Methylphenidate: Uses, Dosage & Side Effects

Instructor: Amy Couture

Amy has a master's degree in nursing and has taught nursing students at the college level.

Methylphenidate is a central nervous stimulant that is used to treat attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and narcolepsy. This lesson discusses the usage, dosage, and side effects of this medication.


At parent-teacher conferences, John's mom Kathy learns he is having a very difficult time concentrating and staying focused in school. Kathy is concerned and brings him to the doctor to be evaluated. The doctor determines that John has attention deficit disorder (or ADD) and should start on a medication named methylphenidate. The doctor explains that methylphenidate is commonly known as Ritalin and Concerta and is a frequently prescribed psychostimulant. It works by increasing the activity of the central nervous system, which produces such effects as increasing alertness, combating fatigue, and improving attention. This medication is typically used to help adults and children who have attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficity hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Methylphenidate also helps people who suffer from narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden attacks of sleep.

Narcolepsy causes excessive daytime sleepiness


This may be obvious, but the medication should only be taken as directed by a doctor! John was prescribed 5 mg to be taken twice a day. He is to take the medication in the morning before breakfast and then again before noontime. John should not take this medication after 6pm as it could interfere with sleep. Dosing is different for adults and children. Here are the typical dosages for methylphenidate.

For ADHD and ADD

  • For short-acting dosage (Doctor may adjust dose as needed):

-Adults- 5-20 mg, given 2-3 times per day. Not to exceed 60 mg per day.

-Children (6 years and older)- 5mg, twice a day. Not to exceed 60 mg per day.

  • For long-acting dosage (Doctor may adjust as needed):

-Adults and Children (6 years and older)- 10-20 mg, once a day in the morning.

For Narcolepsy

  • For short-acting dosage (Doctor may adjust dose as needed):

-Adults- 5-20 mg, 2-3 times per day.

-Children (6 years and older)- 5 mg, 2 times a day

Make sure you take the medication as prescribed by your doctor

Side Effects

John's doctor explained the side effects one can experience when on this medication. As the body adjusts to the medication the side effects may go away. Kathy should contact the doctor if the symptoms persist or become bothersome. The common side effects include:

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