People with problems paying attention in school or at work may have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. Legally prescribed stimulant drugs can help people with ADHD pay attention and better control impulsive behavior such as interrupting others. One of the most popular stimulant medications is called methylphenidate or Ritalin. However, there are a number of potential Ritalin side effects.
Methylphenidate, like cocaine or amphetamine, is potentially habit-forming. One of the most serious Ritalin side effects is drug dependency or addiction. People who do not really have ADHD are much more prone to abuse the medication. Unfortunately, college students are especially prone to securing Ritalin by faking ADHD symptoms or purchasing pills from a drug dealer. Too much of any stimulant can cause fatal heart attacks and strokes, especially if the drug is snorted or injected. In rare cases, children and adults with undetected cardiac problems have died even after taking Ritalin as prescribed.
Other potential Ritalin side effects include nervousness, anxiety, decreased sexual desire, trouble falling asleep, and problems staying asleep. In some cases, methylphenidate can cause gastrointestinal problems including nausea and diarrhea.
Depression, excessive activity or mania, psychotic behavior, uncontrollable anger, seeing things that do not exist, and hearing imaginary voices are Ritalin side effects that require immediate psychiatric medical attention. Physical symptoms requiring emergency medical assistance include a rapid or pounding heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, fainting, weakness of one or more limbs, and seizures. As with any medication, an allergic reaction is possible; symptoms include itching, a rash, or hives.