Ritalin is an old drug first marketed with this name in mid twentieth century. The generic name of this drug is Methylphenidate, which is basically used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is being marketed across the globe with different brand names like Methylin, Concerta and Hynidate. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is characterized by episodes of inattention or lack of intentiona alternating with hyper or increased mental as well as physical activity of an individual. It is believed that the main cause in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is reduction in dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the synapses of the central nervous system especially the brain. Ritalin (methylphenidate) decreases the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine at the nerve terminals and thus increases the quantity of neurotransmitters in the synapses of brain. In this way it helps in the management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Among the classification of central nervous system drugs it is classified as a psychostimulant drug.
What is Ritalin used for?
Common uses of Ritalin (methylphenidate) are;
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – Ritalin is usually prescribed to the children less than eighteen years of age for the management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Studies have shown that it is effective in addressing the issues of inattention, lack of concentration and reduces the tendency of substance or drug abuse. When used in addition to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the effect is enhanced.
- Narcolepsy – it is condition characterized by excessive drowsiness and sleep during the daytime. Ritalin, being CNS stimulant keeps the individual alert and decreases the sleep during the daytime.
- Major depressive disorder – studies have shown that Methylphenidate is very effective in treating the depression refractory to most of the antidepressants.
- Cancer management – in cancer patients undergoing treatment, Methylphenidate decreases somnolence induced by the use of opioid analgesics. Moreover, it increases the analgesic effect of opioids and decreases the depression cancer patients are going through.
- Substance abuse and dependence – few studies have shown that Methylphenidate can be used effectively for the management of cocaine abuse, which is a CNS stimulant substance.
What are the common side effects of Ritalin?
Most of the dangerous side effects of Ritalin occur in chronic use of the drug. So, a constant watch on the adverse effects of the drug is must in order to avoid unforeseen events. Here are the common side effects of Ritalin:
- Nervous system – Methylphenidate most commonly affects the nervous system of the human body. Common symptoms are disturbed sleep pattern with mostly lack of sleep (insomnia), nervousness and drowsiness throughout the day. Ritalin also lowers the threshold for epilepsy, so it must be used cautiously in the epileptics.
- Autonomic nervous system – Ritalin affects autonomic nervous system (ANS) in many ways. It may cause dilatation of pupils and extreme sweating (diaphoresis).
- Gastrointestinal symptoms – the most common are abdominal cramps and pain. Moreover, it may also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation.
- Cardiovascular – the most common cardiac side effect is the left sided or central chest pain (angina). Moreover changes in blood pressure and pulse on both the sides are also observed during the use of this drug. Patients may complain of palpitations with the use of this drug. Ritalin also increases the chances of arrhythmias in a normal healthy individual.
- Loss of hair (alopecia) is another common side effect of Ritalin.
- Psychiatric disorders – mood swings are common during the use of Ritalin. It includes both dysphoria and euphoria. Moreover, it can cause depression as well as anxiety in a normal and stable patient. Ritalin use is associated with unusual anger, increased suicidal tendency, psychosis and substance abuse.
- Unusual restlessness (akathesia), lethary and tiredness are also commonly seen in the individuals using Ritalin.
- Sexual functions – sexual functions are also commonly affected during the use of Ritalin. Patients may have increased or decreased libido.
- Allergic reactions – like any other drug, use of Ritalin is associated with certain hypersensitivity reactions like skin rash, fever, urticaria, arthralgia and exfoliative dermatitis.
- Weight changes – Ritalin can cause weight loss which is reversed once the drug is discontinued.
- Hepatic disorders – Ritalin may cause drug induced hepatitis and impair liver function tests
What are the side effects of Ritalin on children?
Although the effects of Ritalin (methyphenidate) on the children are not well known, however, it is not recommended to use Ritalin in the children under six years of age. One of the studies on Ritalin suggests that it may impair the normal brain development in the children if used for a long time. Moreover, stunted growth is another common side of Ritalin which limits its use in the children.
What are the side effects of Ritalin on men?
Lack of desire for having sex is the major side effect of Ritalin in men. This side effect usually withers as soon as the drug is discontinued. Few studies mentioned that it might increase libido.
What are the side effects of Ritalin on women?
Lack of interest is sex is also observed in the women using Ritalin. Women experience loss of hair (alopecia) more as compared to the men. Moreover, emotionally labiality and suicidal ideation are the effects commonly seen in women.
What are the side effects of Ritalin on pregnant women?
Ritalin has been classified as category C pregnancy drug. Studies have shown that use of Ritalin should only be carried out during pregnancy if benefits outweigh the risks associated with this drug. Although not enough data is present to completely negate the use of Ritalin in pregnancy, however, few studies show that there is increased risk of cardiac malformations, premature birth and stunted growth due to Ritalin.
What are the side effects of Ritalin on elderly?
In elderly the most bothersome side effects are akatheia (restlessness), lethargy and fatigue. Elderly are already fed up of all these issues and Ritalin increases these symptoms to a great extent. Ritalin is comparatively safe in the elderly as compared to other antidepressants and is used preferably in the elderly for the management of depression.