ADHD Home > Ritalin Effects

For people taking Ritalin, effects can be either calming or stimulating. When lower doses are taken for ADHD, Ritalin affects certain chemicals in the brain to produce a calming effect. With larger doses, the drug acts as a stimulant to help people with narcolepsy stay alert and awake during the day. Serious effects may occur in those who abuse the medication, including hallucinations, hyperactivity, and aggressiveness.

Effects of Ritalin: An Overview

Ritalin® (methylphenidate hydrochloride) is a prescription medication approved for treating attention deficit hyperactvity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. In addition to helping with these condition, Ritalin has several other effects. As with most stimulants, the drug has different effects at prescribed doses than at higher doses.
 

Ritalin Effects at Prescribed Doses

The following sections explain in detail the effects Ritalin can have in the doses used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, as well as side effects.
 
ADHD
Ritalin is a stimulant, although it can have effects that are opposite from what would be expected of a stimulant. While stimulants (like caffeine) can cause hyperactivity, when used at the doses intended for ADHD treatment, Ritalin has a calming effect. When studied in children, this effect resulted in an improvement of ADHD symptoms when compared to children who did not take the medicine. While it is not known exactly how Ritalin works, it is known that the drug affects chemicals in the brain.
 
Ritalin and Narcolepsy
In general, Ritalin is used at slightly higher, more stimulating doses when used for narcolepsy, although low doses may be enough for some people with the condition. People with narcolepsy fall asleep uncontrollably, often at unwanted times. Ritalin has a stimulating effect on people with this condition, helping them to stay awake during the daytime.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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