Methylphenidate is better known by its more infamous original brand name version, Ritalin. Let’s leave aside for the moment the controversy over whether children taking Ritalin or generic methylphenidate really need drugs or are just the tools of lazy parents or lazy educators and easily duped parents. This drug does have a place in society to treat a variety of disorders from ADHD to depression to narcolepsy. While Ritalin and methylphenidate are usually considered in relation to being prescribed to hyperactive children, a fair number of adults take this medication on a daily basis. Most kids who are given Ritalin get it to zone them out and control hyperactivity. Instant release methylphenidate tends to have the exact opposite effect on adults; for some people it can literally turn their lives around by giving them energy, focus and motivation. This is why you will sometimes find a person who is taking an anti-depressant also taking out their three little white Ritalin pills twice a day. Ritalin and methylphenidate come with a variety of side effects and not all of these side effects are unpleasant for adults.
Loss of Appetite
Most adults taking Ritalin or methylphenidate will find they lose their appetite. This leads to very rapid weight loss. For a person whose depression is being made worse by weight gain, this means Ritalin is nothing less than a gift from the heavens. Your author was prescribed Ritalin to help deal with a severe case of depression around the turn of the century and he lost 30 pounds in three months and 50 pounds over the course of a year and a half. Obviously, if you are already underweight or just normal weight, the loss of appetite associated with methylphenidate can become a burden rather than a godsend. To avoid losing weight, always eat a healthy breakfast before your first dose and take the second dose early enough so that the effects have worn off by dinner time.
The insomnia experienced by users of Ritalin is not nearly as intense as that experienced by most users of the other popular ADHD drug, Adderall. As long as you don’t take the methylphenidate too close to bedtime, you should be able to get to sleep. If you forget to take your second dose and don’t remember until 5:00 PM or later, it’s probably better to just skip it and start all over in the morning. Ritalin wears off much more quickly than Adderall for the average user and most won’t face the often debilitating sleeping problems experienced by most new users of Adderall.
Many adults who take Ritalin will experience a rush of energy or euphoria about a half hour after ingestion, followed by often extremely increased levels of stimulation. You can think better, focus better and get more accomplished. The effect tends to wear off between 3 and 4 hours later, which is why your bottle of methylphenidate will instruct you to take your second dose about 4 hours after the first dose. When the second dose wears off, you may experience a comedown effect that results in tiredness or fatigue. This feeling can be anywhere from mild to heavy. A smaller number of adult Ritalin users will instantly feel fatigued as soon as the first dose kicks in. Continue taking the drug if you feel comfortable for a few days to see if the effects reverse. If not, then you will most likely want to discontinue using methylphenidate due to the zombie effect. Try Adderall or another ADHD medication instead.
Ritalin and methylphenidate can also result in feelings of anxiety for some users. If you notice that you are feeling irritable between the first and second dose, the first thing to try is spacing the doses closer together. If the anxiety comes after the second dose, try spacing them farther apart. If anxiety continues, try changing the dosage either upward or downward.
An overdose of Ritalin does not mean certain death. You will much more likely just experience severe side effects than face mortal danger unless you take a ridiculously large amount. Many methylphenidate users regularly sweat more, but during an overdose the sweating will be much more noticeable. You may experience tremors and will almost certainly experience a racing heartbeat. Extreme cases of Ritalin overdose can result in hallucinations and paranoia.
Although not technically a side effect, increased tolerance to Ritalin or methylphenidate is probably unavoidable. The real problem is that some people develop a tolerance so fast that the drug becomes useless before it really even had a chance to improve their lives. It is debatable as to whether that is a worse circumstance than the alternative. Those whose lives became manageable under Ritalin or methylphenidate and who grew to depend on its efficacy may not develop a tolerance for five, ten or fifteen years. When tolerance reaches its peak, the patient no longer receives a stimulating effect and may even lose its use as an appetite suppressant. Many people who have reached a state of tolerance for Ritalin choose to switch to another ADHD option like Adderall, Focalin, Strattera or the extended release version of methylphenidate known as Concerta.