Ritalin (methylphenidate hydrochloride) is a prescription drug that’s used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It comes as an oral tablet and an extended-release oral capsule.

Ritalin is used in adults and certain children to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Ritalin LA is used in certain children to treat ADHD.

Ritalin comes as an oral tablet, and Ritalin LA is an extended-release oral capsule. (“Extended release” means the drug is released slowly into your body over a long period of time.)

Unless otherwise noted, this article uses “Ritalin” to describe both forms of the drug.

The active ingredient in Ritalin and Ritalin LA is methylphenidate. (An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.) Ritalin belongs to a group of drugs called stimulants.

This article describes the dosages of Ritalin, as well as its strengths and how to take the drug. To learn more about Ritalin, see this in-depth article.

This section describes the usual dosages of Ritalin. Keep reading to learn more.

What are Ritalin’s forms?

Ritalin comes in two forms:

  • Ritalin comes as an oral tablet.
  • Ritalin LA comes as an extended-release oral capsule.

What strengths does Ritalin come in?

Ritalin comes in different strengths, depending on its form.

  • Ritalin oral tablets: 5 milligrams (mg), 10 mg and 20 mg
  • Ritalin LA oral capsules: 10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, and 40 mg

What are the usual dosages of Ritalin?

Your doctor will likely start you on a low dosage and adjust it over time to reach the right amount for you. They’ll ultimately prescribe the smallest dosage that provides the desired effect. Your dosage for Ritalin depends on the form you’re prescribed and your age.

The information below describes dosages that are commonly used or recommended. But be sure to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. They’ll determine the best dosage to fit your needs.

If you have questions about the Ritalin dosage that’s right for you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Dosage for ADHD

The typical Ritalin dosage for adults with ADHD is 20–30 mg per day. This is divided into two or three doses, typically 30–45 minutes before meals. The maximum daily dose of Ritalin in adults is 60 mg per day.

Your doctor will prescribe the lowest dosage that provides the desired effect to treat your condition.

Dosage for narcolepsy

For adults with narcolepsy, the typical dosage of Ritalin is 20–30 mg per day. This is divided into two or three doses, usually taken 30–45 minutes before meals. The maximum dose of Ritalin for narcolepsy is 60 mg per day.

What’s the dosage of Ritalin for children?

Ritalin is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy in children ages 6 years and older. Ritalin LA is only prescribed to treat ADHD in children ages 6–12 years.

The dosage used in children to treat ADHD depends on the form they’re prescribed. See the sections below for details.

For more information about Ritalin’s dosage for children, talk with your child’s doctor or a pharmacist.

Note: Ritalin may cause slowed growth in children. Your child’s doctor will monitor your child’s height and weight during their Ritalin treatment. If your child’s growth or weight isn’t progressing as it should, their doctor may have them stop taking Ritalin.

Children’s dosage of Ritalin for ADHD or narcolepsy

Your child’s doctor will typically start them on a low dose of Ritalin and slowly increase their dose based on how their body responds to the drug.

The typical starting dosage in children is 5 mg taken two times per day (30–45 minutes before breakfast and lunch). Then their dose may be increased by 5–10 mg weekly until they reach the right amount to manage their symptoms. The maximum dose of Ritalin in children is 60 mg per day.

Children’s dosage of Ritalin LA for ADHD

The typical dose of Ritalin LA used in children ages 6–12 years who’ve never taken Ritalin before is 20 mg taken once per day in the morning. Based on how their body responds to the medication, their doctor may slowly increase their dose by 10 mg each week. The maximum recommended dose of Ritalin LA is 60 mg per day.

If your child is currently taking Ritalin, their Ritalin LA dose will be based on their current Ritalin dose.

Is Ritalin used long term?

It’s possible. How long you’ll take Ritalin depends on the severity of your symptoms, your age, and the form of Ritalin you’re prescribed. Your doctor will monitor your condition from time to time to see if you still need to take Ritalin to manage your symptoms. They’ll have you stop your treatment if you experience bothersome side effects or if you no longer need to take the medication.

If you have questions about how long you’ll take Ritalin, talk with your doctor to learn more.

The dosage of Ritalin you’re prescribed may depend on several factors. These include:

  • the type and severity of the condition you’re using the drug to treat
  • your age
  • the form of Ritalin you’re taking
  • other medications you may be taking

Ritalin is available as an oral tablet. Ritalin LA comes as an extended-release oral capsule.

Adults typically take Ritalin two to three times per day, about 30–45 minutes before meals. You should take the last dose of Ritalin at least 4–5 hours before your bedtime. This is because taking it too late at night can cause insomnia (trouble sleeping).

Children typically take Ritalin twice per day, about 30–45 minutes before breakfast and lunch. For children prescribed Ritalin LA, they’ll take one dose per day, in the morning.

You should not crush, cut, or chew either form of Ritalin. If you have trouble swallowing tablets or capsules, talk with your doctor. You can see this article for tips on how to swallow tablets or capsules.

If your child is prescribed Ritalin LA capsules and they can’t swallow them whole, you can open the capsules and sprinkle the contents onto a spoonful of applesauce. Your child should swallow the contents without chewing.

For information on the expiration, storage, and disposal of Ritalin and Ritalin LA, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Accessible drug containers and labels

Some pharmacies provide medication labels that:

  • have large print
  • use braille
  • feature a code you can scan with a smartphone to change the text to audio

Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend pharmacies that offer these accessibility features if your current pharmacy doesn’t.

Let your pharmacist know if you have trouble opening medication bottles. They may have tips to help, or they may be able to supply Ritalin in an easy-open container.

Keep in mind, Ritalin and Ritalin LA are Schedule II controlled substances regulated by the federal government because they have a high potential for misuse. Store Ritalin or Ritalin LA in a secure area and keep an accurate count of the medication to help prevent misuse of the medication. Take it exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

If you miss a dose of Ritalin in the morning, take it as soon as you remember. But if it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at its usual time. You should not take a missed dose of Ritalin late in the day or in the evening because it can cause insomnia.

If you need help remembering to take your dose of Ritalin on time, try using a medication reminder. This can include setting an alarm or downloading a reminder app on your phone.

Ritalin has a boxed warning for the risk of misuse and addiction. Misuse refers to taking a drug in a way other than how a doctor prescribes it. Examples of misuse include using the drug more often or at higher doses than recommended by your doctor. With addiction, a drug is used even if it’s causing harmful outcomes.

You should take Ritalin only as your doctor has prescribed. To learn more about the risk of misuse and addiction, see the “Boxed warning” section at the top of this article.

Do not take more Ritalin than your doctor prescribes, as this can lead to harmful effects.

Symptoms of overdose

Symptoms caused by an overdose can include:

In rare cases, overdose of Ritalin can lead to coma or can be fatal.

What to do in case you take too much Ritalin

Call your doctor right away if you think you’ve taken too much Ritalin. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach America’s Poison Centers or use its online resource. But if you have severe symptoms, immediately call 911 (or your local emergency number) or go to the nearest emergency room.

Taking Ritalin can lead to physical dependence. This condition occurs when your body relies on a drug to function as usual.

If you suddenly stop taking Ritalin after taking it for a while, you may experience withdrawal symptoms (side effects that can occur when you stop taking a drug that your body has become dependent on).

Examples of withdrawal symptoms include:

Before your doctor ends your Ritalin treatment, they may lower your dosage slowly over time. This can help reduce your risk of withdrawal symptoms after you stop taking Ritalin.

If you experience withdrawal symptoms, talk with your doctor. They can recommend ways to ease these symptoms.

Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about Ritalin’s dosage.

What is considered a high dose or low dose of Ritalin?

When you first begin treatment with Ritalin, your doctor will typically start you on a low dose and see how your body responds to treatment. The dosage of Ritalin your doctor prescribes is based on several factors. They include the severity of your symptoms, your age, other medications you may be taking, and other conditions you may have.

Your doctor may gradually increase your dose weekly until you reach the dose that provides the desired effect. The maximum recommended dose of Ritalin or Ritalin LA is 60 mg per day. If you have concerns that your dose of Ritalin is too high, talk with your doctor. They may try adjusting your dose or discuss other treatment options to manage your condition.

Is the dosage of Ritalin calculated by weight?

No. your dosage of Ritalin is not calculated by weight. Instead, your dose is based on the severity of your symptoms, your age, and other factors. Your doctor will likely prescribe a low dosage of Ritalin when you begin treatment. Then they’ll slowly increase your dose if needed to manage your symptoms.

It’s important to note that Ritalin and Ritalin LA can cause slowed growth and reduced weight gain in children. Your child’s doctor will monitor their growth and weight during their treatment with Ritalin or Ritalin LA. They’ll have your child stop taking the drug if their growth or weight isn’t progressing as it should.

Talk with your doctor to learn more about how they’ll determine the best dose of Ritalin to manage your condition.

Can Ritalin be used for depression? If so, what’s the dosage?

No, Ritalin is not used for depression. In fact, Ritalin and Ritalin LA can cause mental health side effects such as manic or psychotic episodes. Before starting the medication, your doctor will discuss these side effects of the medication and ask about your mental health history.

Tell your doctor if you or any family members have mental health conditions, including psychosis, depression, or bipolar disorder. Taking Ritalin may worsen these conditions or raise your risk of experiencing them.

Because Ritalin isn’t used for depression, the drug manufacturer doesn’t provide recommended dosages for this use. To learn more about your treatment options for depression, talk with your doctor.

The sections above describe the usual dosages provided by the manufacturer of Ritalin and Ritalin LA. If your doctor recommends either of these medications, they’ll prescribe the drug and dosage that’s right for you.

Remember, you should not change your dosage of Ritalin without your doctor’s recommendation. Take the medication exactly as prescribed. Talk with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your current dosage.

Examples of questions you may want to ask your doctor include:

  • Will my child’s dosage of Ritalin be adjusted if they have slowed growth?
  • How long does it take Ritalin to start working after I take a dose?
  • Would I have a higher risk of side effects with the maximum dosage of Ritalin?

To learn more about Ritalin, see these articles:

To get information on different conditions and tips for improving your health, subscribe to any of Healthline’s newsletters. You may also want to check out the online communities at Bezzy. It’s a place where people with certain conditions can find support and connect with others.

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.