ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Medication, Medication

Ritalin Side Effects

Ritalin may be a wonder drug to some but what are the side effects of Ritalin?

Side Effects

Because of its long history as an ADHD medication Ritalin has not gone through the same testing and approving process required by more modern drugs such as Adderall and Concerta. Unlike those drugs, a detailed breakdown of Ritalin’s side effects is not included in the labeling information. However as Ritalin is the poster-child of the ADHD medication debate it has been widely studied.

A four week study into Ritalin’s side effects in children compared to a placebo treatment found that insomnia, appetite disturbance, stomachaches, headaches and dizziness all significantly increased when using the drug.

Another study looking and the side effects of Ritalin and Dexedrine found that the ‘side effects’ reported for the medication were more frequent and more severe before the use of Ritalin started. Only in appetite problems were the Ritalin side effects worse than those reported before the medication started.

Some mental health problems can arise as a side effect of Ritalin. Hallucinations, delusional thinking, or mania in children and adolescents without a prior history of psychotic illness or mania can be caused by Ritalin at its usual doses. In short-term trials 0.1% of patients reported mental health problems compared to 0% of patients receiving a placebo.


Contraindications are signs or symptoms that medication should not be prescribed or taken rather than specific Ritalin side effects. The most worrying of these is the potential fatal effect it can have on patients with structural heart problems. It is not clear if or how Ritalin effects these problems but there have been a handful of cases where Ritalin users with heart defects have died suddenly.

In common with most stimulants Ritalin should not be taken by patients with motor tics or with a family history or diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome. A side effect of Ritalin is to aggravate those symptoms.

Long Term Ritalin Side Effects

Does Ritalin have any long term side effect? We don’t know. Despite Ritalin being prescribed to patients for months or years at a time. The manufacturers have never run any long-term studies to establish Ritalin’s effectiveness or safety. However some evidence of Ritalin side effects over the extended usage has been found.

One area that has been a studied is whether stunted growth is a Ritalin side effect. On average, a total of about 2 cm less growth in height and 2.7 kg less growth in weight over 3 years. It is recommend that children taking Ritalin have their height and weight monitored.

There is also concern that long-term use of stimulants can lead to drug dependence. This is not a specific Ritalin side effect but a problem that effects all stimulant medications. Care should be given when prescribing Ritalin to people with a history of drug or alcohol abuse. There is some evidence that suggests that extend Ritalin use can lead to problems with cocaine use in later life.


Placebo-Controlled Evaluation of Ritalin Side Effects

Side Effects of Methylphenidate and Dexamphetamine in Children With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Double-blind, Crossover Trial

FDA Labeling Information


  1. Gigi

    My stepson (S.) turned 23 in March ’07, and only a few months prior to that time began to mature from early adolescent appearance and behavior. My husband thinks that Ritalin prescribed for attention deficit disorder affected his son’s physical and emotional development, and I am curious about that, but I don’t find much info online. S. started getting off of Ritalin a couple of years ago and has been off of it completely for several months. When he was 15, he was small, skinny and looked 11, and, until recently, at over 20 years of age, he was still extremely skinny and looked 15. He’s now developed a deep voice and is filling out. He’s begun to be interested in working out. However, he still has not shown much interest in getting a driver’s license, even though he is interested in girls. He just completed two semesters of community college (at 23) with reasonably good grades, and for the first time, since I met him when he was 10 and already on Ritalin, he is starting to appear, to me at least, more physically and emotionally normal for his age. I am sharing this annecdotal report of my observations, as it might serve to support the observations of others about the long-term effects of Ritalin on children, specifically the potential for stunting physical and emotional development.

  2. Tammy Rominski

    I have finally gotten a second diagnosis for my daughter and what I think may be a better medication as to her temper tantrums and severe explosive outbreaks I just would like to know if you could send me more information on this ridalin. She has been diagnosed with ADHD, and bipolar disorder. I have another daughter who also has the bipolar but not the ADHD, she is epileptic. I thought that one brought on the other in alot of cases, but my daughter whom has just been diagnosed she has never had seizures. I thank you for your time and this site has been most helpful, I just would like to know more. Sincerely
    Tammy Rominski

  3. Tammy Elliott

    Hi I was just wondering about the side effects and what you mean about structural heart problems could you please be a little more specific? My son had a vsd repaired and we wondering if it would be wise for him to take ritalin???

  4. Me

    I am diagnosed with ADHD. I have tried to receive psyhoactive stimulants in the U.S. but all they perscribe me is anti-depressants. I am not so sure I understand this logic. However, I was interested to know if any one knows of any side effect or danger to adults being perscribe ritalin and what they entail, if any.

  5. Tracy

    Hello. I was diagnose in the 4th grade with ADD. I was always “out there” and couldnt finish anything. heaven forbide if i was doing something and you interupted me…talk about a temper. i had it….even made problems at home…but the ritalin made it better. Then i decided..(this was dumb) that if i took ritali that meant i was stupid. and if i didn’t take it i was like everyone else. so i stopped taking it in the 10th grade. Anxiety took over so badly i didn’t make the cheerleading squad ever again. i thought everone didn’t like me and i almost failed the 12th grade. i got into the wrong crowd and went downhill fast. i am now 29 years old and on my 2nd marriage. i have one child who is my life. I just recently decided that i have anger in my life b/c i need to be medicated and i am not. as of yesterday, i went back on my ritalin after a 13 year hiatus. best decision i ever made. it was pure bliss. my life got better in 30 minutes. please if you are a REAL ADD and are taking ritalin for it and are young. dont be silly and do what i did. my personal life and career attempts have been unneccsary struggles b/c of that mistake i made 13 years ago. stay on the meds!

  6. Brittny

    Hi. I was diagnosed with ADD in the 2nd grade, and placed on ritalin for about two years. I started to have really sharp chest pains (it felt like someone was pinching me really hard on the inside, in random places in my chest.)In order to get rid of these pains, I had to breathe really heavily, and the pain would “pop” and go away. My parents believed that this was due to ritalin because they saw on the news that another kid that had been taking it had similar problems.
    It wasn’t until last year that I started to believe more that the pains could have been caused by the ritalin (as a long term effect) when I found out that my friend had the same problems and hadn’t taken ritalin since she was young. I actually still do have these chest pains as well. I know that the same is not for everyone and other medicines may work differently, but I am pretty much scarred by this experience.
    Are there more people who have dealt with this and is it a known side effect?

  7. John

    I will turn 17 in next month and I am a junior in high school…
    I started taking Ritalin a few months ago. I can sort of relate to the chest pains you felt. My heart races occasionally but never to the point, where i would take a deep breath and pop the pain out. Ritalin *deaths* are known for this specific side effect and I think you should definately get that checked out. I have(REAL ADD) so the ritalin does help in learning immensely, I only wish the ritalin would limit the “butterfly feeling” in my heart.

    While we’re on the topic…

    What is the severity of smoking marijuana daily and using ritalin later for ADD. And I know im not the only one whos uses both.. Can that make my ADD worse?

    Please comment, thx

  8. Hi, My husband and I have been raising my step children for the last 7 months. My 9 (almos 10) year-old stepson has has been on Ritalin for at least 4 years. Since they came to live with us he has not been consistently taking his doses and has not taken it at all for the last 2 Months. What I have noticed in him being off the medication is that he is not hyper or temperamental or anything other than, mentally underdeveloped. He sits with his mouth open and most of the time he has the deer-in-the-head-lights look. According to his 18 year-old sister he was never this way before. He was mellow and clever did not want to do his homework (reason why he was put on Ritalin). Is it possible that for the wrong patience this medicine will cause the brain to under develop or slow down. And is so will he get better? I am concerned that this Medication has made his life more of a challenge and that he may not of needed it in the first place. If anyone has seen or experienced this please share.

  9. Noelle

    I have taken Ritalin for 16 years and I have no known side effects from this. I am a healthy 23 year-old with no medical problems. As with all medications, if the benefits outweigh the risks, then you should take the medication. I am an excellent student and I am graduating college next year. I know I could never have done this without the medication. When I don’t take the medication, it seems to take me twice as long to complete tasks. I do think Ritalin is over prescribed, but for those of us who truly have ADHD, this is a miracle drug.

    Also, the article says the following;

    “because of its long history as an ADHD medication Ritalin has not gone through the same testing and approving process required by more modern drugs such as Adderall and Concerta”

    That is ridiculous because Concerta is the exact same drug as Ritalin, only it is in sustained release form (Concerta is coated in a series of layers that dissolve slowly to release the medication throughout a longer time period while Ritalin is not coated). Both Concerta and Ritalin are made of the same drug which is methylphenidate.

  10. Chris

    Firefox seems to have eaten my original comment, so I’ll repost the comment until I can see it.

    Noelle sounds like somebody who works for the drug companies.

    As a male of twenty four years of age, ritalin as far as I see has ruined my life. I was giving the scam drug when I was in kindergarten, and stop taking it my sophomore year
    I still live with my parents, have to take community collage classes to continue my education and have yet to earn a degree of any meaning. A high SAT score means nothing. Only recently have I taken the steps to getting a drivers license.
    My emotional growth has been suppressed by this awful drug. I have never dated, never kissed anyone, and am still a virgin. Most men my age have experienced all this. The only emotions I am sure I have are anger, loneness, hate, loathing, and indifference.
    To cope I have developed a superiority complex, as I have no way else of interacting with others. I can only take actions that require logic and calculation, forcing me to think without considering the emotions of others. I would trade in my intelligence to be like a normal person, to able experience what everyone else my age has.
    I am contemplating legal action against the Feminazi teacher and doctor that prescribed ritalin. They both have the same last name, so I know it will be an easy case in my favor. Don’t let teachers get away with laziness and inability to be good educators. Don’t let your sons and daughters become a bitter shell of a human being like me.

  11. TiffneyNix

    my son started taking ritalin when he was 6 years old he has is now 21 and he complains of a lot of chest pains. he has very bad mood swings and goes off the wall at about any thing. little children drive him up the wall. you can just be there and he gets mad over nothing.are these side effects or do i need to have him checked out for his chest pains. help me.

  12. Amber Moffatt

    I am a female age 22 and I was on Ritalin from Grade 3 till Grade 5 I believe I am from the area they first started percribing Ritalin to add / adhd children ( i like to call them unique children).
    I believe that this drug is a horrible thing and if your thinking of putting your child on it DON’T
    I cant remember any thing from the hole time i was on the drug. Everything is a blur. The drug never helped me with my school work My grades drooped well I was on the drug. it just made it easier for the teachers to deal with me.

    I know if my mother knew about the side affects she would have never put me on this drug. When she knowledge my loss of apatite and just the shear loss of spunk and my unique personality i was taken off the drug despite the school threatening to expel me if i wasn’t put back on it. My mother asked the school to sign a letter saying they will take full responsibility for my actions and side effects well on the drug. Guess what they wouldn’t.
    How could any one put a child on drugs? is it just to hard to cope with there behavior. whats wrong with a child being hyper get them to run around the house a few times do house work or find something that they really enjoy. I found that to be my life savor not some drug the pharmaceutical company’s tell me to take.
    I found that growing up i experienced angsity and developed a drug problem at the age of 16 that i have learned to overcome. witch i believe was a side effect.
    Now there are NO studys of long term effects on this drug and i bleave there really should be.
    Your better off to get your kid to smoke a joint before school then to shove pills in there mouth if they can handle things OR hey how about this
    not everyone is made for school face it we are all different and really people just have to learn to deal with that

    To Noelle i believe your a scam.

  13. Mark

    WOW, Just doing some research on the long term effects of this horrible drug ritalin. And strongly agree this drug should be banned!!! I am a 29 year old man, and struggled with ADD as a child. I was like a gin pig and took a few add drugs mainly Ritalin. Witch i had many side affects from Ticks, chest pains, and muscle movments I could not control. Now I have bad anxiety, and Torticollis also known as CD Cervical Dystonia. It is a muscle movment disorder. That No one knows what its caused by. Kinda like ritalin, they dont know how it works ! Guess what. Im finding Im not the only one that has this and was on ritalin as a child. I Always hated this medication, and would love to prove this conection, and sue sue sue!!!! P.s. I have not takin this drug in over 16 years and was only diognosed with cd a year ago. Good luck to you all, and stay hyper 🙂

  14. Farhana

    My 9yr old has been on Ritalin since Gr1. He will be Gr 4 next year. He is epileptic. He has been diagnosed with Bipolar a couple months ago.I am confused. Is my childs hyperactivity due to bipolar. I am at a loss as I am not happy with the Ritalin. It has helped with the concentration but I dont want him to be on a cocktail of medication. I feel he is a guinea pig as we now to have work with trial & error with his meds for the bipolar. I would like to get in touch with other families with similar experiences especially with young children.

  15. Mychel

    Finally, a place in the World Wide Web that cares about the long term side effects of Ritalin. My world ended in first grade when doctors said I was hyperactive. The terms ADD/ADHD were not invented yet. The kids tease me about my ‘hyper’ pill. This destroyed my social development. I don’t have any great lifelong friends. I took the poison from first grade to my sophomore year in high school. I suffered depression in college at the age of 25. I am suffering depression now at the age of 42. I will away wonder if Ritalin is to blame. Just a few comments above is one from Chris. I nicknamed it the ‘Spock’ syndrome. If Ritalin is the cause of my lack of great positive emotion, I wish for a life without Ritalin.

  16. Rose

    Our son is now 33 years ole He was on Eitlian at the age of 8 for only about a year At the time we ere NOT told that it was expermently then. He lost lots of weight and in deperation we took hom to a natropath Together we took our son off Ritlain witjout telling the doctor He improved over time But has never egained his the desire to eat While the docors say he his weight is fine He truthfully lives on less than what our 5 year old great neice eats He is slightly special needs still lives at home and has a new set of medical people now and about 95% of them believe that the use of ritlian is the cauce of his appetite loss As they say he was one of the very first ever given ritlain and now we are only just begining to the VERY VERY LONG TERM EFFECTS Rose in Melbourne Australia

  17. Shea

    My son is 9 yrs old. He was born with coartctation of the aorta and aortic stenosis. When he was In 1st grade I was informed that the teacher thought he had add or ADHD. I couldn’t believe it because this was the child that was quiet and played with his toys by himself for hours. The pediatrician said the best way to find out if he had ADHD was to try the medicine and see if it helped. I did reluctantly. His teacher said it made a difference but since I never recognized a problem anyway I couldn’t tell. He is still on focalin.. My ? Is with his known heart problems should I be taking this risk with him when it could even be unnecessary. I would appreciate any input

  18. David

    Wow, how amazing it is to see that there are many many people just like me trying to find out what the hell taking ritalin for several years did to me emotionaly and physically. I am now 28 (Close to 29) I believe that individuals around my age and older were experimented on with ritalin. Not one concern as to what long-term phschoactive stimulant use would do to us. I also took this shit from 1st grade through my freshman year of high school and was teased constantly about taking hyper pills just as Mychel who above was. My teachers in school would actually call me in front of the class and administer the pills when I was in elementary school. This drastically affected my ability to make friends though I’ve never told my parents the extent this drug has affected my life. I also have suffered anxiety, depression, and have horrible neck and back tension and pain and inabiltiy to relax, as well as what seem to be uncontrollable muscle contractions and teeth grinding. I see what may amount to a class action law-suit one day.

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