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Methylphenidate: abuse and addiction

Methylphenidate is an amphetamine-type psychotropic drug often too widely used for treating "hyperactive" children. Its misuse therefore comes as no surprise and is a cause for concern.

Methylphenidate is an amphetamine-type drug commercialised in particular for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders in children. Its use is only justifiable in some severe cases.

In February 2012, the French drug regulatory agency published a report on the meeting of the national committee on narcotics and psychotropics, dated 16 June 2011, concerning methylphenidate.

Between 2006 and 2011, 83 reports of abuse, addiction or prescriptions outside the marketing authorisation were reported in France. The total number reported between 2000 and 2006 was 21.

The abuse related to short-acting and sustained release formulations, and concerned a high percentage of young adults aged 19 to 29 (28%), and adolescents (20%).

The reasons given for consumption of this substance were: attention disorders, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression, stress, improving intellectual performance, a cocaine substitute, a stimulant effect, an appetite suppressant, doping.

Doses ranged from 10 mg to 2 520 mg a day, one-off or chronic use, and for up to 20 years in one case. The systemic adverse effects reported were neuropsychological or cardiac, particularly withdrawal symptoms.

The national committee on narcotics and psychotropics stated that the use of methylphenidate had become "commonplace both among prescribers and school pupils where the product is already circulating".

But who is informing them of the dangers?

©Prescrire 1 October 2012

"Methylphenidate: abuse and addiction" Prescrire Int 2012; 21 (131): 241. (Pdf, subscribers only).

Download the full review.
Pdf, subscribers only

For more information:

abuse and dependence
Prescrire Int 2009 ;
18 (102) : 168.
Pdf, subscribers only

See also:

Methylphenidate and
hyperactive children:
stunted growth
(October 2011)

Hyperactivity in children:
risk of hallucinations
with methylphenidate
(September 2006)

Hyperactivity in children
with attention deficit
disorder: methylphenidate
only as a last resort
(June 2006)