Sounds like 'METH-il-FEN-i-date'

Key points about methylphenidate

  • Methylphenidate is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • It belongs to a group of medicines known as stimulants.
  • Methylphenidate is also called Ritalin, Concerta or Rubifen.
  • Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects.
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  • Methylphenidate is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • It helps you to concentrate better, be less impulsive, and feel calmer. 
  • Methylphenidate is a stimulant that works by increasing the amount of a substance called dopamine in your brain.  
  • Methylphenidate is also used to treat narcolepsy, a sleep disorder.


March 2024: There continue to be global supply issues with methylphenidate, a treatment for ADHD, due to increases in demand.

Pharmac has made some changes to ensure people can continue to access treatment of ADHD. From 1 March 2024, the Special Authority criteria for Concerta and Ritalin LA will be changed so people can use Concerta or Ritalin LA if they can't get Teva-ER due to supply issues.

Learn more: Methylphenidate ER tablets: Supply issue.(external link)

  • The dose of methylphenidate will be different for different people, depending on the brand you are taking and your response to the medication.
  • Methylphenidate is available in 2 forms - an immediate release tablet or a modified- release tablet or capsule. Check with your pharmacist which form you are taking.
  • Always take your methylphenidate exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much methylphenidate  to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

  • If you are prescribed the immediate release tablet, take these as you have been prescribed (usually 2 or 3 times a day). Take your doses at the same times each day.
  • If you are prescribed the modified release tablet or capsule (usually has SR or LA after the name), take these once a day, in the morning. Swallow the modified release tablets or capsules whole, with a glass of water. Do not crush or chew them.
  • You can take most methylphenidate medicines with or without food but it is advised to take the brands Ritalin LA capsules and Rubifen SR tablets with food.
  • If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.

Here are some things to know when you're taking methylphenidate. Other things may be important as well, so ask your healthcare provider what you should know about.

  • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol while you're taking methylphenidate.
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you.
  • If you are taking the Concerta brand of methylphenidate, you may notice the tablet shell in your stool. This is normal. Don't be concerned since the shell doesn't dissolve completely in your gut, but the medicine is still absorbed by your body.  
  • Methylphenidate interacts with some medicines, herbal supplements and rongoā Māori, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting methylphenidate and before starting any new products.

Like all medicines, methylphenidate  can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Difficulty falling asleep 
  • Take your methylphenidate dose in the morning . If you are taking more than one dose per day, the second or third dose needs to be taken by early afternoon
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • irritability 
  • Changes in mood

  • Tell your doctor
  • Headache
  • Lower appetite
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Prolonged erection in men (lasting longer than 4 hours) 
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
  • Chest pain
  • Unexplained fainting
  • Numbness or tingling in your hand or feet
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product(external link)

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Dr J Bycroft, GP, Auckland

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