulsive behavior, one of the hallmark symptoms of ADHD.

While Ritalin and Adderall work in comparable ways to treat ADHD, sharing most of the adverse effects and warnings as well,[3] there are some significant differences between the two drugs. This Ritalin review will explain the basics of Ritalin (Methylphenidate).


1) Ritalin at a Glance

Ritalin (Methylphenidate) is a stimulant prescription drug that belongs to a class of medications called central nervous system stimulants (CNS stimulants).[4][5] The formula works by modifying the brain’s norepinephrine and dopamine levels, which are neurotransmitters that allow signals to travel from one nerve cell to another.

Ritalin has a black box warning issued by the FDA as it can lead to abuse or dependence and ca be habit-forming.[6] If patients take it without prescription or following a medical doctor’s recommendation, Ritalin could cause more harm then good.

2) How Did Ritalin Start?

Methylphenidate, the active ingredient in Ritalin, was first synthesized in 1944 and was identified as a stimulant in 1954.[7] The substance was approved for medical use in the United States just one year later, in 1955.[8] Methylphenidate was synthesized by CIBA (now Novartis Corporation) chemist Leandro Panizzon. He named the substance after his wife, nicknamed Rita, who used Ritalin to compensate for low blood pressure.

It is estimated that in 2013, 2.4 billion doses of Methylphenidate were taken worldwide. About 80% of this was prescribed to patients in the United States, making it the 47th most used drug.[9]

In 2000, ALZA Corporation received US FDA approval to market Concerta, an extended-release form of Methylphenidate.

Novartis Corporation is a Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company based in Basel, Switzerland.[10] It is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies by both market capitalization and sales.

Novartis manufactures the drugs Voltaren (diclofenac), Clozaril (clozapine), Tegretol (carbamazepine), Ritalin (methylphenidate), Neoral/Sandimmun (ciclosporin), Diovan (valsartan), Gleevec/Glivec (imatinib mesylate), Femara (letrozole), Lamisil (terbinafine), and others.

Novartis Corporation contact information:

  • Phone: +1 862 778 21 00 / +41 61 324 11 11
  • Address: Lichtstrasse 35 Basel, 4056 Switzerland
  • Website: novartis.com
Nutrition Facts

3) Ritalin Nutrition Facts

Ritalin contains the following active ingredients: methylphenidate hydrochloride.

Methylphenidate is a powerful central nervous system stimulant and a controlled substance,[11] which means your doctor will have to monitor its use carefully. It is usually prescribed in the treatment of attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and narcolepsy.[12]

Methylphenidate is the active ingredient in prescription drugs such as Concerta, Ritalin, or Biphentin. It is used along with other treatment modalities (i.e., cognitive behavior therapy, psychological therapy, or educational therapy) to improve the symptoms of ADD/ADHD, such as impulsivity, short attention span, moderate-to-severe distractibility, emotional lability, and hyperactivity. [13][14]

Long-acting stimulants like lisdexamfetamine and dextroamphetamine are generally recognized as the most effective and widely used treatment for ADHD.[15][16] They are considered first-line options for children, adolescents, and adults.

If you prefer an OTC alternative to Ritalin, we think you might this ADHD formula by ADDTabz.

4) Does Ritalin Work?

To understand ADD/ADHD medications, you need first to understand how dopamine and norepinephrine affect your brain. Both play a crucial role in maintaining focus and attention. Norepinephrine can improve the “message” you’re trying to focus on, to pay attention to, while dopamine can attenuate signals from the external stimuli that might be distracting to you. [17][18]

Stimulant prescription medication like Ritalin or Adderall works by regulating the norepinephrine levels and dopamine in the brain. Optimal levels of the two neurotransmitters mean that you can stay focused longer. However, high levels of dopamine and norepinephrine can stress the brain, leading to a worsening of the symptoms associated with ADD/ADHD.

So trying to get that right balance is what’s vital.

According to studies, patients with ADD/ADHD have an 80% chance of responding to the correct medication.[19] Generally, 50% of the patients will respond equally well to the two main classes of ADHD medications: Adderall (amphetamine) or Ritalin (Methylphenidate). Of the other 50%, half will do better on amphetamine and half on Methylphenidate.[20]


5) Ritalin Claims

Some Ritalin (Methylphenidate) claimed benefits include:

  • It can increase the ability to pay attention, control behavior problems, and stay focused on an activity;
  • It may improve your ability to organize your tasks and improve listening skills.

6) Is Ritalin Safe for Everyone?

Common side effects[21][22][23][24] of Ritalin (methylphenidate) include:

  • Stomachache
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nervousness
  • Decreased appetite

Other, less common side effects of Ritalin may include:

  • Seizures (mostly in patients with a history of seizures)
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision or eyesight changes
  • Skin rash
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Palpitations
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

More serious adverse effects may include:

  • Irregular heartbeat (cardiac arrhythmia);
  • Addiction;
  • Slowed growth in children;
  • Raynaud’s syndrome;
  • Psychosis – may cause you to see things that aren’t real or to feel like bugs are crawling on your skin.

7) What You Need to Know Before Taking Ritalin

Ritalin is a powerful prescription drug that can interact with a wide range of other prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications (OTC), dietary supplements, herbs, or illegal drugs. Ritalin (Methylphenidate) may interact with other medications, such as:

  • Blood pressure medications;
  • Antidepressants including MAOIs (linezolid, rasagiline, isocarboxazid, phenelzine, tranylcypromine, and selegiline);
  • Blood thinners;
  • Seizure drugs;
  • Cold or allergy drugs that contain decongestants.

Foods rich in Vitamin C, such as fruits (cantaloupe, citrus fruits, kiwi, mango, pineapple, papaya, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and cranberries), broccoli, tomatoes, and potatoes, can also interact with Ritalin and make it less effective. There is no need to avoid these foods altogether, but you should try not to eat Vitamin-C rich foods for about an hour before or after taking Ritalin.

Buying Options

8) Where to Buy Ritalin in the United States?

Ritalin (Methylphenidate) is a prescription medication. That means it can’t, and it shouldn’t be bought from questionable sources. It is available, however, at most drugstores.


9) How Much Does Ritalin Cost?

The price of Ritalin (Methylphenidate) oral capsule, extended-release, is around $720 for a supply of 100 capsules, depending on the pharmacy you visit. Prices are for cash paying customers only and are not valid with insurance plans.

10) Alternatives to Ritalin

Because Ritalin (Methylphenidate) is a prescription drug, we can only review prescription medicines as potential alternatives. We don’t advocate substituting a treatment directed by your medical doctor with an over-the-counter dietary supplement.

Adderall is considered a first-choice treatment option for ADHD. Studies show that it improves attention, focus, and reduces impulsive behaviors.[25] Between 75% and 80% of children with ADD/ADHD will see improved symptoms with the use of stimulant prescription drugs.[26] Adderall is also a valid option for increasing daytime wakefulness in individuals with narcolepsy, although there is little related research.

Concerta (Methylphenidate) is a controlled substance used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It works by activating the areas of your brain that are responsible for paying attention and staying focused.[27] Unlike Ritalin, Concerta is only available as an extended-release tablet in various strengths: 18 mg, 27 mg, 36 mg, and 54 mg.


11) Ritalin Serving Size

Doses of Ritalin are individualized, so your dosage will depend on why you’re taking it, and on your response to the drug. Typically, physicians will prescribe a lower dose and increase the amount as needed.

Take Ritalin shortly after meals or, preferably, after a substantial breakfast. Do not crush or chew Ritalin tablets. You can take Ritalin tablets with or without food. Swallow the tablet(s) with a full glass of water.

12) Variations of Ritalin

Ritalin is available in several variations:

  • Tablets (Ritalin) – 5mg, 10mg, and 20 mg;
  • Sustained-release tablets (Ritalin SR)- 20 mg;
  • Long-acting tablets (Ritalin LA) – 20mg, 30mg, and 40 mg.

13) What Users Are Saying

"I'm a 20-year-old woman, 179 cm and 61 kg, who was diagnosed with ADD for the first time in my life, after living with it untreated for so many years. So, my doctor wanted to prescribe me with Ritalin, though in small doses, so I didn't just go all-in. I started with 10mg, which didn't have an effect." [Read full review]


"I'm 19, female, and I've been on this medication for about three weeks and have slowly upped the dose from 10mg twice a day to 20mg, and I feel like when I just started, it worked wonders, but now I need more and more for it to help." [Read full review]


"(18 M) I recently got diagnosed with ADD and was given Ritalin. 5mg per day as a start-up dose. I have dabbled with other drugs in the past, like cannabis, LSD, mushrooms, and morphine. " [Read full review]


"First off, it was horrible for me. I will never go back to Ritalin ever again. I was on 10mg of Ritalin, and it lasted around 2 hours. It was the weirdest experience. I felt simultaneously euphoric, jittery, and stimulated, but also lazy and just wanted to sleep (???). It did give me a strong boost of energy, which lasted throughout the day." [Read full review]


"I suffer from anxiety and depression, and while antidepressants worked, I still didn't have any motivation or drive, my dr wanted me to try taking Ritalin in addition to my regular medication. For me, it made a huge difference, life-changing. I'm a 44 yr old female, and I haven't felt this good since before I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety." [Read full review]


Bottom Line

14) The Bottom Line – “Does it Work?”

Stimulant prescription medication such as Ritalin and Adderall are the treatment most frequently used for ADD/ADHD in children, adolescents, and adults. They can help you manage symptoms, such as hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and short attention span. While not always effective, the treatment with these stimulant drugs eases ADHD symptoms in about 70% of adults and 70% to 80% of children.[28]

Although there is some dispute about whether performance at school or social skills improves, there are people who benefit from them.

4.3/5 - (3 votes)

Reference Sources

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