Methylphenidate is the generic name for a medication that can be prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a condition in which a person experiences symptoms such as hyperactivity, trouble sitting still and paying attention, and impulsive behaviors. Although it tends to occur most often in children, ADHD can also affect adolescents or adults. Methylphenidate works at controlling symptoms of ADHD by affecting the levels of brain chemicals, mostly in the part of the brain responsible for attention, that are thought to be responsible for the condition. The medication may be helpful at controlling symptoms of ADHD, but methylphenidate side effects can occur that range from minor to life-threatening.
Many of the common methylphenidate side effects are not considered serious and do not typically require medical attention. Some of these side effects include changes in appetite, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. The medication may also cause dizziness, blurred vision, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, or light skin rash. Methylphenidate is considered a stimulant drug, so if it is taken within three to four hours of bedtime, it can also cause difficulties falling asleep.
Methylphenidate side effects can also be serious, and even fatal. The medication can cause an abnormal heartbeat, which can result in death if a person taking the medication has any type of heart condition; therefore, if this symptom occurs, it is generally recommended to seek immediate medical attention to ensure there is no unknown heart condition that could cause the medication to become fatal. Methylphenidate can also cause changes in mental state, such as hallucinations, depression, or becoming overly excited, agitated, or suspicious, and may lead to suicide in individuals taking the medication who also have a history of mental illness. Other serious methylphenidate side effects include fever, trouble swallowing, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
In the event that the medication is not taken as prescribed, other side effects may occur. Methylphenidate can cause a physical dependency if it is not taken as prescribed and the medication may not be as effective, requiring more of the medication to produce the same results. If a person overdoses on the medication, it may result in symptoms such as widening of the pupils, sweating, uncontrollable convulsions of one part of the body, or whole body seizures. Overdosing on methylphenidate can be deadly, so emergency medical attention should be provided if a person experiences these symptoms.