December 10, 2015, by Charlotte Beer

How useful is Methylphenidate for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed and treated psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents. Young people with ADHD find it hard to sit still and concentrate and often do things without thinking them through; this can make it harder for them to do well at school and get on with friends and family, and they often get into trouble more than other young people.

Methylphenidate (commonly known as Ritalin) is the drug most commonly prescribed to treat ADHD and has been used for over 50 years. A recent review (November 2015) of methylphenidate by the respected Cochrane group provides valuable information about how much it can help, and if there are any problems with it.

The review looked at 185 studies in which young people with ADHD were randomly assigned to a treatment group, usually methylphenidate, or a placebo (something which looks and tastes like methylphenidate but has none of its active ingredients). They found methylphenidate did improve some of the symptoms of ADHD and helped young people to concentrate. The reviewers suggest it can help improve the behaviour and quality of life of young people with ADHD. They found no evidence to suggest methylphenidate increased the risk of serious harm when used for up to six months. However, there was an increased risk of what they describe as non-serious harms. These included sleeping problems or trouble sleeping and decreased appetite.

The authors of the study warn readers about the quality of the evidence which makes it hard to be certain about the extent of the positive benefits. They also raise concerns about the short follow-up period of the studies and the problems of ensuring that researchers do not know which treatment participants have received so results are not. These results are promising, although more research is needed with longer follow-up and high quality trials before we can be certain about the benefits of methylphenidate for the treatment of ADHD.

Find out more about the review here:-

Dr Charlotte Beer, Assistant Professor in Behavioural Sciences, CANDAL member


Posted in psychiatry