Methylphenidate can be used for the treatment of narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While the prescription medicine is not licensed to treat adult ADHD, it can be used to treat narcolepsy in adults. It can be used in children as young as six years old. Common off-label methylphenidate uses include weight loss, adult ADHD treatment, and depression treatment.
Methylphenidate hydrochloride (Ritalin®) is a prescription medicine commonly used for the following conditions:
ADHD is a condition involving 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, these 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 to qualify as ADHD (see 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 also have it. Diagnosing ADHD in adults is different from diagnosing ADHD in children, and methylphenidate 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 methylphenidate) may be necessary.
The drug 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 doses intended for the treatment of ADHD, methylphenidate usually has a calming effect. While it is not known exactly how the drug achieves this, it is known that methylphenidate affects chemicals in the brain (see Ritalin and D2 Receptors for more information).