ADHD Home > What Is Ritalin Used For?

What is Ritalin used for? This stimulant drug is used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Although licensed to treat ADHD in children, Ritalin is not recommended for children under the age of six. Occasionally, Ritalin is used for off-label reasons, including the treatment of adult ADHD, helping with weight loss, and the treatment of depression.

What Is Ritalin Used For? -- An Overview

Ritalin® (methylphenidate hydrochloride) is a prescription medicine used for the following conditions:
  • Treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Treatment of narcolepsy.

Why Is Ritalin Used for ADHD?

ADHD is a condition characterized by difficulty paying attention, sitting still, and controlling behavior. In ADHD, these problems are worse than expected for a typical child of the same age. Usually, the symptoms must be present before the age of seven to qualify as ADHD. The symptoms must also affect the school, work, or social life in a negative way.
(Click ADHD and School and Relationships and ADHD for more information.)
Although ADHD is generally thought of as a problem in children, teenagers and adults can have the condition as well. Diagnosing ADHD in adults is different from diagnosing ADHD in children, and Ritalin is not approved for adult ADHD (see Ritalin for Adults).
Any behavioral change involves a well-balanced ADHD treatment plan, including social, educational, and mental therapy (see Behavior Therapy for ADHD). If lifestyle changes alone are not effective in changing behavior, ADHD medications (such as Ritalin) may be necessary.
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, Ritalin usually has a calming effect. While it is not known exactly how Ritalin produces a calming effect, it is known that the drug affects chemicals in the brain.
(Click Methylphenidate and D2 Receptors for more information.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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