Methylphenidate Medications

Ritalin is a short-acting formulation of methylphenidate that lasts about 3-4 hours. Focalin is another form of methylphenidate that also lasts about 4 hours. Both of these medications begin to work about 30-45 minutes after taking them. For children who have trouble swallowing pills, this medication can be crushed and mixed with foods. There is also a liquid and a chewable tablet form of the short-acting methylphenidate.

Other preparations of methylphenidate have been created to release the medication over greater period of time, extending the duration of the effect of the medication. This is of great benefit when trying to provide a response that lasts through a school day (typically 6-8 hours). Some of these compounds take effect as quickly as the short-acting forms of these medications. These compounds include:

  • Concerta is one of the longest-acting methylphenidate medications on the market, lasting 8 to 12 hours. Concerta can’t be chewed or opened. It has to be swallowed whole in order for it to work the way it was designed. This can be a problem for some kids.
  • Ritalin-LA and Metadate CD are capsules that are filled with medication. These medications are very similar in that they both last about 6-8 hours. What’s good about these is that for kids who can’t swallow pills, you can open up the capsule and sprinkle it on food (i.e., yogurt, Nutella, applesauce, etc.).
  • Aptensio XR and Focalin XR are also capsules filled with medication that can be opened and mixed with food. They typically work longer than Ritalin LA or Metadate CD.
  • Quillivant XR is a long-acting formulation of methylphenidate in liquid form, which makes it a good alternative for kids who have trouble swallowing capsules and can’t tolerate beads, either. The liquid formulation may also allow more precise dose adjustment or “titration.”
  • Quillichew ER is a chewable longacting formulation of methylphenidate that can last up to 8 hours.
  • Daytrana is a methylphenidate patch. It’s another option for kids who can’t swallow pills. You can wear the patch for up to 9 hours and often get another hour’s worth of response after the patch is removed. However, the patch can often take 1-2 hours to start working.