Sounds like 'METH-il-FEN-i-date'

Methylphenidate is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects. Methylphenidate is also called Ritalin or Rubifen.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Methylphenidate belongs to a group of medicines known as stimulants

  • Ritalin
  • Rubifen
  • Ritalin SR
  • Ritalin LA
  • Concerta

What is methylphenidate?

  • Methylphenidate is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • It helps to improve concentration, be less impulsive, and feel calmer. 
  • Methylphenidate is a stimulant that works by increasing the amount of a substance in the brain, called dopamine.  
  • Methylphenidate is also used to treat narcolepsy, a sleep disorder.


  • The dose of methylphenidate will be different for different people, depending on the brand you are taking and your response to the medication.
  • Methylphenidate is available in 2 forms - an immediate release tablet or a modified- release tablet or capsule. Check with your pharmacist which form you are taking.
  • Always take your methylphenidate exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much methylphenidate  to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

How to take methylphenidate

  • If you are prescribed the immediate release tablet, take these as you have been prescribed (usually 2 or 3 times a day). Take your doses at the same times each day.
  • If you are prescribed the modified release tablet or capsule (usually has SR or LA after the name), take these once a day, in the morning. Swallow the modified release tablets or capsules whole, with a glass of water. Do not crush or chew them.
  • You can take methylphenidate  with or without food.
  • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking methylphenidate. 
  • If you are taking the Concerta brand of methylphenidate, you may notice the tablet shell in your stool. This is normal. Do not be concerned since the shell does not dissolve completely in your gut, but the medication was still absorbed by your body.  
  • If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.

What are the side effects of methylphenidate?

Like all medicines, methylphenidate  can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Difficulty falling asleep 
  • Take your methylphenidate dose in the morning . If you are taking more than one dose per day, the second or third dose needs to be taken by early afternoon
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • irritability 
  • Changes in mood

  • Tell your doctor
  • Headache
  • Lower appetite
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Prolonged erection in men (lasting longer than 4 hours) 
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
  • Chest pain
  • Unexplained fainting
  • Numbness or tingling in your hand or feet
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product


Methylphenidate interacts with a number of important medications and herbal supplements so check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Learn more

The following links provide further information on methylphenidate.

Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets:


Additional resources for healthcare professionals

Methylphenidate NZ Formulary
Concerta Medafe, NZ
Ritalin Medafe, NZ
Rubifen Medafe, NZ
Methylphenidate – updated guidance when treating children Medafe, NZ, 2010
The hard facts on drug-induced priapism (long-lasting erections) Medafe, NZ, 2014 

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Dr J Bycroft. Health Navigator NZ