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What Is Methylphenidate Extended Release?

By Drue Tibbits
Updated May 17, 2024
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Methylphenidate extended release is a psychostimulant medication used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used to treat narcolepsy. This medication is sometimes used in an off-label capacity for patients with chronic treatment-resistant depression. There are several studies showing the effectiveness of this medicine, but it is not known exactly how it works. While most people can use methylphendate extended release, there are some exceptions, and an overdose can result in death.

The extended release formulation of methylphenidate provides a steady supply of medication over a period of about eight hours. The medication is coated to prevent it being absorbed too quickly. This is meant to even out the “highs” and “lows” that occur with immediate-release stimulants. The coating can delay the effects of methylphenidate extended release for up to three hours. There is a methylphenidate formulation that counters this, combining both immediate release and extended release methylphenidate.

This medication can be taken by both children and adults. Methylphenidate extended release helps children diagnosed with ADHD by increasing their attention spans, decreasing hyperactivity, and improving their ability to concentrate and stay on task. In adults, this medication has the same effects as well as decreasing impulsivity.

There are several dosages of methylphenidate available. The tablet form comes in 10-mg and 20-mg formulations. Methylphenidate extended release capsules come in 10-mg, 20-mg, and 30 dosages. The pills should be swallowed whole as broken, crushed, or chewed pills could expose patients to higher-than-normal doses.

Methylphenidate extended release has side effects similar to other psychostimulant medications. It can cause a rapid heart rate, heart palpitations, and increased blood pressure. The medication may cause a loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss. Other side effects include dry mouth, nausea, and constipation.

Some side effects are more serious. Methylphenidate can interfere with linear growth in children. The doctor may suggest withholding the medication on weekends or other periods of time to counter this effect. Methylphenidate extended release can be abused and is especially dangerous for patients with a history of alcohol or substance abuse. This medication can lower a patient's seizure threshold and should not be taken by patients who have experienced seizures.

An overdose of this medication can cause coma or death. Medical personnel should be contacted immediately in cases of suspected overdose. Taking the medicine more often than prescribed, breaking or crushing the pills, or taking more than the recommended dosage all increase the chance of an overdose. The sudden discontinuation of methylphenidate can also have adverse affects. This medication should always be taken exactly as prescribed.

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Discussion Comments

By SteamLouis — On Sep 19, 2013

Is anyone experiencing diarrhea on methylphenidate extended release? I'm having diarrhea from it and I did not have this problem with my regular tablets.

I've also noticed that the regular tablets come in lower doses. Extended release takes longer to release but the dose is higher. Is that why I'm experiencing more side effects from it?

By serenesurface — On Sep 19, 2013

@alisha-- I have not, but from what I've read, methylphenidate may or may not work for depression. Methylphenidate is a stimulant and hence it's used for ADD and ADHD. In some people, stimulants can help fight depression and in others, it can make anxiety and depression worse.

Methylphenidate extended release is better than regular methylphenidate though. It gets absorbed more slowly and the brain gets exposed to the medication over a longer period of time. This helps reduce the side effects. Regular methylphenidate can cause a crash effect. That's less likely with extended release tablets.

I've used both regular and extended release tablets for ADD and I had much better results with the extended release.

By discographer — On Sep 18, 2013

Has anyone taken methylphenidate extended release for depression? Is it effective?

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