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