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What are the Most Common Uses for Dexmethylphenidate?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated May 17, 2024
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Dexmethylphenidate is a drug primarily used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but it can also be prescribed for sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, or prescribed as part of a treatment regimen for depression. The medication has a stimulant effect that controls the behavioral symptoms of ADHD. The drug acts on the central nervous system (CNS), although the therapeutic mode of action is not known.

ADHD patients exhibit symptoms of fidgeting, a short attention span, forgetfulness, excessive talking and other behavior problems. The drug acts to restore a normal level of neurotransmitters in the brain to control these symptoms. Dexmethylphenidate has a similar structure to the methylphenidate active ingredient of the ADHD medication Ritalin®, which is also a stimulant.

Dexmethylphenidate can also be prescribed for off-label conditions such as sleep disorders or depression. These off-label uses are chosen by a doctor when he feels the effect of the drug will benefit the patient. The stimulant action of the medication can help to keep narcoleptic patients awake or work alongside anti-depressants to improve depression symptoms. The drug should not be used for cases of severe depression or to treat a patient who does not have trouble sleeping.

The drug is approved for use in people 6 years old and above. Patients who have glaucoma, a family history of Tourette syndrome, a history of motor tics, or who show agitation, anxiety or tension should not take the drug. Dexmethylphenidate is also contraindicated for people who are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or have taken them anytime in the previous two weeks. The drug comes in tablet or capsule form and can be taken daily.

The most common side effects of dexmethylphenidate include a decrease in appetite, headache, dry mouth, stomach pain and anxiety. More severe side effects include depression, seizures, increased aggression, psychosis and visual disturbances. The drug may slow growth in children and exacerbate existing mental illness. Dexmethylphenidate can also affect the cardiovascular system, resulting in increased heartbeat, shortness of breath and even death. The risk of sudden death is highest in adults and children with pre-existing heart defects.

Dexmethylphenidate can be habit-forming and addictive. A patient, under medical supervision, may be able to take a holiday from the drug to see if the treatment is still necessary. A patient can also overdose on dexmethylphenidate, causing symptoms such as vomiting, hallucinations, muscle twitching, widening of pupils and unconsciousness.

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