HeadMeds gives young people in the United Kingdom general information about medication. HeadMeds does not give you medical advice. Please talk to your Doctor or anyone else who is supporting you about your own situation because everyone is different. Please read more important details about our site.

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Methylphenidate

Return to Methylphenidate overview
  1. Use and Action
  2. Warnings and side effects
  3. Sex, drink, weight and everything else
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Methylphenidate does not mix well with alcohol

  • If you drink alcohol when you are taking methylphenidate, it can make the effect of the methylphenidate greater and you could get side-effects like you have taken too much of it.
  • If you decide to drink alcohol, see how it affects you and make sure you are with friends to help you if you need it.

Do not drive or ride a bike just after you start taking methylphenidate

  • Taking methylphenidate may give you blurred vision, make you feel dizzy, or affect your focus when you start taking it.
  • It may be best to stop doing things like driving a car, riding a bike, or anything else that needs a lot of focus for the first few days, until you know how it affects you.
  • Don't worry - most people drive as normal while taking methylphenidate.
  • There is a new ‘drug driving’ offence due to come into force in March 2015 where someone driving dangerously, who has taken methylphenidate, could be arrested.
  • As long as you take methylphenidate as prescribed by the doctor and you are sure that it doesn’t affect your driving then you will be allowed to drive. It may be worth having some evidence that you are taking methylphenidate (like a doctors letter) when driving.
  • It is important to stick to the dose on the prescription, and to check that you can drive safely while taking it. If you think you driving might be affected, don’t drive and speak to your doctor.

Methylphenidate is a banned substance in sport, and will give a positive drugs test

  • Methylphenidate is a stimulant, and this makes it a banned substance in sport.
  • If you play sport to a high level, and want to compete where testing will happen, you will need to go back to your doctor to discuss other ways of managing your ADHD.

Methylphenidate can affect your weight

  • A side-effect of methylphenidate is to make you want to eat less, and this might result in weight loss.
  • It is very difficult to know how it will affect each person who takes it.
  • Talk to your doctor about this if it worries you.

Methylphenidate can affect your growth

  • Your doctor will check your weight and height at least every 6 months
  • Up to 1 in 10 young people can get effects on their growth
  • If you are not growing as fast as your friends, the doctor may stop the methylphenidate for a while
  • Talk to your doctor about this if it worries you.

Methylphenidate can affect your sleep

  • Methylphenidate can keep you awake, as it is a stimulant
  • You should take your tablets early in the day, and no later than lunchtime, to get the best chance of a normal sleep
  • For some people, it can make you feel more drowsy than normal
  • Talk to your doctor about this if it worries you.

Let your family and friends know you are taking methylphenidate so they can support you and help you look out for benefits and side effects

  • It might actually be a great idea to choose a good friend to tell about your medicine when you start taking it. (Or - even better - to take a friend with you to the doctor before you start taking the medicine!)
  • They could look at the medicine leaflet, or at this website. They could then help you to understand whether the medicine changes your behaviour, or gives you side-effects (sometimes it is hard for us to see it ourselves).
  • The side-effects of methylphenidate might put a strain on your friendships and relationships, especially in the first few days of taking it.
  • You may become more nervous, for example.
  • These side-effects should get better after a few days.
  • After a month you should be getting the good effects of methylphenidate, and that should improve your relationships in itself.

Methylphenidate can have side-effects that might affect your sex life

Some of the possible side effects of methylphenidate could affect how you feel about yourself and your sex life. These include:

  • You may have a lower sex drive or find it harder to get aroused
  • If you lose weight, or get other physical side-effects like mild hair loss, you may just not feel as sexy as before

It’s not thought that methylphenidate has a large effect on your sex life but speak to your doctor if you think it is becoming a problem. These effects should pass after the first couple of weeks. If they do not, and this is a problem for you, go back to the doctor and see what other treatment you could try.

We don't know whether methylphenidate affects human fertility

There is nothing to suggest that methylphenidate has any affect on fertility. Women who are trying to get pregnant, however, should talk about it with their doctor (see below for more information).

Do not take methylphenidate if you are trying to get pregnant

  • You should use good contraception when you are taking methylphenidate.
  • If you and your partner are trying to have a baby, you should go back to the doctor to discuss your options.

We know that methylphenidate can affect a developing baby

  • There is a small increase in risk of heart problems when methylphenidate is taken during the first 3 months of pregnancy. 1 in 53 babies whose mums took methylphenidate compared to 1 in 79 whose mums didn’t take methylphenidate.
  • It may also double the risk of miscarriage
  • If you do become pregnant while you are on methylphenidate, you should carry on taking the medicine and go back to your doctor as soon as possible, to see if you should change or stop your medicine.
  • If methylphenidate is keeping you well it may be much better to stick with it than risk the return of your symptoms
  • Remember babies do better with well mums
  • If you agree with your doctor to carry on taking methylphenidate, you should tell your midwife that you are taking it.

Methylphenidate can be passed to the baby in breastmilk

  • Methylphenidate can be passed to the baby in breastmilk.
  • Talk to your doctor or midwife about your feeding options.
  • Limited evidence suggests it is safe to breastfeed if you have a healthy full term baby.

Methylphenidate does not mix well with drugs or legal highs

  • Methylphenidate is dangerous to take with cocaine or ecstasy or amphetamines. This is because they are all stimulants, and may together put too much pressure on your heart and the blood vessels in your brain.
  • We have found no information about mixing methylphenidate with cannabis, methadone, heroin or other street drugs or legal highs.

Methylphenidate is also known as a street drug or 'performance-enhancer'

  • Methylphenidate is a stimulant, so some people want to use it as a drug to get high.
  • There are also a growing number of people who are using methylphenidate as a ‘performance-enhancer’ to help them work harder or revise for exams.
  • People taking methylphenidate from their doctor can be targeted at school and bullied to give away or sell their medicine.
  • If someone is asking you to give away or sell your medicine, please ask your parent, teacher or doctor to help you.
  • Remember that methylphenidate has serious side-effects. Do not give or sell your tablets to anyone else – they may become very ill.

Methylphenidate can produce a false positive result in some drug tests

  • Methylphenidate can produce a false positive test for amfetamines and LSD on a urine drug screen.
  • Talk to your doctor about this if it is a problem for you.

Reference sources

Search www.medicines.org.uk to find patient information leaflets and prescribing information on methylphenidate. Tablets and capsules are listed by brand. The SmPC lists all the inactive ingredients in the product so you can check against any allergies. If you are still unsure about this then speak to your pharmacist.

  • British National Formulary (BNF) and British National Formulary for children. Download the BNF/BNFC app (blue background) on to your mobile device. No longer available for public access via the web 
  • Taylor D, Barnes T, Young A. Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines in Psychiatry, 13th edition. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, May 2018. ISBN: 978-1-119-44260-8
  • Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Medicines Ethics and Practice (42nd edition). London: RPS, 2018. Standards for pharmacists to work to. It is not a free publication
  • World Anti Doping Agency WADA Prohibited List https://www.wada-ama.org/en/resources/science-medicine/prohibited-list-documents 
  • Choiceandmedication; an independent source of information on many mental health conditions and their medicines with easy to read fact sheets www.choiceandmedication.org Personal subscriptions to download the app available for £1 per month (with proportionate discounts for longer periods) but your local mental health Trust may subscribe and provide information sheets for free.
  • Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS). Information sheets on drugs in pregnancy http://www.medicinesinpregnancy.org/ 
  • Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Information on drugs in breastfeeding https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/newtoxnet/lactmed.htm