Methylphenidate hydrochloride (or just methylphenidate) is a “stimulant” that is used to promote wakefulness and to reduce excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) in narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia.

Methylphenidate is usually supplied as a tablet or capsule. Methylphenidate is widely used in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and is not licensed for the treatment of narcolepsy, but is nonetheless considered to be effective in increasing wakefulness and so is often used by specialist physicians for the treatment of EDS.

Methylphenidate is manufactured by several different pharmaceutical companies and has been sold under numerous different brand names, of which Ritalin is the best known. There should be no difference in the efficacy of these different versions of the drug, except that some forms of methylphenidate are intended to prolong the effect of the drug. Using these will mean that the effect of the drug is spread more evenly through the day and you will need to take the drug less frequently, perhaps only once each day, rather than twice or more.

These “extended release” or “controlled release” forms of methylphenidate may have names that include the letters ER, XR, CR or sometimes XL. Methylphenidate tablets or capsules have various strengths. In general, the extended release forms of the drug contain a higher dose, perhaps a whole daily dose in one tablet, whereas the ordinary tablets contain much less drug and are generally taken more than once each day.

Common examples:

Concerta XL® (also Delmosart/Matoride XL/Xaggitin XL/Xenidate XL) is a prolonged-release form of methylphenidate (22% IR / 78% PR) administered once daily in the morning, lasts 8-12 hours.

Equasym XL® (Ritalin XL) is a prolonged-release form of methylphenidate (30% IR / 70% PR) administered once daily in the morning, lasts 6-10 hours.

Medikinet XL® is a prolonged-release form of methylphenidate (50% IR / 50% PR) administered once daily in the morning, formulated to be similar to twice daily dosing with the immediate-release formulation, lasts 6-8 hrs.

Medikinet, Ritalin and Equasym have an immediate release version of methylphenidate that comes in 5mg, 10mg and 20mg doses and lasts 4 hours. Tranquilyn is another immediate release brand of methylphenidate.

Methylphenidate is a Schedule 2 Controlled Drug, which means that you may be required to prove your identity when collecting your prescription and you must store the drug securely.

Methylphenidate – BNF

Methylphenidate – Guys’ Information Leaflet

Side effects

As with any medication, the drugs used to treat narcolepsy can have side-effects. These can take many forms. They may be relatively minor, such as mild headaches or a dry mouth, or much more serious, such as anxiety or depression. You should check the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) in the packaging of your medication for more details and if you experience any of these side-effects (or any not on the PIL) you should consult your doctor or pharmacist.

You can also report side effects directly via the Yellow Card Scheme. By reporting side effects, you can help improve the safety of this medicine.


Pitolisant is a drug designed to promote wakefulness and so reduce excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), whilst also resulting in a significant reduction in cataplexy. This

Read More »


Fluoxetine (also referred to as fluoxetine hydrochloride) is used primarily for the treatment of cataplexy. Fluoxetine is widely used as an anti-depressant. It is best

Read More »

Sodium oxybate

Sodium oxybate is a powerful sedative used to treat cataplexy but can also help with many of the other symptoms of narcolepsy, including excessive daytime

Read More »

Narcolepsy medications

As there is no cure for narcolepsy at present, the medication that is prescribed for the treatment of narcolepsy aims to control the major symptoms

Read More »