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What are the Most Common Uses for Methylphenidate Hydrochloride?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Methylphenidate hydrochloride is more commonly known by the brand names under which it is sold, like Ritalin® Strattera®, and Concerta®. These drugs are known for their treatment of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Methylphenidate can help reduce hyperactive, impulsive, and distracting behaviors associated with ADHD. There are other uses for this drug and these may be approved by organizations like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or considered an acceptable off-label use of the medicine. Legitimate treatment uses include prescriptions for narcolepsy, depression, adult ADHD, and weight loss or, alternately, abuse of the drug often occurs, too.

There have been intense research and clinical trials on the benefits of methylphenidate hydrochloride to treat ADHD in children and teens. Studies show relative safety, provided the medication is taken as directed, though the drug is not effective for everyone. Many adults may use this medicine, too, though there are not as many supportive studies, and this is considered an off-label use. The positive responses of many adults with ADHD suggest its benefits.

Patients who suffer from the sleeping disorder, narcolepsy, may respond well to methylphenidate hydrochloride. The drug may help increase awake periods and decrease sudden episodes of sleeping. This medicine’s action in treating narcolepsy has been studied and shown useful.

Less proven uses for methylphenidate hydrochloride include weight loss treatments. It is true that many people lose weight when they take this medication because it causes appetite suppression. It’s not always considered a good idea to prescribe stimulants to people who are only a little bit overweight, and people with serious obesity may have cardiac problems that would contraindicate the use of this drug.

Another increasingly common use of methylphenidate hydrochloride is in the treatment of depression. Though many people respond to antidepressants like selected serotonin reuptake inhibitors, some people don’t. It has been shown that a few people respond positively to drugs like Ritalin®, instead. This treatment doesn’t work for everyone but it might be considered if standard antidepressant treatment is not effective.

Methylphenidate hydrochloride is a common drug of abuse. People take it without a prescription to increase the speed at which they can perform tasks. In high school and college years it is especially known as a cognitive enhancement tool that students may use when school workloads get heavy. The medical community does not sanction use of the medicine for this purpose, and those who use this drug may do so by either misrepresenting their condition as ADHD to a medical professional, obtaining drugs from a friend, or buying methylphenidate on the black market. Given the real side effects that may occur, this practice is extremely dangerous and very much discouraged.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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