Ritalin Can Be Used for Narcolepsy

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.

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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 It Works

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 It

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.

Side Effects

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

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
  • Tourette’s syndrome (rare)
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Sudden death
  • Seizures
  • Growth suppression with long-term use
  • Allergic reaction
  • Exfoliative dermatitis
  • Low white blood cell count
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome
  • Inflammation of cerebral arteries

Safety Precautions

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.

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Article Sources
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