Ritalin Can Be Used for Narcolepsy

Uses, Side Effects and Serious Reactions

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Methylphenidate, sold under the brand names of Ritalin, Methylin, Concerta, Quillivant and Daytrana, is known as an amphetamine variant. It is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as the excessive daytime sleepiness associated with narcolepsy. It is also sometimes prescribed for chronic fatigue syndrome.

Uses of Ritalin

Methylphenidate is a stimulant with direct effects on the central nervous system.

It has an alerting, sleep-deferring action and can improve attention to repetitive tasks. It improves focus and organization and can decrease daytime drowsiness. It also may have a mood-elevating effect. It is used to treat the following disorders:

You may be prescribed a standard or extended-release formulation of the drug. These vary slightly in how long it takes the body to metabolize them, but their effects are the same.

How Does Ritalin Work?

The exact mechanism of action of Ritalin is not known. It increases the level of two important neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and dopamine, in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that serve as messengers between nerve cells, called neurons. Ritalin accomplishes this level increase by partially blocking their removal and by increasing their release into the space between neurons.

Ritalin works in the striatum and prefrontal cortexes, regions of the brain that are important to concentration.

It may also improve the distribution of resources, including glucose, so that the brain can function more efficiently.

Who Should Not Use Ritalin?

Ritalin is not approved for children younger than 6 years old. It should not be used by people taking tricyclic antidepressants and MAO inhibitors, two drugs used to treat depression, so make sure your medical provider is aware of all medications you are taking.

Ritalin may not be appropriate in individuals with certain medical conditions, including severe arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, structural heart problems, hypertension or liver damage. In addition, it may be contraindicated in those with Tourette’s syndrome, overactive thyroid, motor tics, agitation and glaucoma.

Common Side Effects of Ritalin

There are many potential side effects of any drug. Although an individual would not be expected to have all of them, and may indeed not have any of them, some that may commonly occur include:

  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss with long-term use
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Motor tics
  • Headache
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Short-term depression 
  • Drowsiness
  • Abnormal movements
  • Chest pain
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Visual disturbances

Potential Serious Reactions of Ritalin

With the use of any drug, there are also risks of serious side effects. These occur more rarely, but may include:

  • Dependency or abuse
  • Psychosis
  • Mania
  • Aggressive behavior

What Safety Precautions and Monitoring Should Occur?

The use of Ritalin during pregnancy should be approached cautiously, weighing possible fetal risk against maternal benefit. Caution is also advised with lactation as the safety of this is unknown.

In individuals with cardiac risk factors, an initial cardiac evaluation should be done including blood pressure and heart rate measurement prior to starting the medication, with dose increases, and periodically during treatment.

In pediatric patients, height and weight should be monitored when treatment starts and periodically thereafter. Additional blood work may be indicated and close follow-up with your medical provider is very important.

Sources:

"Methylphenidate." Epocrates Rx. Version 1.127, 2008. Epocrates, Inc. San Mateo, California.

Katzung, B.G. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology. 9th edition, 2004. 134-140. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. New York.

"Methylphenidate." MedLine Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine (2016).

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