ADHD Medication and Treatment Reviews


Methylphenidate is a stimulant ADHD medication available in many formulations used to treat symptoms of primarily inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, or combined type of ADHD in children and adults.
Brand Names: Concerta, Ritalin, Jornay PM, Aptensio XR, Metadate CD, Methylin, Quillivant XR

What is Methylphenidate?

Methylphenidate (Brand Names: Concerta, Ritalin, Daytrana, Aptensio XR, Methylin, Quillivant XR, Jornay PM, Azstarys, Cotempla XR-ODT,) is a central nervous system stimulant ADHD medication primarily used to treat symptoms of

For updated information about dosages, interactions, and precautions, see the Methylphenidate monograph on WebMD.

Methylphenidate is available in several formulations:

  • Short-Acting Tablet: (Brand Name: Ritalin, Focalin) Taken two to three times daily, 30 to 45 minutes before a meal. Tablets should be swallowed whole with water or other liquids. Tablets should never be crushed or chewed.
  • Extended-Release Capsule: (Brand Name: Aptensio XR, Ritalin LA, Contempla XR-ODT) Taken orally, with or without food, once daily. The first dose is typically taken first thing in the morning; it should be taken at the same time each day for the best results. Tablets should be swallowed whole with water or other liquids. If your child cannot swallow the capsule, it can be opened and sprinkled over a spoonful of applesauce. Taken this way, the mixture should be swallowed whole without chewing, followed by a drink of water or other liquid. Capsules should never be crushed or chewed. The time-release formulation is designed to maintain a steady level of medication in the body for roughly eight to 10 hours.
  • Once-Daily Oral Capsule: (Brand Name: Azstarys)  Azstarys is a once-daily central nervous system (CNS) stimulant ADHD medication approved for treating ADHD symptoms in patients 6 years of age and older. Formerly referred to as KP415, Azstarys comprises serdexmethylphenidate (SDX), KemPharm’s prodrug of d-methylphenidate (d-MPH), co-formulated with immediate-release d-MPH. Azstarys can be taken with or without food. Patients may swallow capsules whole or open them and sprinkle them onto applesauce or add them to water.
  • Delayed-Release/Extended-Release Capsule: (Brand Name: Jornay PM) Jornay PM capsules are filled with microbeads, each with a delayed release and extended-release layer. This technology keeps the medication from activating for the first 10 to 12 hours — meaning that, when taken in the evening before bedtime, the effects are felt when a child wakes up. The medication is then released into the body in steady amounts throughout the day.
  • Extended-Release Chewable Tablet: (Brand Name: Quillichew ER) Taken once daily in the morning with or without food. Chew each tablet well, and swallow with a full glass of water or another liquid.
  • Oral Solution: (Brand Name: Methylin) Taken two to three times daily, 30 to 45 minutes before a meal. The liquid should be measured with the included device and swallowed entirely with water or another liquid.
  • Extended-Release Suspension: (Brand Name: Quillivant XR) Taken once daily in the morning with or without food. Shake the bottle well for at least 10 seconds, and then measure with the included device. The time-release formulation is designed to maintain a steady level of medication in your body throughout the day.
  • Extended-Release Osmotic Tablet: (Brand name: Concerta) Taken orally, with or without food, once daily — usually first thing in the morning. It should be taken at the same time each day for the best results. Tablets should be swallowed whole with water or other liquids. Tablets should never be cut, crushed, or chewed because this would destroy the time-release mechanism. The tablet is designed to release the medication without dissolving. The empty capsule passes through the digestive tract and out of the body without being digested. The time-release formulation is designed to maintain a steady level of medication in your body throughout the day. Most generics are of poor quality.  Ask your pharmacist to dispense the “branded generic” formulation.
  • Single isomer extended-release capsule: (Brand name: Focalin XR.  Generic name: dexmethylphenidate ER).  Although all other methylphenidate formulations contain both the right and left-handed mirror image molecules of methylphenidate, only the right-handed version has benefits for ADHD.  The left-handed version increases side effects.  This formulation is just the beneficial right-handed version of the methylphenidate molecule, and there is strong evidence that it has more efficacy and a lower level of side effects than other formulations.  (Five companies have been making generic versions of the drug since 2011).  It is also more expensive and, therefore, commonly does not have as good insurance coverage.
  • Transdermal Patch: (Brand Name: Daytrana) Apply the patch to the hip two hours before you need the medication to take effect. These nominal dosage strengths are just estimates since the efficiency of skin absorption varies greatly from person to person.  Each dosage is approved by the FDA for a wear time of just nine hours a day:  This nine-hour wear time is merely how long the FDA studied in its Stage 3 trial.  In clinical practice, your doctor may suggest that you keep the patch on for longer periods of time.  The patch was originally designed for up to 18 hours of wear time. This formulation may cause skin irritation (red, mildly painful areas of skin) where the patch was applied so the spot where the patch is applied should be changed daily.

During treatment, your doctor should periodically ask you or your parents to fill out an evidence-based ADHD rating scale and have involved teachers do the same. Over the years they may suggest that you stop taking your methylphenidate to monitor your residual ADHD symptoms; check vital statistics including blood, heart, and blood pressure; or evaluate height and weight. If any problems are found, your doctor may recommend modifying treatment or switching to another stimulant such as an amphetamine or a non-stimulant.

Very rarely some patients report developing a tolerance to methylphenidate after long-term use. If you notice that your dosage is no longer controlling your or your child’s symptoms, talk to your doctor to plan a course of action.

Methylphenidate Side Effects

As with all medications, follow your methylphenidate prescription instructions exactly. If patients experience upset stomach as a side effect, this medication can be taken with food. Taking methylphenidate late in the day can disrupt sleep.

The most common side effects of methylphenidate are as follows: Decreased appetite with possible weight loss, jitteriness, irritability, difficulty falling asleep, stomach discomfort, heart racing, and constipation.

The transdermal patch form of methylphenidate can cause skin irritation, and permanent skin discoloration where the patch is applied.

At one time there was a concern that methylphenidate caused a slowing of growth for which the child then compensated in a later time. This is now considered doubtful and consequently no international professional guidelines now recommend the use of “drug holidays” to allow for this compensatory growth.

Other serious but rare side effects include priapism and eyesight changes or blurred vision.

If side effects are bothersome, or do not go away, talk to your doctor. Most people taking this medication do not experience any of these side effects.

Report to your doctor any heart-related problems or a family history of heart and blood pressure problems prior to starting methylphenidate. Patients with structural cardiac abnormalities and other serious heart problems have experienced sudden death, stroke, heart attack, and increased blood pressure while taking methylphenidate. Stimulants can increase blood pressure and heart rate. Physicians should monitor these vital signs closely during treatment. Call your doctor immediately if you or your child experiences warning signs such as severe chest pain, excessive shortness of breath without cause, or fainting while taking methylphenidate.

Also disclose to your physician all mental health issues including any family history of suicide, bipolar illness, tics, or depression. Methylphenidate may create new or exacerbate existing behavior problems, bipolar illness, or Tourette’s syndrome. The FDA recommends evaluating patients for bipolar disorder, tics, and Tourette’s syndrome prior to stimulant administration. It can cause psychotic or manic symptoms in children and teenagers. Call your doctor immediately if you or your child experiences new or worsening mental health symptoms including hallucinations or sudden suspicions.

Discuss circulation problems with your doctor before taking methylphenidate, which has been known to cause numbness, coolness, or pain in fingers or toes, including Raynaud’s phenomenon. Report to your doctor any new blood-flow problems, pain, skin color changes, or sensitivities to temperature while taking methylphenidate.

Stimulants like methylphenidate have a high potential for abuse and addiction, especially among people who do not have ADHD. It is a “Schedule II Stimulant,” a designation that the Drug Enforcement Agency uses for drugs with a high potential for abuse. All of the first line (i.e. most effective) stimulant medications for ADHD are also in Schedule II. People with a history of drug abuse should use caution when trying this medication. Taking the medication exactly as prescribed can reduce potential for abuse.

The above is not a complete list of potential side effects. If you notice any health changes not listed above, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

What Precautions Are Associated with Methylphenidate?

Store methylphenidate in a secure place out of the reach of children, and at room temperature. Do not share your methylphenidate prescription with anyone, even someone with ADHD. Sharing prescription medication is illegal and can cause harm.

You should not take methylphenidate if you have any of the following conditions: allergy or hypersensitivity to methylphenidate HCI or any of the ingredients in methylphenidate medications, anxiety/agitation, glaucoma, tics or history of Tourette’s syndrome (There is conflicting evidence regarding if tics can get better, stay the same or get worse with stimulant treatment for ADHD), or if you are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

Chewable tablets can contain phenylalanine, and can be harmful to people with phenylketonuria.

You should use caution while taking methylphenidate if you have a history of heart or circulation problems.

If you’re thinking of becoming pregnant, discuss the use of methylphenidate with your doctor. Animal studies indicate a potential risk of fetal harm but no harm has been found in human beings. Methylphenidate is passed through breastmilk but the effects of ADHD medications in breast milk have never been studied.  The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that mothers do not nurse while taking  methylphenidate “out of an abundance of caution.”

What Interactions Are Associated with Methylphenidate?

Before taking methylphenidate, discuss all other active prescription medications with your doctor. Methylphenidate can have a dangerous, possibly fatal, interaction with a group of rarely used antidepressants called the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

Share a list of all vitamin or herbal supplements, and prescription and non-prescription medications you take with the pharmacist when you fill your prescription, and let all doctors and physicians know you are taking methylphenidate before having any surgery or laboratory tests. Methylphenidate can have a dangerous interaction with certain anesthetics. The above is not a complete list of all possible drug interactions.

Methylphenidate and Other ADHD Medications: More Information


1 Greenhill L, Kollins S, Abikoff H, McCracken J, Riddle M, Swanson J. Efficacy and safety of immediate-release methylphenidate treatment for preschoolers with ADHD. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006;45(11):1284–1293. DOI:
2Cortese S, Adamo N, Del Giovane C, et al. Comparative efficacy and tolerability of medications for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, adolescents, and adults: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. Lancet Psychiatry. 2018 Aug 7. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30269-4
3Molina BSG, Hinshaw SP, Swanson JM, Arnold LE, Vitiello B, Jensen PS, Epstein JN, Hoza B, Hechtman L, Abikoff HB, Elliott GR, Greenhill LL, Newcorn JH, Wells KC, Wigal T, Gibbons RD, Hur K, Houck PR; MTA Cooperative Group. The MTA at 8 years: prospective follow-up of children treated for combined-type ADHD in a multisite study. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2009 May;48(5):484-500. doi: 10.1097/CHI.0b013e31819c23d0. PMID: 19318991; PMCID: PMC3063150.
Methylphenidate Chewable tabs:
Methylphenidate Oral solution:
Methylphenidate Extended release suspension:
Methylphenidate Extended release chewable tablet:
Methylphenidate Short-acting tablet: