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How is Ritalin prescribed?

Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse, and Ritalin duration of action is relatively short, so this ADHD medication requires prescriptions for medical use. Here, we describe how Ritalin is prescribed and invite your questions about Ritalin or Ritalin prescriptions at the end.

What do doctors prescribe Ritalin for?

Ritalin is a prescription drug that’s used to treat ADD or ADHD. While in most people, Ritalin stimulates the central nervous system, in people with ADHD, methylphenidate has a paradoxical effect and helps ADHD focus and remain calm. Ritalin is no longer prescribed for the stimulant effects it produces, including appetite suppression, wakefulness, and increased focus and attentiveness.  However, Ritalin and euphoria are also possible, so prescriptions are required for this medicine.

Ritalin prescription dosage

Depending on your age, weight, and other factors, you might be prescribed anywhere from 10-60 mg of Ritalin every day. Immediate release versions of Ritalin will usually be split into 2-3 doses to be taken throughout the day. Ritalin SR (slow release) tablets have a duration of action of approximately 8 hours while Ritalin LA (long acting) extended-release capsules are for oral administration once daily in the morning.  Once prescribed, you may also ask yourself, “Can I just stop taking Ritalin?”

Ritalin prescription cost

As with any prescription drug, the cost of Ritalin will depend on your personal health insurance coverage. Ritalin may cost about $100 for a month’s supply without insurance, but generic versions of methylphenidate can be cheaper. Some have reported that the generic is only about $50 a month, and works just as well as the name brand. Some pharmacies have programs in place to provide low-cost generic versions of common medications, so it may be helpful to shop around.

Can you get Ritalin over the counter?

No. Ritalin is available by prescription only. Why? Because the methylphenidate contained in Ritalin is addictive, so it’s only prescribed to people who have been diagnosed with ADHD.

Signs of Ritalin prescription drug abuse

Ritalin is often abused as a stimulant for performance enhancement or increased focus and energy. However, someone who abuses Ritalin regularly can easily become addicted. So how can you know if Ritalin prescription drug abuse is occuring?

People who take Ritalin for ADHD may have difficulty functioning without Ritalin, but this is different from an addiction. A Ritalin addiction involves loss of control when taking Ritalin accompanied by a psychological compulsion to seek out the drug, even when it has negative effects on the addict’s personal or professional life.

Ritalin prescription questions

Do you still have questions about Ritalin prescriptions? Please leave them here. We are happy to help answer your questions personally and promptly. If we do not know the answer to your particular question, we will refer you to someone who does.

Reference Sources: FDA Medication Guide: Ritalin SR
Daily Med: Ritalin
Daily Med: Ritalin LA
ToxNet: Methylphenidate
DEA: Methylphenidate (Ritalin)
PubMed Health: Methylphenidate 

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11 Responses to “How is Ritalin prescribed?
1:01 pm April 8th, 2013


1.) how easy is it to get a prescription for Methylphenidate as a foreigner in the US? I’m from Germany and have a prescription here, but my US health insurance won’t cover it (I’ll stay in the US for almost a year as an exchange student and assistant teacher).

2.) Does extended release Methylphenidate cost more than the IR version? How much do you estimate its cost without health insurance?

Thank you very much in advance!

5:41 am April 9th, 2013

Hello Natasha.

1. A visit to a family doctor or general physician should generally secure you a prescription for methlyphenidate, provided that you can either show your German prescription for methylphenidate or show medical need for the ADD/ADHD medication. Medical visits can cost around $100 if you are paying out-of-pocket, but some doctors will offer a “sliding scale” fee and charge much less if you pay in cash. Check with a colleague for a reference to a local physician who can help.

2. Go for the generic version of methylphenidate and ask a local pharmacist about the cost of either IR or ER versions.

8:38 pm January 24th, 2016

how long does efect in your body how many hours in one tablet

12:33 am April 21st, 2016

Im 25 year old and have ways had a an attention deficit and it’s only really starting to affect my life as my job is been affected due ti not been able ti finish any cases and very unorganised.
im going ti the doctors for help as even my parents are convinced I have adhd. ritalin sounds promosing so how would I convince my doctor ti prescribe me it if it is know for potential abuse?
I live in uk a d have no history of drug abuse

2:17 am August 6th, 2016

a 6 year old is subscribed Ritalin . Is it ok to give dose just on school days? Is this a drug that does not have to be given on a daily basis? If this is not the case, is it harming the child more?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:44 pm August 16th, 2016

Hi Nola. Please use medications only as prescribed by a doctor.

8:22 pm December 26th, 2016

I have been taking Ritalin for ten years, how old is too old to take Ritalin

4:58 pm July 30th, 2017

Not an addiction question. I’m on 30mg twice a day. I take them about 6 hours apart. I’ve benn on this dose for a long time. It’s not working through out the whole day. I don’t want to become addicted or abuse my medication. Should I ask my psych Doctor who’ve I’ve been seeing over 8 years and super trust if I should start taking it 3 times a day or increase the dose perhaps? My insurance won’t cover extended release or that other one. I am 59 years old. Thank you.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
11:03 am August 1st, 2017

Hi Karan. I suggest that you consult with you doctor about dosage changes.

10:57 pm December 29th, 2017


1:48 pm January 2nd, 2018

Hi Tara. It should only take a visit, or two, to a behavioral specialist in order to diagnose ADHD that requires Ritalin for treatment. Here are the diagnostic criteria, and links to websites that can help you further:


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