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Methylphenidate, usually known by the trade names Ritalin,
Concerta, Metadate and others is one medicine used to treat the
symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Some
children with ADHD do well using behavior training methods, and
may not need a medicine. For other children, this medicine can
improve attention, focus, goal-directed behavior, and
organizational skills. As with any medicine, there are pros and
cons to its use.
Methylphenidate is a stimulant medicine. Since children with ADHD
are already over-stimulated, it is hard to understand how a
stimulant drug will help to calm them down. Researchers think that
the area of the brain that controls when to pay attention to
certain activities and when to ignore other ones is immature and
works poorly in people with ADHD. The medicine stimulates those
areas of the brain so that the child can better pay attention and
focus on his activities.
The medicine works quickly so you'll know if it will help or not.
The dosage may have to be adjusted by your healthcare provider. It
is fairly inexpensive and has been used for many years. If your
child is having problems with attention, focus, and being
overactive in school, stimulant medicine may provide some relief.
Benefits of this medicine often include:
Many parents do not like the idea of medicating their child for
any length of time. As with any medicine, it can have side
effects. Some children will have few or no side effects. Other
children may have to stop using it because of the side effects.
Some common side effects include:
Some children may become more active in the evening after the
medicine has worn off. This can be an ordeal for families who are
tired and stressed out at the end of the day. Some children will
have problems sleeping.
This medicine has been linked to sudden death in children and
teens with heart defects or other heart problems. Have your child
checked for heart disease before your child takes this medicine.
Talk with your provider about the risks and benefits.
Rarely, this medicine causes high blood pressure, weight loss,
growth delays, or aggressive behavior. One to two percent of
children on this medicine have facial twitches called tics. If
your child already had tics, the medicine may make them worse. The
tics get better if the medicine is stopped. A few children don't
like the way the medicine makes them feel. Most, however, like
being better able to concentrate on schoolwork and control their
About 25% of children with ADHD do not respond to methylphenidate,
although some of these children will benefit from other ADHD
There are several treatment approaches for ADHD other than
medicine, such as:
Discuss the decision to medicate your child with your child's
healthcare providers, school counselors, and teachers. Decide with
your doctor if your child's symptoms are causing enough problems
that a trial of this medicine is needed.
The medicine is not a cure. There is no cure for ADHD, though
medicine can help manage some of the symptoms. If you decide to
try medicine, plan a 1 to 4 week trial period. Your child is
usually given a small dose at first, so it may be necessary to
increase the dose. Ask several people who interact with your child
to rate ADHD behavior after your child has been on the medicine
for a few weeks. Even if you do decide to try medicine, be sure to
get an educational evaluation and use behavioral training methods
to help your child as well.