ADHD Home > Ritalin

How Does It Work?

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, Ritalin has a calming effect when used at the doses intended for ADHD treatment. While it is unknown exactly how Ritalin produces a calming effect, it is known that the drug affects certain chemicals in the brain (see Methylphenidate and D2 Receptors).
For people with narcolepsy, it does act as a stimulant (because it is taken in higher doses). This helps people to be alert and stay awake during the day.
(Click Ritalin Effects or Long-Term Side Effects of Ritalin for more information.)

When and How to Take Ritalin

General considerations for when and how to take Ritalin include the following:
  • The medication comes in tablet form. It is usually taken by mouth two or three times a day.
  • Usually, the last dose of Ritalin should be taken before 6 p.m. (taking it later could cause difficulty sleeping).
  • You can take it with or without food.
  • For it to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed. The drug will not work if you stop taking it.

Dosing Information

The dosage that your healthcare provider recommends will vary, depending on a number of factors, including:
  • Your age
  • Other narcolepsy or ADHD medications you have tried
  • Other medical conditions you may have
  • Other medications you are currently taking.
As with any medication, do not adjust your dose unless your healthcare provider specifically instructs you to do so.
(Click Ritalin Dosage for more information.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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